Doctors, nurses, and staying healthy

Doctors Don’t Know Everything

, , , | Healthy | August 4, 2021

A routine blood test shows that my levels of TSH — thyroid-stimulating hormone — are high, 4.2 mg/l. Basically, it means that my thyroid isn’t working properly: the normal value ought to be under 4.5. I start seeing an endocrinologist. At 5…

Endocrinologist: “Yes, yes. Nothing to worry about. Let’s just keep it monitored. See you next year.”

Next year, at 6…

Endocrinologist: “Well, well. There’s clearly something going on here, but I’d rather not start medicating as you’re still young. See you next year.”

Next year, at 8…

Endocrinologist: “I don’t like the look of this. If it keeps rising, we’ll have to put you on something. See you next year.”

I get in the family way, and eight months into my pregnancy, I’m examined by an obstetric, an old guard doctor with the manners of a constipated bear. He takes a look at my blood tests.

Obstetric: “Just what are you waiting for before you do something for that thyroid, lady? Your TSH is through the roof!”

Thyroid medication, of course, is prescription-only. I would have so liked to give him my endocrinologist’s number and watch the discussion.

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There Is No Joy In Mudville

, , , , , , | Healthy | August 2, 2021

I have been playing baseball since I was about eight years old and this story takes place when I am eleven, in 1991.

There are a couple of league rules for our age group and the most important one is no cleating. For anyone unaware, this means that when you slide into base, you are not allowed to put your foot in the air with the spikes/cleats on the bottom of your shoe into the person guarding the base. You have to keep your feet down when sliding. Anyone that cleats will be kicked out of the game and suspended for other games or kicked from the league, depending on the infraction.

The season has just started, we’re only a few games in, and everyone is having fun. Today is the day my mom is volunteering at the concession stand, so she’s not down by the field watching my game. She can see us playing from where she’s at, but she can’t pay attention to all of the game since she’s helping people. My dad is working; he can’t be at the game at the start and will be around about halfway through.

The game is still pretty early, just starting the third inning. I’m put in to replace the pitcher. I take over the mound and there is a runner on third. The runner is the biggest kid in our league. He’s in sixth grade, but he’s already a good foot taller than most of us and weighs a good sixty pounds more than most of us, too. 

I strike out the first batter I go up against. Two more outs to end this inning.

The next batter hits a pop fly out to shallow right-center field. The outfielder comes in and makes the catch, and the runner on third tags up on the base and starts to run to home plate, but he holds up as the outfielder throws the ball to the catcher. Unfortunately, the throw from the outfielder is wide and the ball goes behind the catcher and rolls to the backstop. My job now is to help cover home plate. The catcher runs back to the ball, turns, and tosses to me. Because the throw to home plate was bad, the runner on third runs home in an attempt to score.

I’m now straddling the side of home plate, waiting for the ball to come to me so I can attempt to tag the runner out. I catch the ball and swing my glove down to make the tag, but the runner slides into home and cleats me. He ends up cleating my left arm, kicking my arm out of the way, and forcing me to drop the ball. At the time, it doesn’t hurt, and I turn around to take a few steps to where the ball landed. I go to scoop the ball off the ground with my glove, and when I try to turn my arm, that’s when the pain strikes me. I drop to the ground in agony, clenching my left arm.

One of the other parents runs up to the concession stand and gets my mom. She comes over with a bag of ice and we end up leaving for the ER to get x-rays.

About thirty minutes after my mom and I leave, my dad shows up and he sits in the bleachers and starts watching the game. After about fifteen minutes, he notices that he doesn’t see me on the field and asks one of the moms sitting near him where I am. The lady tells him what happened and that I left to go to the ER.

My dad looks at the lady, with a deadpan face, and asks, “Did he make the out?”

The lady is so upset with my dad’s lack of concern — because she doesn’t understand that he’s joking — that she punches him in the arm, actually leaving a bruise, and tells him he should be ashamed of himself. My dad tries to tell her he was joking, but she wants nothing more to do with him.

The kid that cleated me broke my arm, and he is never kicked out of the game or suspended for cleating. In fact, he never receives any kind of disciplinary action against him… probably because he is the kid of one of the coaches. The kid develops a bad habit of cleating others until someone gets tired of it and cleats the kid back.

X-rays show a fractured ulna, and because some strain is put on the ulna when you twist your forearm, I can’t just have a short cast put on. I have to have a full arm cast — from my hand to my bicep — for six weeks.

I spend the summer being unable to do most things — playing ball, hitting up the pool with friends, and wrestling. The upside is that my mom feels so bad for me that she takes my younger brother and me to an amusement park. I can ride some of the roller coasters, and as we stand in line for a ride, one of the employees sees me and asks why I am waiting in line and not using the handicapped entrance. He says I should be using that entrance and gives us a pass to use them. We get to bypass the long lines and I have a blast that day.

