Friday, June 20, 2008

My New Best Friend

[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker; 78% Medical System; 22% My Childhood and Thereafter; 3% Holiday Wishes]

My encounters with the medical profession began very early in my life. No, I was not a sick kid but I did grow up in a pharmacy. From the time I was ten, I filled the prescription bottle drawers, swept the store and took out the trash. I remember my dad showing me how to make change for a $5 just a year later and when I did it perfectly for the next customer, I was allowed to help out on Saturdays. Once I was in high school, I when to the store a couple of nights a week after whatever sports practice was in season and worked Saturday mornings and every summer.

After college I ran the pharmacy for five years while my dad took some much needed time off, well not off really but he slowed down a bit. So from that upbringing, I knew a lot of doctors and read a fair number of pharmacy and medical books; I just wanted to know what we were doing and how the lords of medicine thought they knew what they were doing. I learned, from an early age, how the other side of medicine worked.

Now for the first time in my life, I am having extended personal interaction with the current medical system from the patient side of the equation. The system, as most of us know, is fairly broken; so I have become my own patient advocate and have gone beyond being the perfect symptom reporter and internet researcher to actually suggesting courses of treatment to the various physicians I am dealing with. But again, as I hope you do not know from personal experience, the system is cracked, if not broken. So I am also having to manipulate it to get the care on need on the allopathic side of the process.

What do you do when the doctor says: "I want to see you in two weeks," and the front desk is booking five weeks out? Well, you prod, you inquire and, in my case, you find that the phone appointments staff will pass you on to the triage nurse, if you push them. The triage nurse happens to have had the lingering flu symptoms for two and a half months. I have had mine for three plus months, so we talk and share our tales of pathology, both of our illnesses and of the system. She works for the Ear, Nose & Throat consortium and still she has not recovered. But my new best friend and I talk and commiserate and..Oh yes, find that there are indeed appointment slots where and when I need them. Today when I showed up, the doctor was surprised but I think relieved to not be diagnosing in a vacuum and he and I compromised on the next phase of my treatment. Hmm, maybe not compromised; we mutually decided on the next course of treatment.

So when the booking staff didn't call me with my new test appointments, I knew who to ring up to circumvent the probably overworked phone staff on a TGIF afternoon. When this is all over, I am going to meet this woman and we are going to share something tall and cool that is not being used to wash down another pill or tablet.

And .... Happy Solstice everyone!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Hi Tim,
I am very familiar with our broken system having worked in it as a nurse for many years. Now that I have a chronic medical problem I realize knowing the ropes makes it easier to negotiate the rocks and shoals of "care". God help the poor souls who are medically unsophisticated!
Here's hoping that you and your doc discover answers and solutions for your current complaint...
Susan in Santa Rosa