Where were we going?
Ah, yes. Clifton Park to see my new best friend Nikki.
She is one very busy lady.
She seems to coordinate pain management for this entire region. Except for those who still go to the “other place”. I’ll only say they didn’t work out for me.
But Nikki’s got it all worked out.
That day, April 20th, I got the OK to move on to the next step, steroid injections in both sides of my neck.
Which I did a week later, and then I got to move ahead 5 squares to the actual treatment, the nerve ablation.
It really does feel a bit like a board game.
Today, as I sat in my little curtained area, bombarded by loud voices of nurses taking information, patients replying and calling hello to one another, I asked my nurse: “Are they giving something away free?” One couldn’t even hear the muzak. Thank God.
She laughed. “Noisy, isn’t it?”
A Get my Pain Shot Party. Maybe Tuesday noon is to be avoided, not that I get to choose my time, only the day.
Traffic in Clifton Park is sometimes as close to rush hour as you can get here. Grant hates crowded roads.
But he seldom has to deal with them!
Back at the clinic, I had a few minutes to reflect on the state of medicine in the United States. Everyone knows, of course, that it is disgraceful.
Having chronic on-going problems since my thyroid surgery in 1971, I have been through a revolving door of medical practitioners. No one person ever sat me down and tried to work out what was really wrong.
That’s not how the system works. I used to wonder why I wasn’t sent to a hospital or clinic where they would keep testing and checking until something, some combination of things threw up a flag. Why didn’t I ask? Good question.
Life had trained me to accept what was offered and do as I was told. Sometimes I did. Doctors intimidated me.
Consequently, I have, over fifty years, had the experience of witnessing the evolution of medicine in the USA. Not only from my own viewpoint, either.
As they grew old, I was much involved with the care of my aunt and uncle who were fortunate to have Medicare and some coverage from their employment.
Then there was Dad, who returned to the USA aged 88 with no health insurance. A survivor of the Spanish Flu, he enjoyed great health until at 90 came cancer.
The system folk didn’t know how to deal with him, until they realized he intended to pay. Cash. By cheque, of course, written by me.
It was rather mind-blowing having power-of-attorney without being told what money my father possessed.
When it was over, I never did add up the bills. I was curious but I really didn’t care. It had been torture mostly for him, but also for me.
My dad was an atheist. He wanted to live, so he opted to fight. How could I even attempt to talk him out of it?
From my many observations, my feeling was that quality would be so much better than quantity. With the right care, he could have enjoyed a few months.
Instead he put himself through a dreadful ordeal, ending in a nursing home that he hated, not realizing that things could have been so much worse.
Like everyone else, the nursing home couldn’t quite work my father out. He moved in to a private room with his obscenely oversized television and the computer he’d acquired at age 89.
The language my father spoke, a stilted old-fashioned English was almost incomprehensible to the nurses and he decided they were all stupid, complaining endlessly.
Meanwhile I made excuses that he was old and ill, etc. The nurses were kind. I think they were sorry for me. And one or two were sorry for him.
So, I got to see that whole side of the “system”.
Then I reverted to seeking care for myself. A lot of it psychological! But I’ll leave that out.
It didn’t help, that I moved coast to coast and I found things quite different in the Pacific Northwest.
It was as if I had thrown a bad dice number and ended up back on square one of the board game. Foolishly choosing a PCP of my approximate age (I was only 52 then), I discovered that far from being understanding and empathetic, he was dismissive and rather superior. He was the first doctor I “fired”!
Now we were into big medical groups. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies and their deals. I have to wonder how many new drugs we played guinea pig for. There were always free samples on offer.
And I had a new PCP to train. This one was much younger and I was beginning to seem old. It’s perfectly understandable that a doctor cannot possibly trust a new patient that he knows nothing of. Nor did I have great expectations.
We tiptoed around on egg shells. My reserve and him having to satisfy all the requirements of the conglomerate he found himself working for, things didn’t progress too fast.
In my youth, I had “growing pains”. In early New York days it was “stress and too much running around at JFK.”
Then “one must expect certain things as we age.”
SCREAM. He didn’t actually say it. He didn’t have to.
There are a lot of rude, dismissive doctors in my very thick file, but Dr K. wasn’t one of them. He even had the grace to apologize to me.
Following the edict laid out for him, I’m quite sure, by his medical group, he had sent me for physical therapy.
Each session I was in more pain and Dr K. was persuaded to order an MRI, which was the great reveal, of at least one major problem.
That led to the horrible Dr M. and the delightful Dr C. and a bad mistake on my part. Suddenly encountering a charming physician who took the time to explain the situation to me and smile at me and sympathise and God help me, recognize that I was British, I put myself in his hands, literally.
At least I supposed so.
Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure.
Normally, your surgeon comes to speak with you before he operates. Now, maybe he came after I had been semi-drugged, but there wouldn’t have been much point in that.
And he certainly never came to see me in the hospital after. But, he was the head of department, an important man. The doctors who came were his students. Had they been present? Don’t know. Didn’t ask. I was in a morphia haze.
There were all kinds of lights and sounds and terrifying scenarios. I was 70% certain I was dead.
A month later I was back to have it all done again, something having “gone amiss”. This time because of my morphia episode, I got to endure the pain instead.
Well, not quite. Being opened stem to stern being tedious, they prescribed a derivative, initiating my opiate journey.
By the way, when you get your spine sliced open, you know how they lay you? That’s right, on your back. Fortunately that part was not a surprise because I had looked it up.
(If we had had the Internet in the 70’s I could have looked a lot of things up.)
Why bore you with more. Some of you have read bits of this before. It was just that thought I had this afternoon about board games. Yes this one can get really boring.
Each time we go to Clifton Park, storm clouds roll in.
So we’ll see if it happens again in a fortnight!
The dice I threw this afternoon seem to have got me on SAFE. I think.