Sunday, January 22, 2012

HOW LONG DO YOU WAIT?

I woke up on the first of November with a sore shoulder. I thought I must have strained my shoulder picking up a suitcase or carrying a heavy bag on it, but honestly I couldn't remember doing anything that would have caused the strain. Oh well, I guess we all know how you can get a crick in your neck in the middle of the night, when your body is supposed to be resting.....

Two weeks later and the pain's still there. Not better, not worse, just the same - my upper arm aches, and sometimes if I move my arm the wrong way it hurts more, but for the most part the pain is pretty steady, maybe a 3 on the pain scale, but still annoying for its consistency. Eventually I call my family doctor, but of course all he can do is recommend a specialist or physical therapy. He tells me I've most likely caused the injury myself, and need to figure out what I did. Thanks.

The first think I did was make an appointment with a physical therapist. Art had found one near our house and really liked her, so I decided to give it a try. Of course by now it was Thanksgiving week so more waiting was involved, but meanwhile the arm/shoulder remained the same.

The physical therapist was helpful and gave me a regimen of exercises to do. After two weeks of physical therapy, and a good six weeks after the pain started, I decided to see an orthopedic doctor to see if more could be done. The physical therapist gave me three names, and singled one out as especially good. I called his office that same day and was shocked when the receptionist asked if I could come in the next day. Yes!

As it turns out, this orthopedic doctor, who we'll call Dr K, is in the same office as the doctor who did Art's hip replacements. Very convenient.  I was also pleased to see that Dr K was young, meaning I wouldn't have to worry about him retiring just when my bones were starting to deteriorate. So far, so good. Dr K took a few X-rays and had me move my arm in various ways - you know, the standard, "does THIS hurt?.....does THIS hurt?"

We discussed how this could have happened, and yes, it's 'just one of those things'. I was told there was inflammation and that it would probably take six weeks or so to get better. I was also advised that I could try a shot of cortisone. I'm not a big fan of needles in general, and I've always thought that cortisone shots were always painful because in order for them to be effective they had to shove the needle in and then move it all around an area that was already in pain. Perhaps that's changed, or perhaps that's just the method used for certain areas or injuries - or perhaps those doctors are just sadists. When I questioned Dr K about the shot he told me it really want too bad - but doesn't the person who's NOT getting the shot always say that????  In the end I decided to get the shot simply because sometimes my entire arm was achey and I was starting to favor my left hand over my right, which is NOT a good thing since I'm completely right-handed with little if any signs of ambidexterity. (In other words, I can barely hold a fork in my left hand, much less use it for any practical purpose.)

The good news is that the cortisone shot DID work, and combined with an anti-inflammatory I barely noticed the ache. I continued to do my exercises, but at some point the cortisone started to wear off. I asked my physical therapist how long the cortisone would block the pain and she told me it could be anywhere from six weeks to six months. Apparently I was one of the six weeks people. And by this time, close to the end of December, it had been eight weeks since the pain began.

I decided to call Dr K again to see what else I could do, or if this was going to be something I'd have to live with. Unfortunately this time I had to wait another two weeks to see him, but because it wasn't life-threatening I wasn't too concerned. I really just wanted to pick his brain and see what my options were, since obviously at this point the inflammation wasn't going away.

 On the appointed day I got up bright and early - a feat in itself for me - and headed to the medical complex not far from our house. I was probably there a good fifteen minutes before my appointed time, but at least I could catch up on the reviews of who was wearing what at the Golden Globes. Time flies when you're having fun. Now I thought my appointment had been for 9 o'clock. At 9:20 I went to the desk and asked if I'd come at the wrong time or if the doctor was running late. Oh yes, they told me, he is running a little behind today. When I asked how long it would be I was told that there was just one person in front of me, then I was next. Not really knowing what that meant, but still not being in a huge rush, I said okay and sat back down.

