By Crouse Hospital patient Mark David Blum, Esq.
Often I discuss how our nation’s relationship with drugs and medicine as an industry collapsed with the passage of the Harrison Act. I wont go into the details or reasoning. Summarized at its best, the Harrison Act changed the relationship between the doctor and patient and pharmacist. Before the Act, the patient was in charge and made decisions based on his information provided by the professionals. Subsequent to the Act, the entire medical industry has placed itself in a role as super parent and behaves without explanation.
Personally, I have nothing against those who work in medicine. It cannot be easy to be around pain and suffering all the time. These are the cherished souls who end suffering and bring comfort. Respected they should be as healers.
At the same time however, an institutionalized arrogance has grown to the point that the patient is no longer the object. It has become a world focused more and more and specializations such that the same nurse that takes blood out of one vein said she could not fix a backed up IV in another arm. A “phlebotomist is a phlebotomist” goes the old saying. Once each finds his or her specialized niche, they do not come out there from.
The same phenomena is part of the patient experience. No longer in control of our treatment, now we are denied information because no one person you deal with has been involved at every step. Doctors come and go and manage to forget to communicate one to another. We become the disease or injury that brings us before them. Their interest in us is limited by where we fall on the triage scale. “The gunshot wound in 11 needs …”
Well for the record, this past weekend, I was the gallbladder inflammation. Apologies go out to my treatment providers that my ailment was not very sexy and easily diagnosed. Because blood was not spurting from a gaping wound and because a diagnostician and not just a patch it guy would be required, it felt as though I was the patient of least interest.
Who can blame them? Constant heavy vomiting and intense wretching, crying and writhing in pain are not issues these macho driven ER docs prefer to deal with. I was a good boy too; I did everything by the book. When it started, I waited a few hours to see if it would stop. The pain got worse. Then I called my family doc and made an appointment. Apparently I must have passed out because I remember someone telling the lady behind the glass, “you know there is a guy out cold on the floor out here.”
I never got five words out of my mouth before the doctor said, “why did you come here instead of going to the Emergency Room?” Well aside from being TOLD to come in and having to endure the pain and symptoms for several more hours, 911 was called and I was whisked away in an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Mind you that I still have not received any pain medication and have not been seen by a doctor.
Arriving in the Emergency Room, I am dumped from the gurney into a wheel chair and abandoned in the waiting room. It was now ten hours into this intense pain and my ability to “cope” was at its limit. At the speed of a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, I was finally seen, stabbed, poked, prodded, drained, and after sixteen hours, I got pain relief. The doctor said that he had good news and bad news … in that the good news is that they cant find anything wrong, and the bad news being that they couldn’t find anything wrong. He gave me a prescription and sent me on my way.
I wasn’t even home before the pain came back. The Mrs. called the ER for advice and they said to come right back. In less than 30 minutes, I was back in the ER waiting room being treated by the staff as through I just landed from Mars and nobody seemed to remember I had just left there an hour or so ago. Nice thing that change of staff and nobody says nothing. Again suffering horribly in the ER, vomiting nicely everywhere, one doctor who was inside earlier and knew I had been treated came out to schmooze with the security guard. When I went up to him and reminded him I had been there earlier and can he please go tell them I am back. His response was to slide the computer monitor over so as to avoid making eye contact. His job, I am going to get as he should never be in a situation to deal with human beings.
Back inside I went and again, nurses, phlebotomists, CAT scans, sonogram (is it a boy or a girl?), EKG, ad naseum all came to my rescue. Everybody that is, except a doctor. Meanwhile the pain is worsening and they feel the solution is to send in a social worker. Perhaps she was there to make sure I didn’t grab the guard’s gun and shoot myself in the face for pain relief.
Eventually the great educated minds of the invisible faces I never saw decided I needed a night or two for observation. Admitted to the hospital proper and finally in a room with plenty of pain medication, help, and comfort only took 19 hours from first symptom. A night of morphine and other medications and I woke up a new man.
Once inside the main machine, a hospital is a warm and receptive place. The ER stands as the gatekeeper and if you cannot appease their need to see priority, you are just dumped onto the pile of human refuse littering any emergency room in any hospital anywhere in the country.
I understand the need for protocols and defensive medicine. Though I personally would never do a medical malpractice case, I can see the results of a thousand lawsuits everywhere I look. Moreover the specialization and technology has gotten so out of control that the purpose has gotten lost in the process. For example, exact delivery of drugs in proper dosages is vital. Abbot makes this doohickey machine for IVs that measures out the proper dosages and drops them into your blood as ordered. This is a great labor saving idea. Unfortunately what is labor saving for medical personnel is miserable for the patient. Walk down the hallways at any given time and you can hear the alarms from the machines going off in several rooms. It you have to go to the bathroom, you have reach down and unplug it from the plethora of other plugs and gizmos, and walk it with you. This is a major PITA when you are sick and weak. The alarm goes off constantly so you get woken up frequently, have to bother hospital staff constantly, and in the end, the machine is a piece of crap.
Even though I was woken in the middle of the night for blood pressure and temperature, for injections and tests, and for the stupid alarms, nothing was more obnoxious than sending a floor buffer out to squeegee the floors at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. That, and putting two patients with gastrointestinal problems in the same room with only one bathroom. I let him have the bathroom in the room and I spent last night and today sprinting down the hallway to the public restroom.
In the end this has just been a colossal waste of time. Work that needed doing wasn’t. Money needed for other resources is gone. For three days I have been cut off cigarettes though I did learn how to sneak a butt or two. I did meet some wonderful folks and realize their hearts are too big for the bodies that contain them. Only the staff doctors seem disconnected from the patients. Through intimidation, arguing, niggling over irrelevant minutia, and attitude, the doctors manage to exacerbate an already bad situation. Rule #1: Never argue with a trial lawyer in a lot of pain. We tend to bite hard.
Nobody knows when they will declare me “healed”. It had better be soon as the world does not wait. But from what I hear, my room mate and I can continue to snore loud and in unison all night long.
I close with this one long famous line: Doctor, Heal Thyself. Get off your lazy ass and check on your patient. Don’t let a clerk be the first person an injured or suffering person sees. Step up and do the job for which you trained. Most times you have the luxury of waiting for tests and data before determining a course of action. But when a patient comes to you in pain, it is time to remember we are human beings and not widgets to be processed through a factory. Step up. A hospital is not a prison and doctors are not my parents. It is time perhaps they consider that lesson.