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Some People Shouldn’t Be Nurses

, , , , | Healthy | July 30, 2021

I am newly eighteen, so at my doctor’s office, I have to fill out new paperwork — confidentiality and whatever they make you do. I’m a short, very light-skinned girl with bright blonde hair which is naturally dark brown but I dye it. My mother is from Cuba and her father is from Spain, so I am 50% Latina and Hispanic. I definitely don’t look it, which isn’t normally a problem. It’s more like a fun trivia tidbit about me.

On one of the papers I am filling out, it asks if I am Hispanic/Latina. I check yes, because I am. I give the nurse the paperwork and wait in the room for a doctor. I can hear some nurses outside the door in the office area talking rather loudly.

Nurse #1: “She’s got blonde hair and blue eyes — perfect Aryan. I think she checked the wrong box.”

Nurse #2: “Change it for her. Obviously, she got it wrong.”

Nurse #1: “Maybe she’s trying to scam us. One of those people begging to be oppressed.”

For the record, I have deep brown eyes, not blue. But I’m very upset about the conversation I’m hearing. My ethnicity is not for them to decide or discuss, and my patient records are supposed to be confidential, not talked about in front of or to anyone.

The nurse comes back in and hands me the clipboard.

Nurse #1: “I think you marked that wrong — the Hispanic/Latina question.”

Me: “Uh, I am both Hispanic and Latina. I’m Cuban and Spanish.”

Nurse #1: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Are you sure you should be gossiping about your patients’ medical files to other nurses and whoever else can hear right in front of the door?”

She left without another word. I’ve considered switching from that office for a while, but I don’t go enough for it to be a huge problem. I’m still bothered by this incident, though.

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One Wild Ride

, , , , , | Healthy | July 26, 2021

The summer before my brother starts college, we go to an amusement park. He drags me on a bunch of terrible rides and a fun time is had by all. A few days later, however…

Brother: “My stomach hurts.”

Mom: “Where? How bad is it?”

Brother: “It’s not bad, just kind of sore right here.”

He gestures vaguely to the middle of his stomach, so my mom dismisses his appendix.

Mom: “It’s probably bruised from the bars on the [ride]. It’s what you get for dragging your sister on it and flipping it over.”

Over the course of a week, the pain doesn’t subside, but my brother hasn’t mentioned it getting worse or anything like that. My mom lets it go for the moment but decides to take him to the doctor if it doesn’t get better by next week. Come the weekend, I find him lying down on the floor of his room.

Me: “[Brother], are you okay?”

Brother: “No, my stomach really hurts. I just took another Hydrocodone, and it still hurts.”

The Hydrocodone was for his oral surgery he’d had earlier in the year. That surgery bothered him so little he never ended up taking the pills and just left them in the medicine cabinet.

Me: “Don’t worry. I’ll get Mom and we’ll take you to the doctor, okay?”

I got to my mom’s room.

Me: “Mom, we need to take [Brother] to the doctor. His stomach hurts and he took another Hydrocodone.”

Mom: “He did what?”

She rushed out, collected my brother, and drove us to the emergency room. It turns out it was his appendix. It had actually ruptured partially, though thankfully his body had walled it off. He had to go in for emergency surgery. My parents were pissed he let himself suffer so much before getting help. He recovered fine and was more upset that he had a weight limit for his first two weeks at college.

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Diagnosis: Unnecessary Anguish

, , , , | Healthy | July 24, 2021

In 2016, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the cancer being estrogen-related, she opted out of chemotherapy and decided that the mastectomy and pills would be enough. I supported her 100% and even argued against doctors and my father when they tried to pressure her.

Two years later, her thyroid started acting up. She went in for multiple biopsies. While we waited for results, I started Googling if the breast cancer could have metastasized into her thyroid. A week went by, and she went to her regular doctor and was told that the results were cancer. We got a nice report that said whatever they found was malignant.

We were devastated, and I blamed myself for not pushing chemo on my mom. We got the results Wednesday and had to wait until Monday to see her cancer doctor. It was a bad week. The day of the appointment, I tagged along with my mom and dad so I could be kept informed. The doctor walked into the office smiling.

Doctor: “How are we doing today?”

Mom: “I don’t know, you tell me. Do you know what stage it is? Has it spread?”

Doctor: “Cancer?”

Mom: “In the thyroid?”

Doctor: “You don’t have cancer.”

Mom: “What? They told me it was cancer.”

That was apparently shocking enough that the doctor left the room to go talk with the other doctors who did the biopsy.

Doctor: “Well, I mean it’s not not cancer. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong. It needs to come out for sure, but it’s probably not cancer, and if it was, it’d be stage zero and not dangerous.”

I sat in silence while the doctor hashed out treatment and surgery options with my parents. I felt relieved but also annoyed and confused. 

Me: “I read the report, though. Why’d they put ‘malignant’ if they didn’t know?”

Doctor: “Oh, well, sometimes they just need to put something on the report.”

It wasn’t cancer, by the way. The thyroid was two times bigger and three times heavier than it should have been and covered in nodes, but my mom made a full recovery and is healthy.

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