Monday, June 22, 2020

Current events

Here’s my latest column, dated today, June 22nd. I received some great feedback from readers on this one.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Healthcare during COVID, Part 2

When I last wrote here, Wife was still in the hospital, awaiting procedure number two for kidney stones.

During both of her procedures, because I could (supposedly) not get in the hospital, I sat in the parking lot. Call me crazy, but I simply felt, if my wife was going under anesthesia, I should be as close to her as possible.

During Thursday's procedure, an O.R. nurse called me as things were getting underway. When it was done, the doc called me.

Friday at 1:43 p.m., as I once again sat in the parking lot, I received a text message from the O.R. advising the surgery had begun. It was supposed to take anywhere from 45 - 90 minutes.

At 4 p.m., when I had not heard anything, I called the hospital switchboard, told them who I was. I explained my wife had been in surgery and I had not heard anything. The switchboard operator put me through to the nurses' station. Wife had been back in her room about 45 minutes, I was told.

This was one of a number of frustrating components of a frustrating few days. I finally talked to the doctor, along about 6 p.m. after I called the hospital and had him paged. He was nice enough, and talked to me about what Wife had been through, but offered no explanation of why he had failed to call me, even as I expressed surprise that I had not heard from him.

"This has been very difficult for me," I told him, allowing as to how this was my wife and I felt as if I had had to walk through a maze to get information about her.

Not an "I understand," or an "I got busy after her surgery and forgot to call you."

Nada. Just the facts.


I was able to get in the hospital that night, after my DIL called in a favor. Turns out she and her family knew this doc from years ago. The hospital, while still ostensibly following COVID protocols and allowing no visitors, was loosening up a bit if a doctor gave an "all clear" for one visitor per patient.

Wife began to feel better that night, and the next morning (Saturday) she was discharged and I brought her home. Unfortunately, this was not the end of the saga.


That night Wife began to have pain again. On Monday morning, she spoke with our primary care doctor's office. (Dr. M, who has taken care of our family for 20-plus years). Later that day Dr. M.  sent her a message that she had reviewed all her scans from the previous week and suggested that, since she was still having pain, she should have an MRI. Something else must be going on.

I'll skip over many details, but will fast forward to Thursday morning of that week, when Wife was having so much pain she went into to see Dr. M. The MRI was scheduled for that afternoon.

They were stopping patients at the door to be checked for COVID (a temperature check and a series of questions). I told the lady doing check-in I wanted to go in with Wife.

She had to get that approved by the doc, but I got the green light. I submitted to the temperature check and questions.

As Dr. M. quizzed Wife about the pain and the events of the last week, she asked Wife to show her exactly where it was. With her hand, Wife showed her the area on her torso.

Dr. M. pulled up Wife's shirt a couple of inches from her waist, took one look at a rash that had appeared and said, "You have shingles."

You could have knocked us both over with a feather. We had noticed the rash but thought it was skin irritation from the surgery. Shingles had never occurred to us because (a) Wife had a mild case of shingles about 20 years ago, and (b) she has had the shingles vaccine (as have I).

Dr. M. said Wife was her first patient to have had the shingles vaccine that had gotten shingles -- a distinction we would not have chosen. She said, very likely, the stress on her body from the previous week had caused it.

In some ways we were relieved. With the continued pain, we were both beginning to worry about something more serious that might be going on.

Shingles is no picnic. The pain can be excruciating and she's still not over it. She continues with meds and only in the last week has she started sleeping through the night.

But, thankfully, I think she's on the road to recovery.

In the healthcare system, you simply must advocate for yourself. You have to be persistent. You don't have to be rude, but sometimes you have to be firm. While I never had unpleasant words with the doc who did the surgeries, I think he was aware he was not on my favorite persons list. I'm fine with that.

If you can't be your own advocate, you need someone to advocate for you. In the hospital, Wife was too sick to advocate for herself.

It's not my nature to be pushy and I tend to be a rule follower. I had to go way outside my comfort zone in making calls, asking probing questions, etc.

But good heavens, with what we're paying for all of this? I'll be pushy all day long if I need to be.

Once Wife was home from the hospital and was still having pain, she did her share of advocating for herself too. I'm sure the primary care doctor's office became weary of her calls and her discussions with nurses and/or office staff.

But so be it. We had to figure out what was going on. Had we not persisted, we might still be trying to figure out all of this.

It's about four weeks since this began. Wife is much better. I think we're headed in the right direction now, and I'm thankful for that.