Doctors, nurses, and staying healthy

Isn’t Therapy Supposed To Be Therapeutic?

, , , , | Healthy | June 30, 2021

I have been overweight for my entire life. It’s something I’ve come to terms with, and I don’t consider it to be the end of the world as long as it doesn’t prevent me from keeping an active lifestyle. I did a lot of damage to my body and psyche dieting in my youth and I don’t want to revisit those times, instead preferring to be as healthy as I can at the weight I happen to be at for the moment.

I also suffer from hypermobile joints. They make me overly flexible and occasionally give me pretty bad joint and muscle pain from overstraining them. They also put some limits on how physically active I can be, and I have to factor in recovery time every time I do something physically demanding. Again, I don’t consider it the end of the world, and after twenty years, I have a pretty good idea of how my body works and what I need to do to take care of myself.

I recently moved to a new town and have to deal with the hassle of finding a new physical therapist. I’ve put it off for too long, but after an intense period of getting my home in order and lifting heavy things, I can feel that I’ve overdone it and that I might need to change my PT routine a bit. I ask around, get a few recommendations, and make an appointment with a physical therapist who’s supposed to be an expert on my type of troubles. We have public healthcare in Sweden and this PT falls under that.

I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with members of the medical profession in the past, so whenever I meet someone new, I tell them that unless my weight is the direct cause of whatever medical issue I’m having at the time, I’d prefer not to discuss it.

Therapist: “Of course. Why don’t you tell me a little about what you’re dealing with?”

Me: “I recently moved into a new apartment and I’ve been carrying a lot of heavy boxes up and down the stairs, so my knees and shoulders are worse than usual, and my right hip is making this weird clicking sound that it hasn’t been doing before.”

Therapist: “Do you have an exercise program?”

Me: “Yes, I brought it with me. That’s my main reason for coming here. I want to know if there are any easier versions of these exercises that I can do while I wait for the pain to get better? I know I need to rest for a few weeks, but I don’t want to stop working out entirely.”

Therapist: *Looks at my program* “Oh, no, this won’t do at all. I’m going to give you some new exercises. How often do you do this program?”

Me: “I do the full one three times a week, and a shortened version every morning.”

The therapist shakes her head and starts compiling new exercises.

Therapist: “All right. You need to do this full program every day. We’ll go over to the gym and I’ll show them to you later. Now, I’d like to discuss your diet.”

I look at the program and I immediately see that this is not going to work for me. I asked for a lighter version of my normal program, but she’s given me a much tougher one and added several new exercises, including push-ups, which my last PT explicitly forbade me to do, ever, because my wrists can’t take it.

Me: “Sorry, I don’t think this is going to work. This whole program is going to take over an hour. I don’t have that much time every day. It’s also going to put too much strain on my joints, which are already hurting. That’s what I came here for!”

Therapist: “Well, honey, I know you don’t want to hear this, but your BMI is way too high. Unless you lose weight, you’re never going to get rid of the pain. I want you to do this program every day and add in at least thirty minutes of cardio every day, and now we’re going to talk about your diet. How often do you eat fast food?”

Me: *A little stunned* “Um, sometimes, I guess. But I prefer to cook for myself. Sorry, I think I said at the beginning of this appointment that I don’t want to discuss my weight.”

Therapist: “Yes, I understand that it makes you feel uncomfortable, but you need to face facts, honey. You can’t sit on your couch and eat fast food all day. You need to lose at least thirty kg or your pain is just going to get worse. How often do you eat vegetables? You know broccoli is very good for you, right? You need to eat more broccoli.”

Me: “I eat vegetables every day; I’m practically a vegetarian. Look, I know my weight doesn’t help matters, but I’m here because I’m in pain now, because I’ve overstrained myself, and I want to do something to make it better now, not in some kind of hypothetical future where I’ve magically lost thirty kg by eating broccoli. Can you help me with that or not?”

Therapist: “Honey, I can’t help you if you don’t want to help yourself. I’m telling you this for your own good.”

Me: “I am aware that I am overweight. I have been overweight my whole life. I’m not here because I’m overweight. I’m here because I have overstrained my hypermobile joints, and your solution to my problem is to overstrain them even more?

Therapist: “I know it’s hard to hear, but you need to take better care of yourself. I want to help you do that, but you need to put the work in yourself!”

At this point, I realised that there was no way I would get through to this woman, so I just stood up and left.

I didn’t really feel like making a new appointment with another physical therapist after that, so in the end I just ended up modifying my exercise program myself, and after a few weeks of active rest, I could go back to my normal routine. I’m still overweight, I still have hyper-mobile joints, and eating broccoli (which I do quite often because it’s delicious) hasn’t cured me.

