Difficult encounters with medical professionals, doctors and dental surgeons and the like, sometimes require you to stand up for yourself or risk ending up dead.
Yeah, I know that’s a strong statement. Unfortunately, it also happens to be true. It wasn’t always this way. A few centuries ago, doctors were not considered high-ranking members of society at all. But in our lifetimes, all too many initial-packers (M.D., D.D.S., etc) expect their patients to treat them with the reverence due the Creator.
It’s pretty much an “I AM GOD! BOW BEFORE MY WILL!” sort of thing. 99% of the time, they get away with it, too.
Enter the one-percenters.
My wife, Pam, is deeply disabled on a number of different fronts. That means she has to deal with medical personnel on a ridiculously regular basis. But she doesn’t take guff from those who do the exams and write the prescriptions, and neither do I. A powerful example of that guff-rejection happened on December 10, 2012. It’s a great illustration of the extreme lengths to which we’ll go to keep her from being killed by some fool’s medical malpractice.
Before we describe the episode, however, let’s get an overview of how Ghost and Pam approach the medical/dental profession:
1. We’re willing to give a skilled practitioner credit where credit is due, but bowing to them is a no-no. We hire them. That means they’re our employees. If they start talking to us like they’re the bosses, we pull a Mitt Romney–that is, if we feel it’s for the best, we fire them.
2. In the meantime, if they refuse something (the tale we have to tell here today is about antibiotics) that we know is necessary, we push. Hard.
3. Likewise, if they push in a way that is going to harm us if allowed, we push back. Hard.
Very few in the profession can accept that–so yes, the redhead and I do have nasty reputations and fat, flagged files in health care offices from South Dakota and Montana to Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona. We’ve lived in all those places, and we’ve had serious confrontations with healthcare practitioners in every one of those states. We even filed a formal grievance on one neurologist in Montana.
But it’s worth the price of the whistle. The two of us (my wife and I) have kept her alive and more or less functioning through dozens of crises during the past 17 years that could have, should have, would have killed her stone cold dead but for our mutual vigilance and willingness to fight (when necessary) the very people who are supposed to be helping.
Caveat: There are some awesome medical folks out there. Pam is fortunate to be treating with several of them currently. The dental surgeon we braced today is one of them in many ways. His skill at working inside of my wife’s child-sized mouth is beyond compare. Her primary physician is the best in the business, and her psychiatrist is also tops in her field.
That said, the dentist did have a glitch. A serious one, one that could have put Pam in a pine box.
Here’s the story.
In June of 2012, Pam–who had been without teeth except for an ill-fitting set of dentures for the past 15 years–had major oral surgery resulting in a full set of dental implants: Four titanium screw-posts in the upper jawbone, four in the lower. Each set of four posts anchors one full-horseshoe bridge.
She’s glad she had it done. So am I, for that matter. She got her final, permanent set today. They look absolutely awesome, fit and feel better than the temporaries she wore for 6 months (except for cinch-down pressure the dentist assured her will ease over time). We can’t imagine anyone but Dr. A. (short for Amazing) being able to do what he did for her, considering the challenge of fitting implants into an adult mouth no larger than that of an average ten year old child.
Pam’s health problems started out with rheumatic fever, contracted at age one. For two years, she hovered near death, nursed endlessly by her mother. She got through it, but nobody survives rheumatic fever without consequences. She’s had a heart murmer ever since, though she managed to hide it from her athletics coaches in high school and at martial arts tournaments in later life.
For many decades, the American Heart Association recommended that rheumatic fever survivors maintain a regimen of taking an antibiotic pill every day for the rest of their lives, with heavier doses prior to most medical procedures. For most of the past 60 years, my sweetheart knew that. Though she was not on the regimen for all of those years, she did adhere rigidly to one personal rule:
No trips to the hospital for surgery, no dentists going inside her mouth, not even a pelvic exam unless she was premedicated.
