Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hospitals Smell Funny...

According to Blue Cross, I've had 29 medical claims filed by doctors in the last 90 days. I will begin the New Year with at least three that I have already added to my calendar, one minor surgery, at least one out-patient test, and I am anticipating there will be more medical nonsense to follow.

I had to spend the night of December 23-24 in the hospital, my body being decidedly low on certain fluids and nutrients.

So, we've gone from trying to fix my vision to a neurological assessment to a neuro-psych wasting my time... to finding a serious, potentially very serious, internal physical problem. At least we know my exhaustion was definitely not psychological. I really was "drained" when I said I felt like I was running out of fuel.

The comments I would make about neuro-psychology aside (for now), someone should have caught my medical condition in early October when I first had basic blood tests. Apparently, reading the results wasn't part of the service charge?

Two and a half months later, long after the initial eye surgery, someone realized I looked pale. Wow, shock of shocks, a doctor actually looked at me and realized something was wrong. Trust me, this new G.P. has my complete attention and respect.

I can't say I like hospitals. No one does. They smell funny, are incredibly noisy, and there are a lot of sick people present. The depressed family members in the cardiac ward didn't help. (I was placed in the ward because it had free beds and there was some minor risk that my heart my want to take a vacation.)

In the 24 hours I was in the hospital, I had three roommates. One had suffered a serious stroke; his partner waited by his bed anxiously for hours. The second had undergone minor surgery for arrhythmia but suffered a "bleeding problem" all night. Talk about a noisy room, there were always two or three nurses tending to his wounds. The final roommate arrived as I was leaving, though he had received three phone calls -- before his arrival. Apparently, I was in his bed, which he had occupied for several days before my arrival.

I actually didn't sleep well until early morning. I slept much better once my wife arrived. She sat by the bed, reading a book, while I faded in and out of sleep.

Somehow, I felt better knowing she was there. Even in a smelly, noisy hospital, knowing my best friend was nearby was enough to let me sleep. I think that reflect just how important she is to me.
Worst thing... I didn't get to sneak out to get her the pendant I had seen online and liked. I ended up getting her a slightly different pendent the day after Christmas. It wasn't much and definitely not nearly as much as she deserves.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yet Another Exam

Today, December 15, 2008, I went to yet another neurological exam. Actually, it was a psychological exam, supposedly screening for seizure disorders (complex partial seizures). However, it was simply another bad experience with that vague semi-science we call psychology.

I think about 20 to 30 percent of psychology / psychiatry is valid and useful. Certainly I don't doubt the existence of clinical depression, mental retardation, or even sociopathy. The brain is incredibly complex, though, and I think a dozen psychologists would offer a dozen "evaluations" of a given individual. (Honestly, I would prune the DSM -- not expand it. Too may things are now considered medical or mental health "conditions" needing treatment.)

Today's exam relied heavily on the speed and accuracy with which I could use my right hand. The pain was excruciating during the exam, eventually becoming too unbearable to continue testing. As I mentioned before the testing, my right arm and shoulder are usually in some pain. I never write longhand for more than a few minutes, usually limiting myself to one or two notebook pages at any sitting.

I was told, "Motor skills are a part of intellectual development." Since my motor skills are horrible, I must be incomplete. Yep, I must be only partially acceptable, never capable of achieving full development. Do professionals think about their words?

Any test timing my writing speed or accuracy is not only worthless, but highly objectionable. As I told the examiner, it is difficult to control the hand, which becomes increasingly frustrating and painful. During one "match the symbol" exercise, I even asked to stop before time was up because my hand hurt. After that exercise, I slowed all writing as much as I could, to reduce pain and stress.

When I could not control my hand and it kept "pulling" towards me while working on a maze, I was told that my errors were "a conscious choice." The pulling was not a choice. I could see the solution for the maze, but could not control the jerking hand. It was not "free will" to lose control of fine motor control. Being told trembling was a choice only angered me, making it harder to control the hand, which tightens and cramps when in pain.

Also, reading color names from a list "as quickly as possible" left me dizzy, feeling like I was close to a bad asthma attack. I had to slow my reading so I could breathe and had to request a cup of water so I could reduce the sensation I might faint. The reason I was originally seen by the neurology staff was because I fainted due to pain. I suspect the asthma makes fainting more likely.

I left deeply, deeply, offended. Once I returned home, I had to take several pain killers and applied a lot of heat to the arm and shoulder so I could relax. That should never be the end result of an examination.

Only a small portion of the process seemed to deal with my memory issues or problem solving capacities. Most of the exam was a traditional "WAIS III" examination, a battery I have long found problematic. I find the questions of the exam socially/culturally biased. My answers were met with, "I need something else" and "That's not what the test wants."

I am not going to obtain the exam results. My wife and I discussed this and we both feel this was not a valid evaluation instrument as far as my fainting and potential memory issues are concerned. We will meet with the neurologist this week, as scheduled, but terminate further exploration of these matters. I will probably see my general medical practitioner regarding the asthmatic breathing and for standard pain treatments.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Medical Meander

For the last two weeks, plus or minus a few days, I have been coughing. This followed a horrible cold -- the second rough cold of this season.

In winter, more of us are in close proximity, leading to more infections. Unfortunately, I teach and that means I am in a small, cramped classroom with nearly two dozen young adults. Most of my students live with lots of other young people. At least I don't work with elementary school students with my tendency to catch everything.

My wife convinced me to stop by the campus health clinic yesterday. I arrived within 15 minutes of the clinic opening. Unfortunately, the clinic is only open from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. As a result, the clinic doctors and nurses can only see a few dozen first-come, first-serve patients.

I simply wasn't early enough.

Coughing and apparently wheezing, the admitting nurse took pity on me and checked to see if there were opening on the main campus. I would have to try to arrive early the next morning. The nurse politely said that was a bad idea. She said streptococcus and other infections were spreading, so I should try to get into a "Minute Clinic."

At 2:30, my wife retrieved me and drove the 30 minutes or so to the Minute Clinic in a Twin Cities central suburb (though the suburbs here seem like part of one big city). At 3:45 p.m., the Minute Clinic RN on duty interviewed me and decided I might be too sick for her to examine. I could have pneumonia, bronchitis, or something else serious.

I was very hungry, so I convinced my wife to stop by a Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home. I know that sounds horrible when you have a cough, but I was seriously craving chicken.

We returned home, ate a great dinner, and then I called my physician's clinic about 4:45. Honestly, the meal was the best part of my entire day.

The nurse said I should not wait until a doctor could see me -- I should go to a Minute Clinic. I mentioned I had tried that, so she referred me to "Urgent Care." The Urgent Care facility is open from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Ironically, it's located about two blocks from the Minute Clinic.

I signed in shortly before 6 p.m.

Medical exam. Nothing. Chest x-rays. Nothing.

The doctor prescribed some antibiotics to be safe and some cough syrup. I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics, but I'm in no position to take chances.

This entire experience is not unusual. I have to wonder how any "system" could be so disorganized. Of course people don't like the health care system. In the end, after hours of waiting and less than ten minutes total medical consultation, nothing was certain.

Thankfully, I only owed one copay and the costs of prescriptions.

There will never be certainty in medicine. There will always be frustration. I'm exhausted, and still coughing.