Sometimes you just have to get a little pissed off…

By Christopher Green

Ever since my sister became a nurse, I have had a healthy respect for the people working in the medical profession.  Okay, there are still the arrogant “I am the greatest person who as ever walked the face of the earth” doctors, but I have learned to deal with that segment of the species. Over all, I have had extremely good luck with the doctors who have come my way.

Moreover, I agree wholeheartedly with the advice I have been getting from the people who have gone though the transplant process. They tell me to go along with what they have to say. You can see some of their stories over at http://transplantcafe.com.

I think a lot of that has to do with my sister recommending Dr. Rajesh Sharma. This good man was able to diagnose, correctly, my lung condition within a two-month period. I had a pulmonary star that assuaged my fears by telling me it was just Asthma and that I had a bad case. He did warn me that I would probably need a lung transplant sometime down the road. But ten years under his care was at best, treading water and at worse, wasting my time, as far as I can see.

Under Dr. Sharma’s care, I was able to deal with my new diagnosis, which was, as readers will know, Bronchiectasis, a disease that was slowly eating away at my lungs. Dr. Sharma also suggested I was too sick to be working full time. I subconsciously knew this as I was falling down in my duties far too often. I was trying to juggle being the Treasurer for several organizations, taking care of over a hundred tax clients, write a column for a local paper and do all the politicking I had to do in order to run for the State Senate.

After Dr. Sharma filled out the paper work, he suggested some tests and within 3 months, I was on complete disability.  This all happened only because of my sister and brother-in-law prodding me and of course, Dr. Sharma’s good nature.

When I was in the hospital for 36 days back in 2004, it was Dr. Sharma who came to see me every day. I remember when I finally was able to figure out I was getting better. It was when Dr. Sharma asked me who was the president. I croaked out, “The ass hole,” and he replied, “Welcome back Mr. Green.” (I know I promised not to get political but this is integral to the story.)

I trust Dr. Sharma so much I want him to recommend the specialists I need to see in order to complete my pre-listing tests.

Thinking back, I should have probably demanded more from my former pulmonary doctor. I think I was fooling myself into thinking I just had a mild case of Asthma.

One time in particular, I was in the hospital with my almost annual bout with pneumonia (that should have been a clue, don’t you think?). It was around the time the Browns had left and the city and county was trying desperately to get a stadium built quickly in order to entice either an expansion team or a another sad sack franchise  to locate in Cleveland.

At the time, I saw this as an opportunity. I cobbled together a plan for a combine private/public finance plan and put it out there. One of the TV stations noticed it and they came to interview me in my hospital gown. That’s how crazy sure I was that I wasn’t really THAT sick.

Maybe I should have gotten a little pissed with my pulmonary guy, but I didn’t. Perhaps I would have learned more about my condition rather than hearing what I wanted to hear. It seems we both were telling each other what the other wanted to hear.

There was this other time that I did get pissed off. I was during my last visit to the hospital in November of 2009.  I was really sick, one of the worst bugs I ever had. I was coughing up blood, my chest was on fire, but I was still able to keep up my happy patter and good nature.

Until the last day. All of the sudden, they sent in a student nurse to tell me I had to get ready to go. Now this was in the middle of the day. There was no indication given before this young man announced to me that I was going to be let go.

As far as I could tell, I was not ready. I had never before been released in such a weakened condition. He told me they needed the bed and that I would have to be out within two hours.

I had made no arrangements; there was no advanced warning to make arrangements. He told me they would pay for a cab and that I had to be ready to go soon.

Besides all that, I didn’t even have keys to get into my house. That fact didn’t seem to faze the young man.  All the other nurses I had built a rapport with over those 18 days were suddenly nowhere to be found.

I can prove, at least to myself and anyone who cares to listen, that I wasn’t close to being ready to go home.

After I was released and sent home, a very pleasant home nurse dropped by to show me how to administer IV drugs at home. Try as I might, I just could not grasp the concept. The infectious disease doctor had prescribed two different antibiotics that had to be administered at different times. It was too much. Just three years earlier, I was able to pull off the exact same procedure without a hitch.

Did I mention they neglected to tell me about the home IV situation before I left the hospital? Now they may have told Laurie, but I certainly wasn’t in on it.

Anyway, Laurie had to cut out of work early with little notice. Not good no matter what the excuse.