One of the things rheumatic fever does is essentially destroy the victim’s immune system. Except for unavoidable trips to the medical world, Pam pretty much stays home during the winter months, away from all those sick people out there…unless she’s on antibiotics.
Dr. A. had provided antibiotics prescriptions without question…until recently, when he absolutely refused, saying that what he was doing (moving stuff around in Pam’s mouth) was “not invasive”.
The problem, of course, is that for an old school rheumatic fever survivor, a stray finger in your mouth is invasive. We tried to tell him. He wouldn’t listen. Got him to call Pam’s doctor, but he said she (the doctor) agreed with him. We found out later that was a lie. What she’d actually said was that she didn’t know why he was calling her about it, since (as Pam’s oral surgeon) it was his responsibility.
When this first happened, we didn’t yet know about the American Heart Association changing its guidelines. Stumbled on that insighftul tidbit of info while doing research on the Internet. It didn’t take my redhead long after that to figure out the problem, as follows:
Dr. A. stands for Awesome in many ways, but when it comes to rheumatic fever, it stands for A**hole. Most of the rheumatic fever sufferers we knew about in our generation have already died. He knows nothing about rheumatic fever and refuses to bone up on it ’cause, apparently, he is in that one respect a bonehead. Believes the book (American Heart Association), not the person paying him, yada yada yada.
Pam’s terror at having to face in-her-mouth work (bite impressions, changing bridges out, etc.) without premedication is beyond words. Her blood sugar kept spiking. She warned him immediately–and repeatedly–that if she got sick from his refusal to give her a prescription for just 4 antibiotic tablets to get her through each appointment, he was going to be hearing about it…and she was not going to pay for it.
Sure of himself, Dr. A. shined her on.
She made it through the first such non-premedicated appointment safely…but not the second.
Two days after the visit (November 29), she had symptoms. By the third day, they were elevated enough that I was concerned, too. We got her in to see her doctor on that same afternoon, by which time she was terribly congested, suffering from pleurisy, and–according to her doc–ready to fall off the cliff into pneumonia.
To see this lifetime athlete so weak that she could barely stand, this woman who dresses impeccably so down that she went to the medical appointment in pajamas and slippers without doing her hair and without a second thought…let’s just say that neither of us was a happy camper.
She had seven days on antibiotics by the time we went in today. Still not fully well, not by a long shot, but getting her strength back, nicely dressed, pretty much on her game.
And then, at the dentist’s office, Dr. A. blew it and the sh*t hit the fan.
When we go to these dental appointments, I stay out in the waiting room while Pam is being treated. On the day she had her surgery, I managed to terrorize some of the staff, so we’ve agreed, my wife and I, that it’s best for me to keep my distance unless there’s a hardcore emergency.
For that reason, I didn’t know what Dr. A. was up to when he came out to talk to me after Pam had been “back there” for an hour or so today. He had his trademark smile going, but–from what my girl told me on the way home–she’d already had him backed up against a wall, reading him the riot act, letting him know in no uncertain terms where the bear hid the Charmin in the woods.
“I’m in here sick today because you refused to listen,” she informed him, “and it’s not going to happen again. You’re going to premedicate me next time, or I won’t be back. It’s my way or the highway.”
“Then it’s the highway,” he replied.
“No,” she shook her head, “you don’t get it. I mean it’s my way, period. My husband paid you $42,000 cash for this job. How dare you come off like that? You will finish this job right…or I’ll walk out of here right now, you can give us back half of that money, and we’ll go somewhere else.”
Well now. He didn’t like that, as you might imagine. “Nobody talks to me like that!”
“That,” Pam retorted, “is because they’re all chickensh*t! I’m old enough to be your mother. You listen to me!”
He shook his head. “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
That part, he got right.
Now, my honey is 61 years of age, five feet tall, and weighed 98 pounds in her jammies as of this morning. Dr. A. stands within an inch or two of six feet, probably tips the scales at around 170, and obviously works out. But Pammie is also a one time Olympics-qualified gymnast, trained to black belt level in two martial arts, and–just to give you the picture–also cold-cocked a drunken six-four, 450 pound friend of the family (years before I met her) when he made the fool mistake of picking her up and slamming her against a wall.
