Treat thyself, patient


Hideous medical stories of death and destruction abound and did especially take flight during the health care debate. In fact, I expect everyone can name someone who had a terrible encounter with the medical-industrial complex. Most of them are epic or at least end up causing great harm.

But for me, the real problems are quietly embedded in everyday treatment. Two stories and both probably arise from fears of legal liability (yup, I’m a  liberal who favors malpractice reform as do many of my tribe – though not in the form of caps):

Story number one happened to me. I did something stupid to myself at 11pm Friday night, causing a grievous though not threatening injury to myself. A good deal of blood was involved and I wasnt able to clean or bandage it by myself. So what do you do at 11pm? You get in the car and head to the Emergency Room.

A puzzlement? (Not really.)

Upon arrival, I found that my information was still in their computers from a similar visit about eight years ago. This impressed me mightily. I was shown to a cubicle/room and a clerk came in with clipboard and paperwork and began to ask for my info. I politely pointed out that we’d just pulled it all up on their computers down the hall. Didn’t matter. The clerk was required to take it all again to be sure I was me. (cuz people everywhere wound themselves so they can go to the emergency room in the middle of the night.) Okay. I went along with it.

Next, a very nice young man with a big x-ray machine came in. I said you must have the wrong room – I certainly don’t need any x-rays,  just help with some bandaging actually. This very nice young man leaned down, looked and said yeah, I can see that. But. But. But the doctor wants the x-rays and well, that’s pretty much that. It’s clear that if I reject the x-ray (which you can) your ‘treatment’ will take a wholly different and not particularly friendly turn. So we x-ray which by the way produces the first and worst pain I’ve yet had in this episode.

And now . . . drum roll . . . comes the doctor. Very nice. I ask why the x-ray. He solemnly says it’s better to be sure. He looks at wound. He does not touch. He says nurse will be right in. She comes some time later. Doesn’t look. Doesn’t touch. Has more paperwork. Asks if I have a living will (this actually takes my breath away). Insists upon info re who to call  in emergency. I’m still bleeding, though it’s slowed a bit, and I’m losing patience. Nurse leaves.

Finally, an ‘aide’ arrives with bottles of solutions and bandaging stuff. And she irrigates, and she fiddles a bit, and she bandages. And then she starts to put a special orthotic shoe on my foot. And here we go again “I don’t need that” and  ‘doctor says’. I’m out of my league here.

The best part is walking long corridors to exit the hospital and long parking lot to get back to my car. You know what actually would have been appreciated? A lift in a wheelchair would have been appreciated.

The entire matter could have been handled by the aide in 15 minutes. After all, she was the only one who actually treated me.

Story the second: My sister is in Ireland. She had a question re some prescription med she has with her and emailed me Wednesday night asking me to get an email address for her dermatologist. She didn’t want to screw up the prescription. I called them next day.  They absolutely would not give out an email address. They were firm about that. Even when you’re out of  the country – no email address. Sorry.

So I went about just trying to get her questions answered. Hah. Couldn’t speak with the doctor – even tho the clerk was going back and forth between me and him. Final word – they will not give me any info about her or her treatment without a signed release form. (they were fully aware I was her sister – I”m also a patient) I actually said to the woman on the phone at one point, “well, I’ll email my sister in Ireland and let her know that there’s no help from here.” That got her attention and she went back to the doctor but returned with the same message. Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do.

I then tried ‘how ‘bout I ask you some hypothetical questions about medical treatment, you know, an academic question”? Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do. And I guess we can add Will. Not. Do.

And so it went. Neither situation responsive to the medical situation or the patient’s needs. Responsive to only one thing of course – scared to death of  litigation.

Count up the pennies and time and effort that went into both those episodes.

This stuff makes me wonder if ourf beleaguered troops in Afghanistan have to go through this nonsense when the run into an IED. I wonder because today is the 260th day of the ninth year of the war there.

10 responses to “Treat thyself, patient

  1. Wonder why walk-in clinics are so popular…too bad they’re not open 24/7. Re sister stuff, when she gets back get her to name you “approved person” for her medical info, etc.

    Here’s one for you, received a $2800 bill for ambulence service for my mother who actually died in the ambulance. I called the biller at the hospital to inform that mom had insurance that covered the ambulance and was informed that her birth date did not match up with the ins. #. “Change the birthdate, my bro was distressed when he gave it, after all his dying mother was being put in the ambulance”. “No can do, I need proof of birthdate”…for a 91 year-old-woman who just died, because a family member gave the birthdate. I’m a family member also and I’m giving you the correct date, which, by the way, is also in your hospital records. “Can’t do, it’s against procedure”. So this bill will keep bouncing around for years, costing $$$$. Yup, the medical insurance system.


    • I’m retired and on Medicare. After a lifetime of private health insurance and the endless paperwork and conflicts with insurance companies, it’s such a joy to be on Medicare. It’s a breeze. May I add that their website is probably the most responsive, most intuitive, most navigable site EVER.

      But of course I read my American political bible, so I know that government never does anything right.


    • I would love to havve gone into the walk-in. Took a coworker there a few years ago and it was easy. Wonder why they dont go through all these legal shennanigans?


    • Sorry about your mother. But 91 is a good long life.


  2. You won’twant to hear this but I/we have never had a bad experience in an emergency room. Then, of course, we’re talking SMH not the place where you went about which I have never heard a good word. Re. the dermatologist, I would start looking for another one. Annonymous is right about having you added to her record but, come on. We’re talking about a small town where you’ve lived for 15 years and you are both patients.


    • It wasn’t a bad medical experience, it was absolute bureacratic overkill.

      The the Susie story makes my teeth hurt. I don’t know about her but I may look around. Although the Dr (unnamed here) is so well thought of that she and Gene travel south to see him.


  3. Steve just reminded me that at SMH they have a policy to treat first and ask question after. Next time, grab your passport and go to Sarasota.


    • Treat first may be the deal with trauma – my previous experience many years ago (I thought I might be having a heart attack and you know me, no dialing of 911, I just drove myself over) was as you describe. They took me straight into medical attention and only later did someone come in to find out who I was!

      And are you suggesting godforbid that I am provincial?


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