Friday, July 2, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 121

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 42
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 18
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 13
My Dad


I’m not a very trusting person anymore. I’ve been “let down” and disappointed by so many people over the course of my life that it has changed the way I think about things. Most businesses have lousy customer service. Many repairmen are unable to repair things. Government officials can’t be trusted. Many clergy are twisted individuals. Many doctors don’t seem interested or qualified to take care of us. I know that I’ve let down many people too, but right now, I’m “talking” about my experience with a couple of doctors.

My youngest brother, Rick, while in his twenties, experienced severe chest pains as he was on his way to work one day. He drove himself to a local community hospital and the “head” of cardiology eventually saw him. A little while later I got a phone call from my mother who was concerned because Rick was told he would need a pacemaker surgically implanted to regulate his heart. I called Rick at the hospital and urged him to get a second opinion. Like most of us, he was reluctant to “embarrass” the doctor by doubting his expert diagnosis, but since this seemed to be an urgent situation, he got a second opinion. It turned out that Rick actually had “mononucleosis” and he didn’t need a pacemaker at all.

When I was a teenager, in the 1960’s, I remember my father suffering with pain for many years. He had been misdiagnosed and he thought he had an ulcer, but as it turned out, he had “Crohn’s Disease.” Many years later, my father was working as an electrical engineering contractor in South Carolina in the late 1990’s and he developed painful kidney stones. Knowing he’d be more comfortable dealing with his regular doctor, he endured the pain until his contract ended and he could seek medical help back home in Massachusetts. By the time he returned to Massachusetts, the problem was much worse and required surgery to repair the damage.

After the surgery, my father didn’t seem to be getting any better. He remained in the hospital for several weeks and finally, the doctor called us all and suggested a “family meeting” to discuss the situation. The doctor explained that Dad’s condition was very serious but they were doing everything they could to cure him.

We all noticed that Dad was getting worse. One evening, when I went to visit him, Dad couldn’t seem to stay awake. As he tried to talk his eyes would roll back and he’d fall asleep. I was really getting worried now, so I called the doctor on call. He calmly explained that Dad was fighting an infection that was very serious and we needed to be aware that he could die from it. I asked what was being done to fight this infection and the doctor told me that Dad had been on a strong antibiotic for the past two weeks but it didn’t seem to be helping his condition. I asked if there was some other antibiotic that could be tried. There was a long pause. The doctor said, “Well….we could try another antibiotic.” The doctor came down and administered the other drug. The next morning my father was awake and sitting up in bed and he made a full recovery. I’d like to believe that some doctor would have eventually thought to try another drug, but I just can’t be sure.

So, what’s my point? For one thing, you need to watch and listen carefully to what the doctors and nurses are doing. Be assertive and assume that you are NOT going to get the best medical attention. Get a second opinion on any serious options. Do not blindly assume that the doctor knows what he or she is talking about. Have you ever thought that perhaps your doctor graduated medical school with a “D-?” They don’t all get “A’s.”

Next chapter: The end of 1997.

1 comment:

  1. ..and don't forget that doctors earn less money when they see that you are healthy fast. Their income depends on your being sick and they have no real interest in curing you fast. And surgery is a wonderful way to make fast money. Or isn't it about earning money? Sorry to be sarcastic but I had similar experience.