Monday, June 8, 2009

Doctors and Compassion

I had an operation to repair my wrist that involved the removal of some calcium and the grafting of bone to essentially make a new joint. As a result I have a cast on my right arm. The cast extends from the base of my fingers up to and past the elbow by about four inches. The cast has been there for three weeks.

While going through the pre-op phase of the procedure I was asked how much pain I could handle on a scale from one to ten. Bravely I said I could take an eight without complaining too much. Most women would argue that if men say they can take an ‘eight’ then women could handle sixteen. Be that as it may in the weeks since the fiberglass monstrosity has been in place I have experienced sporadic eights with a very rare and short-lived nine.

But what no one tells you is that the pain you may go through is not the problem. Nor is the fact that you may not be able to do anything you are used to doing in an easy way, or at all for that matter. What they should ask you is, “On a scale from zero to ten how much can you take of an ‘un-scratch able’ itch?” Trust me your answer will be lower than the pain number. OMG does it itch!

The compassion one gets from doctors and their medical staff these days is, if I may continue to use the ‘one to ten’ scale for the most part a two. I know some of you may claim that your guy is better and there is always an exception to any rule but I have lived through an unfortunately large number of doctors and I can tell you that the two is generous.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of waiting with my son to see a specialist. We sat in the waiting room for almost an hour and a half as new patients arrived and were taken ahead of us. We were informed that they had emergencies and in two of the cases the poor patients had not been able to sleep the night before. I would like to point out that if you have to see a specialist then anxiety is going to be part of the process and sleep will be lost all around. In other words this particular doctor should try to take them as they come, they are all emergencies to the party of the first part!

That brings me back to my current orthopedist (the wrist guy.) He shows much compassion when he speaks to, at, or with you but he surrounds himself with a staff hired to make you feel somewhat lower than road-kill. On a recent visit when I was disappointed to learn that the doctor would not be removing nor even shortening my cast I had to make a follow-up appointment for two weeks hence. The lady in charge of that desk would not do so until I paid the day’s co-pay. She would not even listen to me and check availability and actually stopped me in mid sentence to say, “Are you going to give me the co-pay?” I threw my credit card on her desk and Brumhilde’s grubby fingers picked it up and ran it through the machine. It was only after I signed, with my left hand that the moron would schedule another co-pay, I mean visit. It is fitting that she be involved in my situation since she rhymes with itch.

And that next visit was to be this morning (or at least the morning of the day that I am typing this.) Unfortunately someone close to our family passed away over the weekend and the funeral conflicts with my appointment. I called the doctor’s office at 8am and asked if I could come in early or even later in the day. I guess my emergency is not one they care about. Some of the answers the compassionate appointment desk person offered were,

“You should have called Friday and maybe we could have rescheduled.”
(I know, it was truly inconsiderate of the woman to pass away AFTER your office hours!)

“I have nothing today or tomorrow or Wednesday, how about Thursday?”

“No we cannot call you if someone else cancels even though it would help you because that would involve an effort on our part and cost a phone call and frankly compassion which we do not have because we really don’t give a shit about you or your health. What we really want is your freaking co-pay and a chance to have you sign a paper that allows us to send in an inflated bill to your health-care provider so that we can continue to rape the system without skipping a beat.”

Okay I may have paraphrased that last one but you get the drift. She even told me that I should have called earlier because the doctor gets in around 7am.

“I did! I’ve been calling since 7am but no one picks up your phones until 8am!”
“Oh, right.”

So now I will have to endure the over-sized cast with its over-sized itch producing capabilities for another three days. But at that time I can say that at least this doctor does the work before the Gestapo demands the co-pay.
That shows great compassion.

1 comment:

train buddy said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss in your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. As for your woe is me article -- well what is there to say but that's life. You know very well that we are all at the mercy of doctors and insurance companies. You're lucky that they didn't charge you your co-pay because you didn't cancel within 24 hours. I've seen it happen at my doctor's office. Hang in there buckaroo. You're going to be just fine.