So yea, I got good and pissed off at how Fairview Hospital handled that situation.

I agree with the people who advised me not to get pissed off. But sometimes you have to take a stand when you see something you cannot stand for. There is a difference between being pissed and being pissed on.

Just because you are putting your life in the hands of highly trained and well-paid professionals doesn’t mean you have to give up your dignity or self-respect. Since Dr. Sharma came on to the scene, I have been very happy with all the treatment and care he has recommended. Perhaps because I am not afraid to ask him questions when I need to understand fully what is going on.

A good two way discussion is, I think, the way to foster a great relationship between you and your doctors. That is the best thing Dr. Rajesh Sharma was able to teach me.

Here is another link to a site that will explain more about Bronchiectasis.

https://health.google.com/health/ref/Bronchiectasis

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5 Responses to Sometimes you just have to get a little pissed off…

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Christopher,
    Read your latest piece today. My wife Maxene has chatted with you on Facebook and the Transplant Cafe. I’m awaiting being put on the Heart Transplant List down in Miami. Our physical needs are of course different, but rather than swapping “war stories” with you I’d like to deal with the essence of your point and how our experiences seem universal in the medical practice in today’s America.

    I was 36 and had been married to Maxene for six months when I had my first MI. Luckily, although an entire artery was blocked I didn’t feel impaired. It was five years later when my second came during a softball game in the hot summer sun. More damage, but aside from giving up sports,my life went on as usual.
    Five years after that I had my third and was still able to carry on with the same workload.

    Finally,in 2005, after being offered the best and most lucrative job of my career (Social Service Executive/Social Worker/Psychotherapist)I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and told I’d have to stop work. I too had the people who were at the top of the cardiological field. Despite my asking them for my long term prognosis, they would hem and haw and say they couldn’t tell me, but to keep to the regimen. In their eyes though I could see the look of someone looking at a “Dead Man Walking.”

    These were good people and they were being kind. Kindness is not helpful though when you are medically deteriorating. The patient deserves an honest assess-
    ment even if the news isn’t good in order to best adjust to future possibilities. Yet our schools turn out Doctors for the most part with little understanding of the human psyche or human needs. Because I could live a relatively normal life, if you call popping 200 Nitros per month normal, the intimations of my own imminent mortality were forgotten in a fog of denial.

    My current Cardiologist was the first one, in all these years to say to me that I should try to get on the Transplant list. I humored him by going down to Miami, thinking that they would look at my records and tell me to beat it. They examined me and my records and basically said that I was a good candidate. This was a classic “good news/bad news” situation.

    My wife tells me that you and I seem to share share similar values. Health Care in this country must be change, not just from the individual cost perspective, but in our whole methodology of treatment of people. A new humanity must be put back into medicine, rather than treating patients as if we were being processed through an assembly line.

    As usual I’ve gone on too long, being a garrolous old fart, but the writing has helped me and your column provoked my interest, which helps me with my fears of late. Thank you. By the way I alway root against the Ravens and the Colts, since the NFL proved that despite their uplifting commercials it was all about the money. As John Mellencamp puts it “Ain’t that just like America.” Wishing you the best and a long, productive future.
    Mike

    • What a wonderful and thoughtful post. Peace to you and embrace the future, it really is our only hope of having a full life. Popping 200 nitros is about as pleasent a thought as having an inhaler stuffed in the pie hole 24/7.

      It really is all about quality of life and that should be taken into onsideration.

      Dr. Sharma was a god send and I will always appreciate my little sister for nagging him on to me…

  2. Joyce says:

    I completely empathize with the importance of having a doctor you can trust and talk to who will answer your questions and treat you like a human being instead of an interesting puzzle or problem to solve and check off of the list.

    I’m glad your sister got you to see Dr. Sharma!

    My favorite doctor happens to be in Taiwan and would pull out diagrams and charts to explain to me how my common cold was progressing. I think that kind of attention to patient understanding is so important. The party line of “just listen to what I tell you” isn’t good enough.

  3. MIss P says:

    Having your doctor really understand what’s wrong and also understanding that it must be communicated with you is at the base of a good Dr/patient relationship. Dr. Sharma knows this, and he acts on it. Free, open communication is so very vital. Doctors who tell you what they think you want to hear are doing you no favors. It is bad medicine.

    Thank goodness for him.

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