Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stupid Doctor Tricks

Did you know that when a physician shakes your hand and says, "It was nice meeting you," and leaves the room, that you're supposed to stay there indefinitely? Neither did I.

On Monday, my husband and I paid our first visit to the oncologist, Dr. G* at Big Chicago Hospital (BCH)*. The entire oncology center at BCH must be enormous, if the ballroom-sized waiting room is any indicator. A number of patients in various stages of treatment waited with us. One man, about 35 years old, played cards with a woman who was probably his wife. He looked like a fitness buff, with a broad chest and bulging biceps. He was also completely bald and his skin was a deep, jaundiced yellow.

After an oncology fellow took my history and examined me, Dr. G arrived and re-examined me. Since BCH is a teaching hospital, I am nearly always examined by more than one person. Two years ago, I was admitted to their emergency room with chest pains. While I was awaiting the results of a blood test, a small group of what looked like teenaged boys, dressed in doctor costumes, came into my curtained "room," eyed me warily and then listened to my heart. Interns, apparently.

My husband and I were directed to a conference room to await the arrival of both docs for further consultation. I decided to take a bathroom break, and immediately became lost in the rabbit warren of offices, examination rooms, and labs. I stopped in front of a desk where two women wearing lab coats sat. "Excuse me, can you tell me where Dr. G's conference room is located?" They both stared at me. And said nothing. For an uncomfortable length of time. Finally one of them broke out of her trance and said " one of his patients?" Apparently, because I now carry all my medical records and notes in an uber-nerdy accordian file with a handle, they thought I was there to do a presentation. I doubt that my jeans, WLUW tshirt and Dansko sandles were consistent with the normal attire of an medical oncologist.

After I had been safely led back to the patient conference room, Dr. G and fellow appeared. Dr. G recited his chemotherapy script, the rote quality of which was entirely understandable considering how many times he has to do it each week. We had many questions for him, and after fifteen or twenty minutes, he and the fellow were showing signs of restlessness. My husband however, was not going to be rushed. He kept up with the questions, while Dr. G attempted to struggle to his feet two or three times. Once we finished, Dr. G. extended his hand to me and my husband and said it was nice meeting us. He mentioned that his nurse would contact me within 36 hours (why such an curious range?) to schedule my chemo. As he was leaving, he told the fellow that I needed a prescription for a "cranial prosthesis." She nodded, and then herself bid us goodbye in a formal manner which seemed to indicate "you're not seeing me again, either." Neither of them asked us to wait. We continued to sit in the conference room for a little while, confused. After a five or six minutes, we left.

Two days later, after never receiving a call from Dr. G's nurse, I located her number and left a message on her voice mail. She returned my call, and said that the fellow told her that we had left the room and that she "didn't know where we went." Never mind that all three of my phone numbers are in their files and I signed a waiver to allow them to share this information. The nurse tried not to sound appalled when I informed her that I had not received a prescription, nor had anyone ordered the tests required before chemo can commence. Did anyone mention self-injection with a drug called neulasta? No...I definitely would have remembered hearing about that. Anyway, I'm now scheduled for tests and a call-back is promised tomorrow for the chemo appointment. Lesson: when it comes to actually coordinating treatment, make sure you talk to the nurse ASAP. The doctors just do the fancy stuff.

*Names of people and institutions are changed because...I don't want them to find this using google.


Mike -- Chicago, IL. said...

Yes, part of the Faustian bargain of getting an MD is to trade in your sensitivity (if there is any).

Lawyers, on the other hand, trade in other traits. Popular choices are decency and other such things that only weigh them down anyway.

Erin said...

Welcome to the world of having to be your own health advocate...while you most likely have no energy to do so. ;)

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

I'm fortunate to have my husband with me to these meetings; I can't imagine how difficult it is to do this kind of thing on your own!