Sunday, March 29, 2009

Medical Nightmare

Just recently, Austin was writing about her trip to the ER (here and here). My heart went out to her. I never expected to find myself in the same boat so soon.

It started with what I thought was a stomach bug. That raised memories of my own childhood illnesses. Survived that day of being sick. Only to get to work Tuesday with what I thought were UTI symptoms. I headed out to the employee health clinic. I had to fill out the typical health questionnaire. Depression? Check. Anxiety? Check. Medications - zoloft. All the time wondering if this information is really kept as confidential as they promised in employee orientation.

Next I ended up in the ER. The pain was so intense that I cried. I despise crying. It makes me feel weak. I was first put into a tiny triage room. This big huge male nurse came in to take vitals. He was squeezing into the room, maneuvering around my Husband. Then I was transferred to another room - again tiny. Finally a third room, also tiny. I wrote earlier that I didn't care about some things that happened because I had morphine. Really I didn't care in the moment. But it provoked anxiety when I remembered later. The third room was small and the bed faced the door. A female nurse came in to do the catheter and said they wanted to do a pelvic to check my IUD. Okay. My husband helps me get undressed. The nurse helps me onto the bed and feet in stirrups. Then she leaves to get the doctor. And I wait. Lying there. Waiting. The door opens. It's the doctor - now he can't find the nurse, who he refers to as his "chaperone." And while I appreciate the hospital policy of having someone else present during pelvic exams, I want to get it over with. Not lie there for fifteen minutes. So finally it is over. I get dressed.

Then it's to the CAT scan. Getting wheeled down the hall by a tall man behind me. I alternated between feeling like I was on a roller coaster - zooming down the hall, high on morphine -wwwhhheeeeeeeeeee. Then I felt anxiety as I realized I wasn't sure where we were going.

The ER stay was tolerable. It was okay. The morphine helped. And so did the professionalism of the medical professionals. Aside from the long wait, it was fine. I survived. That would have been that if it wasn't for the urologist.

The urologist appointment was another story. There is only one urology group in town. The ER gave me the name and number. The very nice nurse said, "I'm not sure if there are any females in the group." When I called to make an appointment, they originally wanted me to wait one week. I insisted on getting in earlier and they found an opening the next day. I didn't even ask who it was with. Turns out there aren't any females in this group. Turns out I ended up with the azzphat with no bedside manner.

I arrived at the office and checked in. Fill out forms again. Anxiety, depression, medications, etc. Number of pregnancies versus number of births. All anxiety provoking. I'm taken into a hallway. Husband comes too. It's another waiting room. A female nurse comes and takes my blood pressure and temp right there. Then asks me my height. Then has me write my weight down on her paper. Good thing, because I wasn't telling that number out loud in front of all those other people. Then I was taken in for an X-ray.

She instructed me to "pull your pants down to your knees and hop on the table here." Ugh. Can I not just take them off? I feel entangled in the pants. I lie there on my back, trapped. The tech is behind me, giving me instructions. I'm instructed to hold my breath. Fine with me - not breathing anyway.

So then into the exam room. The nurse asks lots of questions. Then the doctor comes in. He's brusque. Doesn't like us asking questions. Then he stands up and says, "I'll be back." Nurse comes in and says, "Did he tell you what he was going to do?" Uh no. She explains she'll need to get a catheterized urine sample and he'll do a pelvic to check the bladder. Sigh.

Okay, so get into the lovely paper gown and on the table. This table goes high. Very high. Eye level high. High enough that the doctor can stand to do the exam. The nurse sees my surprise and says, "it helps on our back." My husband was in a chair by my feet. He gets up to leave and I tell him to come by my head. He does and I concentrate on him. The nurse tells me what she is doing and does it. So that's okay. I feel trapped, that high in the air. Scared I'll fall off the table. Then the doctor comes in.

He doesn't talk. Doesn't tell me what he is doing. He listens to my heart, then feels my neck and then under my arms, alongside my breast. I was shocked. The nurse caught my eye and said, "lymph nodes." Then he has me lie down and scoot. No warning. No explanation. Now I just had a baby. Lots of exams. Every single one, including the ER, they tell you what is going on. Starting with, "you're going to feel my hand, a stick, whatever." Nope, not this guy. He is also moving my legs. Not sure why. His hands are where the scars are. He has to notice.