From that position, she curled up, kicked him in the chin, and knocked him flat out.
My baby’s a sweetheart full of nothing but love…until you cross the line. Then she’ll cry for months about having had to hurt you, but she will hurt you.
In the end, Dr. A. agreed to give her the antibiotics she demanded before her next appointment.
Not bad eh? But wait. It gets worse.
This had happened just prior to ye olde Dr. A. coming out to the waiting room to talk to the man of the house. He’d been successfully threatened (mentioning all that money was definitely a threat in his eyes) by the little woman. Time to work an end run with the old man.
Knowing nothing of what Pam had just done to Mr. Stubborn, I listened for a minute or two while he went on about how wonderfully things were going back there in the chair. But he didn’t need to be telling me that. I was suspicious. Deeply suspicious.
Still seated, looking up from under the brim of my cowboy hat as he more or less stood over me, I asked about the antibiotics. He went into his verbal tap dance.
And I said this: “I don’t hear you admitting you screwed up.”
Nope. He wouldn’t admit that. Wouldn’t admit that when a patient tells him the reason she’s at risk of getting sick–and with Pam’s COPD and tricky heart, “sick” could all too easily translate to “dead” when we weren’t looking–and then said patient does get sick….yeah. He screwed up.
He told me this. He told me that. Finally, I told him bluntly, with or without fire in my eyes I couldn’t say, but the heat was definitely rising: “We’re going to have to disagree. You screwed up, you’re wrong, but we need to move on, or I’m going to get up out of this chair.”
He did assure me Pam could have a scrip for antibiotics for her cleaning in 6 months, but not for the “check fit” checkup next month.
Now the explosion. Doc. A. was off hiding somewhere. Pam came out, ready to go, radiant with her new, permanent, absolutely beautiful teeth.
But before we got out of there, I told her about “no antibiotics next time”.
She exploded…because the dude had told her one thing and me another, and because she had no intention of coming in unmedicated.
Instantly, she was back out of the waiting room, other staffers–girls who love her–trying to tell her it was going to be okay. But it wasn’t getting better. Pammie was on a rampage. The dentist really was hiding.
Then the miracle happened. Jim came out of his office. Jim is the sales and office manager for the clinic. He’s a big, solid man, sharp as a tack, and most importantly, we’ve always been on the same page. Seeing I was the only one in the waiting room, standing, pacing while everybody else was back either hiding Dr. A. from Tornado Pam or trying to comfort said Tornado, he took the two steps over to greet me, shaking my hand, calling me by name and asking,
“How’s it going.?”
“Jim,” I shot back, “Go help Pam, would you?”
“What’s up?” He was alert, focused, just like that.
I gave him the synopsis in a hurry, ten second version. He already knew some of it from earlier visits. I ended with,
“I don’t think I should be back there, or I’m going to clock A.”
He was on his way, moving fast, throwing a few crucial words over his shoulder as he headed through the waiting room door.
“She’ll have her antibiotics!”
And so she did. A very few minutes later, the lady who sets the appointments came back out front with a prescription in hand, for 8 rather than 4 antibiotic pills, and an extra batch of prescription mouthwash to boot.
Pam later told me that the first thing Jim did when he reached her was hug her up, the exact thing she needed. How it is that he and no one else could influence the stubborn yet no doubt terrified dentist to change his mind, I have no idea.
All I know is that he got the job done, comforted my distraught spouse in the process, and didn’t waste any time doing it.
Summary: So, that’s how you stand up for yourself (and/or your mate) when a medical (or dental, same thing) professional’s refusal to see the light could get you or your loved one killed. Simply put, you pull out all the stops, go to the wall, risk jail if you must, and then hope for a miracle named Jim to come save the day.
Nothing to it.