Friday, January 29, 2010

The Brush Off

When Dr. Wonderful recommended a pain management doctor, I was eager to take advantage of another specialist, a part of a team. I felt hopeful, especially after I researched the different modalities used to treat pain caused by the kind of spinal cord damage that I have.

It is time consuming and exhausting to get to multiple doctor appointments. It is stressful going to someone new. But Dr. W. had said this guy was the best and ‘a good listener’, so I envisioned a consult where I would tell him my history, we would discuss all my options and he would be a guide for my best choices.

The office is sumptuous in a tacky way and very smoothly operated. A tech, who spoke so quickly I didn’t understand a word she said, took my vitals. A Physicians’ Assistant came in and asked where my pain usually was. She did a half-baked neuro assessment and looked at the MRI films I brought with me. She examined them with a furrowed brow and I suspected she had no idea what she was looking at. I pulled up another film. “Do you want the sagittal or the medial view?” heh heh I was proud of that.

She said what she put up, a side view of my cervical spine, was plenty. Then she said the doctor would be right in.

He did appear after a few minutes. I was sitting on the examining table, as I had been told to. He stood on the other side of the room leaning against a cabinet, reading some notes. He asked where my pain was. He frowned and said, “This problem is neurological, there is nothing I can do for it. I will give you Lyrica and you come back in 4 weeks.” He made for the door. I thought of my research and said “But don’t you treat people with pain from Transverse Myelitis?” “No” he said, “call your neurologist, that is who should take care of that. The Lyrica will help.”

And he was gone.

He never examined me, never even came near me, didn’t ask my history, barely even asked me a question, never mind was a good listener. He literally was in the room for less than three minutes.

I sat there for a second, simply stunned. I had thought I would be leaving full of hope at the possibility of a reduction of my constant pain in the future. Instead, I got the bum’s rush. I was so upset I was literally breathless. By the time I got to the car I was crying. What the heck just happened? Where was the ‘team approach’? This doctor could not have been less interested in me. The visit was a complete waste of time.

I guess there are other pain specialists out there. But when you are sick, chasing down good care, finding someone who is not like Dr. You’re Boring Me, is utterly demoralizing. You get labeled as demanding or difficult when you hold someone to high standards, even though everyone should.

Some people think I am brave, but really I’m not. I’m a miserable coward. The likelihood of having intractable pain for the rest of my life leaves me reeling. The idea that a physician who treats pain would be so indifferent and dismissive is infuriating, beyond frustrating. The prospect of having to fight to get what I need is overwhelming.

I don’t know how he is going to bill my insurance company when he never did anything. I don’t know how I am going to handle this, if I will bother letting him know how upset I am. I do know I am furious that I was dismissed the way I was, especially after the research I did. I know there is treatment out there and I am going to find it.

But first I need a lie down. And then maybe an entire peanut butter cream pie from Wegman’s. Washed down with vodka. Lyrica-schmyrica.

I feel better already.



Margaret said...

Oh, Marie - what a travesty. It shouldn't be this hard. I wish there were magic glasses you could put on to read the sign outside the doctor's door. Where it says "Pain Management" you would see "caring team approach" or "doesn't really want to help you, will just write scrips."

Marie said...

Margaret, that is the perfect word. It was a travesty. I wish there were magic glasses too to discern who you are about to see.

Fortunately, Dr. Torpey and my neurologist, Dr. Holland, ARE really caring and compassionate. Between the two of them I am confident I will find someone to help me.

The vodka made me very optimistic. :)

Webster said...

Marie, your experience was beyond the pale, and I do hope you don't let it slide. I would dispute the bill, and even before you receive it, write a letter to the doctor using this post as your outline, cc'd to the Doctor who referred you.

No one should be paid for this rude and dismissive behavior, regardless of his excuse.

I hope you do find relief for your pain soon.

JD at I Do Things said...

Oh, this sucks. I'm so sorry. You got a crappy doctor. I know it's hard to keep trying, but I say, don't give up on finding a good pain management doctor. They do exist.

Now finish up that peanut butter pie and be good to yourself.

Noel Giger said...

I'm so glad you stopped by my tutorial! Thanks!

I'm sorry to hear of your injury and chronic pain. My mom has had back surgery, TMJ surgeries and a tumor on the pituitary gland in her brain. She now has Fibromyalgia and has to deal mith myriad specialists and pain management. It's a full time job! HUGS

Marie said...

Webster: I called them to cancel the four week appointment and I complained. I talked to the PA and she apologized up and down. She offered to have the doctor call me. I said thanks, but getting the brush off once was more than enough.

J.D.: Thanks sweetie. I bought a mini-pie and took three days to eat it. It was delish. My other doctors are going to help me find someone right for treating my pain so I'm not giving up.

Noel: Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. :) I'll keep your mom in my prayers.

Thanks everyone for your encouragement! You're the best.

Herrad said...

Hi Marie,
Sorry to read how the 'specialist' doctor treated you.
Hope you find another doctor soon, one that wants to helps you.

Barbara said...

I feel your pain, no pun intended!

I had the greatest doctor until 2007 - he was a leader in pain management, got the laws changed, and without hesitation, gave you as much pain meds as you needed, as often as you needed.

He was an "old country doc" - made rounds of nursing homes for his patients, was always there, never took more than two days off at a time because he couldn't just "leave" his patients.

Which is why he died of cancer. He never took the time to take care of his own cancer. I was in his office for an appointment the day he died. Every single patient in the waiting room cried. Tell me when you've EVER seen that happen.

Now I have a doctor who will not give me pain meds, Xanax or anything to help me. Welcome to Kaiser.

No one can replace my old doc. I've given up trying.

I wish you better than me. I hope you get the help you need.

I love this blog and will return often. Thanks for letting me whine!

Sharkbytes said...

Oh, I can identify with this SO much. Not on medical issues, but other things. I know that "What the heck just happened?" feeling. I'm really sorry.

Marie said...

Herrad: Thanks for your good wishes. I think this will work out.

Barbara: Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and thanks so much for the empathy. No Xanax?!?! Eeeek! All kidding aside, it is so incredibly frustrating to not be heard when you are suffering. So demeaning. But I have confidence I will find the right doctor to help me.

Sharkbytes: Welcome to you too! I am sorry anyone has to have that "wtf?" moment. It is so unsettling, whatever the cause.

Thank you all for reading and especially for leaving a comment! :)

Jane Turley said...

What a ******* ! Unbelievable!

I think most people would have cried in such circumstance:(

I do hope you find some relief soon Marie. Vodka is a good solution in the meantime:)