 Maybe ten minutes later, after feeling like everyone in the waiting room but me had been called back, I again went to the desk to ask about Dr K. I mentioned that if he was running behind that's something I would have liked to have known when I checked in. One of the women apologized but then went on to say something like "but since he's double-booked everything is running behind." WHAT??? DOUBLE-BOOKED??? Not only did you NOT tell me he was running behind, but NOW you tell me you KNEW that well in advance? Um, do you just assume that I've devoted my entire day to sitting in this office? Do you just assume that I have no other appointments or commitments, or that maybe I just wouldn't want to spend all day sitting in a poorly lit room surrounded by old copies of "People" magazine?

To reassure me, the woman told me, 'well, he might not have been double-booked when you made your appointment'. But at some point the appointment desk KNEW he was double-booked and apparently NO one was told. Do people still have the mentality of 'oh well, that's just the way it is" and meekly sit and wait? Sorry folks, but not me. I gave up waiting for doctors a long time ago.  If there's an emergency, I understand, but if the office always runs behind then someone isn't doing their job correctly.

Now not only did I want to leave, but I also wanted to stay, just to see how long this would take, and to be able to confront Dr K personally. A few minutes later my name was called and I was shown to an examination room. Okay, maybe this wouldn't be so bad.......

As I finished reading my second issue of "People" magazine I realized I'd been back there quite a while. I looked at my watch, saw that it was 10:15, put on my coat and headed out the door. Just as I was going out some medical assistant was just about to come in to my exam room. I told him, "I'm leaving, and I am NOT happy. I'd like to speak with the office manager, AND with Dr K". Someone rounded up the office manager and I told her my story, starting with the fact that I should have been told the doctor was running X minutes behind when I checked in, and ending with my outrage over the double-booking. The office manager, obviously trying to deflect blame, told me that Dr K himself requested the double-bookings. Okay, then we'd better get Dr K in here too, I told her.

 I stated my case calmly and simply: I should have been told the doctor was running behind when I checked in. I should have been told he was double-booked when I made the appointment. (and if not me, then the people who made appointments after me). I told them both I realized there could be emergencies, that some appointments take longer than others, and that sometimes things just happen. Hell, they could have told me the doctor had a flat tire, or was called away on an emergency, anything, even a lie would have shown that they had some consideration for me and my time.

Both the office manager AND the doctor looked SHOCKED, absolutely horrified!, when I said that I thought the days of arrogant doctors acting as if their patients should just wait indefinitely were over. Okay, so he IS a doctor - maybe he really doesn't have to wait, but honestly, haven't we all been there? What's the point of making an appointment? And if the person with a nine o'clock appointment isn't seen until almost 10:30, what hope is there for everyone else scheduled later in the day?

Neither the office manager nor the doctor had much to say, and I left. There was no screaming, no profanity, no scene, just one very disappointed patient. Damn, now I'll have to find a new ortho guy!

Those of you who know me know that I'm not an optimistic person. I'm not miss sunshine and roses, I'm more of a realist, a term many people like to call pessimist. And so I guess that's why I was so surprised when, a day or two later, I realized that I had really been expecting for Dr K, or even the office manager, to call and apologize. To apologize for wasting my time, and for not respecting me by letting ME decide if I wanted to wait around for an extra hour or two. I guess that wasn’t optimistic, just crazy.  So, how long do YOU wait?

3 Comments :

At 1/22/2012 07:26:00 PM , Blogger Lee Laurino said...

good for you! i bet the Doctor has NEVER had someone tell him how rude he is. and yes once you study for 20 years you think you are different.
i had my dr tell me "the only thing that I do like everyone else is put my pants on one leg at a time. ha

glad to hear it was only an ortho problem. i had a muscle spasam (shoulder) while in Italy and thought it was a hear attack!

 
At 1/23/2012 07:39:00 AM , Blogger karen said...

My shoulder is giving me problems too. It hurts when I move it the wrong way but its not a steady pain like yours. I had a frozen shoulder about 4 years ago that acted the same way. Mine will get worse before it gets better.

Sometimes I think doctors think they rule the world.

Hope your shoulder is better soon. Its no fun wheeling a suitcase around when its hurting.

Karen

 
At 1/23/2012 08:06:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

Lee, sorry to hear about the sholder spasm - that must have been scary!

Karen, I too had frozen shoulder, back in the late '90's I guess, but it eventually got better.

 

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