Doctor of the Year

A warning from Fatty: I am extremely pissed off today, and don’t plan to pretend I’m not. If you’re looking for something non-bilious, you’re going to need to look elsewhere.

Today, Susan had an appointment with the friendly neighborhood neurologist. This was a followup to the MRI she had last Friday, which was recommended during the neurologist visit she had last Tuesday, which was in turn a followup to the EMG test she had the previous Wednesday on the advice from the neurologist . . . okay, at this point I lose track of the dates.

The point is, today’s appointment was the latest in what has now been established as an ongoing pattern with the neurologist. He meets with us, recommends some tests, then we have a followup where he recommends some more tests.

That’s the visit-by-visit pattern. There is also a pattern within each visit: we arrive on time, and then wait for 1.5 hours. I am not exaggerating, even a little bit. I think we are not supposed to realize that a full 1.5 hours has elapsed between when we arrive and when we see the doctor, because the doctor uses clever tricks engineered to make us think things are happening, even though they’re not. For example:

  • 45 minutes: Sit in waiting room.
  • 20 minutes: Sit in examination room.
  • 5 minutes: Talk with Doctor’s assistant, who asks questions. I assume that this information is communicated to the Doctor, although I am not certain, since the Doctor always begins by asking the exact same questions.
  • 20 minutes: Sit in examination room. Some more. Five minutes before he comes to talk to us, the Doctor will come and get Susan’s file, to “review” it. I put “review” in quotes because I would be happy to bet large sums of money that this is in fact the first time he has considered Susan’s case since the last time he saw her.

After our 1.5 hour wait, we are rewarded with no more than ten minutes of the Doctor’s time. During this precious ten minutes, he gives the evaluation and a recommendation for tests I knew he would give . . . and in fact asked for weeks ago. Because, unlike him, I have the power of the Internet and am moderately curious, and can therefore use symptoms and observation to come up with a diagnosis.

But I do not say anything like this, because I know that, sooner or later, he’s going to help. Somehow. In some way other than the one trick he’s shown himself capable of so far: prescribing pain medication.

And that leads us to today.

Today’s Appointment
We waited our usual 1.5 hours today. It’s a good thing Susan’s very comfortable sitting in a chair for that long, and that we don’t have kids to take care of, and that I don’t have a job I’m missing, or this would be very uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’m not upset, because I know that this kind of delay is just an anomaly — if you define “anomaly” as “something that happens every single time.”

OK, I promise. No more talking about the waiting.

The neurologist comes in, sits down, and tells Susan that the reason she’s in so much pain and her left leg has lost so much mobility is because the tumors on her pelvic bones are growing, so much so that her pelvis is in danger of fracturing. Susan probably should avoid walking altogether, and it would be a good idea to have an appointment with the oncologist.

He wishes her good luck — using these exact words: “Uh, good luck.” He says maybe we should set up a followup appointment in six weeks or so, though he does not say why.

And then he’s gone. Two minutes, beginning to end.

For some reason, it occurs to me: “Well, at least his next appointment won’t have had to wait quite so long.”

On the way out, neither Susan nor I make a move to the desk to set up a followup visit. Later, we will both acknowledge this was intentional.

After the Appointment
As we drive home, I call the oncologist’s assistant — I have her on speed dial, because she’s the one person in the medical community who returns my calls, every single time. I tell her what we’ve learned, and ask her to make sure to get the information from the neurologist, because we’re going to need to see the oncologist tomorrow and figure out what — if anything — we can do.

The oncologist’s assistant assures me that this is a bump in the road, not the end of it.

Then, while we’re still driving home, the neurologist’s assistant calls Susan. “I’ve set up your appointment with the orthopedist,” she tells Susan.

“What?” replies Susan. The doctor did not mention setting up an appointment with anyone, and certainly not an orthopedist. Plus, the time being set is 70 minutes away from where we live, and at the same time Susan would be having chemotherapy, and, hopefully, talking with the Oncologist.

The Neurologist’s assistant calls back in a few minutes and says that the Neurologist has talked with the Oncologist and they both agree it’s more important that Susan see an Orthopedist than go to chemo.

To recap, our new situation is now as follows:

  • Two doctors have agreed that a visit to a third doctor is more important than Susan going to get chemotherapy, which is — we thought — was pretty much the most importhant thing she could do each week.
  • Neither doctor has bothered explaining to us why this is so incredibly important — or even relevant — and neither was available to talk today.
  • Because Susan will be going to the Orthopedist instead of the Oncologist, she won’t be meeting with the Oncologist to talk about a course of action to fight the tumors that are — in spite of the chemotherapy — growing inside Susan.
  • So not only don’t we know how bad this is and what to do next today, but we won’t know tomorrow either.

I’m sure it’s unreasonable of us, but this causes us some distress.

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