The meds helped. I was on pain meds so I just floated away. When it was done, my husband helped me up. The doctor said he wanted to give it time to pass. Didn't listen to me when I tried to explain that I couldn't wait a week. Needed to return to nursing. Discounted everything.

We left. I was numb. I spent the rest of the day and Thursday in a drug induced fog. Friday I started coming around. Talked with husband and he says he didn't like that doctor either. I hesitantly explained to Husband how I had felt. Husband didn't discount my feelings. Told me to get in with someone else, even if it meant driving to the city. So I called. First go around I got a nasty nurse who again discounted things and just called in different meds and told me, "yes you need to just wait."

I then called back. Got someone different. I was prepared to have them get the tests together for me to pick up and take elsewhere. But this woman listened. I explained that I needed something done sooner. I told her I didn't want to see that doctor again. She rescheduled me for Monday morning with someone different. I'll give this person a shot.

Unlike Austin, my files don't say "abuse and incest survivor." I am not up front about that fact with medical professionals. My records will say I have anxiety and depression issues. Sometimes it will list panic. When I went in for the CAT scan I mentioned being claustrophobic - but it wasn't a full tube type scan so it didn't matter. In Austin's instance it didn't seem to matter that she told the nurse. Maybe it would have with the doctors I saw. Maybe not? But personally I think doctors ought to be considerate. Just because you are a doctor doesn't give you the right to put your hands all over me. You need to ask first. You need to tell me what you are doing before you do it. You need to talk to me about what you are doing and why.

I'm focusing on what I DID do - call and get in with someone else (even if it did take me two tries). Instead of what I didn't do - stay silent through the exam and afterwards. I'm focusing on what I'll do next time - make sure Husband comes with me again. Ask that they explain things. This time I'm taking a stand and hoping that standing up for myself will be easier than dealing with the after-effects and panic of when I do not. Or that is the plan anyway. Stay tuned for what really happens.


lawyerchik said...

Wow - that azzphat doc should have to endure one of his own exams, preferably while he is on some mind-altering medication that makes him a weeeeeee bit paranoid!! I hope you find someone good that you can have a good doctor-patient relationship with for as long as you need it.... Yikes.

Although this does remind me of a joke I heard (or read) once about a woman (I think it was a woman) who went to the dentist for some work on her teeth. The doctor was standing close to her chair, and she asked if the treatment was going to hurt.

As I recall, she grabbed
"something" and held on quite tightly, while telling said dentist: you don't hurt me and I won't hurt you. Do we have an understanding?

I've never had to do that, but it sounds like your urologist needs that type of "conversation."

Colleen said...

I feel for you. Have been there. I will travel long distances to find MD who will be kind and respectful. I finally found a good gynecologist and urologst who are very good and now I dont get nervous going to see them. I am not up front about being a survivor either. By the way, I have had 2 stones. Awful pain. My sister too. Wonder if it is common among incest survivors. Get well soon.

dm said...

Wow..that Doctor (as two of you said) needs a good dose of his own bedside manner.or an electrical cattle prod placed somewhere that would get his attention. Made me mad just reading about him.. There are great Dr.s and there are jerks. There are a couple of nurses in my extended family. I've heard stories about the arrogance of some of these twits. they have no business being in the medical profession. When my wife was in labor w/ our first child, we had a night nurse from Hell...her name was charlene...large, bald, stone faced....she "prepped" my wife after we checked in...29 yrs later I can still remember that's hoping you get a great doctor 2nd time're in our prayers..

Rising Rainbow said...

Wow, enola, you're having a tough time. It's bad enough being sick without having to deal with fears about doctors and such. I really feel for you.

I sure hope you feel better soon. Is there some kind of long term plan to help prevent the stones in the first place?

austin said...

They get in the mode of test and results plus cure and forget that we are human beings that have walked in their office with a problem. We are human first not last but they forget. In their "expertise" they forget about individuality then we're left to pick up the pieces.

It says in my file with very specific terms what my issues are but when I have to go to the ER or a new doctor I tell them again. I don't know who has read my file and who hasn't so I end up telling them straight forward that they can't manhandle me. Sometimes it helps and other times it doesn't. What does help is knowing I used my voice. There's a deep ache inside when something happens because I didn't use my voice. I hate that feeling.

I got a survey the other day from the hospital. I plan to finish filling it out so I can let them know exactly how I felt about the experience. You might do the same if you get a survey in the mail.

I hope your surgery goes well.