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They’ve Got This Pain Management Thing DOWN

, , , , | Healthy | June 29, 2021

I work in a pain management medical office. We always ask the pain level our patients are experiencing when they come in.

Me: “And what is your pain level today on a scale of zero to ten, zero being no pain and ten being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?”

Patient: “Oh, a ten.”

Me: “Really? Worse than childbirth, kidney stones, getting hit by a bus?”

Patient: “Yep.”

And then they went back to sitting comfortably in their chair and playing happily on their phone.

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Paying Your Bills Should Be A Priority, But… Yikes

, , , , , | Healthy | June 28, 2021

I work in the accounts billable department of one of the two major hospitals in Iowa City. It’s my job, essentially, to explain to clients why the amount they have been billed isn’t what they expected.

I’m the low peon on the totem pole, being the newest hire. That means I get to deal with the clients face to face across the billing counter.

One lady is yelling at me about her bill, when suddenly she makes a very strange, strangled sound. I figure she’s having some sort of medical event, so I immediately press the emergency medical event call button.

This turns out to be a very good idea. The lady is wearing a fairly short-skirted pantsuit, so I can see her legs. Specifically, I can see the stitches on her right leg coming undone. First, the top stitch pops, then the next one, and then the next, faster and faster until she’s got an open gash from her garters to her ankles.

Despite this, and despite her collapsing almost immediately like a puppet with her strings cut, the client continues to weakly try to discuss her billing with me, even as the orderlies pick her up and transfer her to a stretcher to carry her right back into surgery.

Still in shock from this whole affair, I stare at the massive puddle of blood in the middle of the floor, and I make the mistake of asking my coworker who’s responsible for cleaning it up.

Turned out it was me.

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The Only Thing More Painful Than Getting The Bill Is GETTING The Bill

, , , , , | Healthy | June 27, 2021

Due to some… up and down employment, I decide to subscribe to a third-party insurance company to cover emergency expenses. They give me a preloaded debit card to pay for my care, and I upload a receipt later. So, it’s become commonplace for me to ask my providers for an itemized receipt after care. This USUALLY isn’t a problem. I go in for an annual blood draw.

Me: “Hey, I need an itemized receipt for my insurance. Is that something you can do?”

Nurse: “Absolutely! Just ask the woman for it when you go to pay.”

I go around the corner to pay.

Me: “Hey, I need an itemized receipt for my insurance. Can you print that out for me?”

Receptionist #1: “Oh, we don’t do that here. You’ll have to go around the corner and down the hall to billing.”

I head around the corner and down the hall to billing.

Me: “Hey, I need an itemized receipt for my insurance. Can you print that out for me?”

Receptionist #2: “Did you get care today? Because it won’t be in the system yet. Here, call back in a week and speak to [Receptionist #3]. She’ll be able to get you the receipt.”

I wait a week and call. [Receptionist #3] is available and I get her on the phone.

Me: “Hey, I need an itemized receipt for my insurance. Can you print that out for me?”

Receptionist #3: “Oh, of course. Would you like it mailed? I can send it out today.”

Me: “That would be great, thanks!”

So, I wait. And wait. And wait. And the letter never comes. Finally, almost three weeks after my actual blood draw, I call again.

Me: “Hey, I need an itemized receipt for my insurance. Can you print that out for me?”

Receptionist #4: “Of course, just give me your information.”

Me: “Can I come pick it up, please?”

Receptionist #4: “Uh, sure? Just give me your name and I’ll mark it down.”

I do so, and drive over; luckily it’s just down the street. FINALLY, I have the receipt. It seemed like such a simple request, but it turned into a video game fetch quest.

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Anchors Aweigh… And Aweigh, And Aweigh…

, , , , , , , , | Healthy | June 26, 2021

I was a new sailor, getting ready to report to my first ship. My wife and I had driven all the way across the country to the base where my ship was home-ported, so we were totally unfamiliar with the area. We got a hotel room while we looked for apartments, but the next day I got really sick. Two of my teeth on my upper jaw hurt so much I couldn’t sleep, so we grabbed my medical and dental records — this was a long time ago, when sailors hand-carried their records between assignments — and managed to find our way to the local Navy hospital. I checked into the dental office, and they got me in very quickly because I was obviously in a lot of pain.

The dentist, a Navy Lieutenant, poked and prodded a bit, had an x-ray taken, and then told me there was nothing wrong with my teeth. She said I probably had a raging sinus infection and had one of the nurses take me to the emergency room on the ground floor.

An hour or so later, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, given a paper prescription, and sent to the on-site pharmacy. I grabbed a number and waited, still dazed by the constant pain in my face from the infection. My wife had to tell me when they called my number, and she escorted me to the pharmacy window. The pharmacy tech rattled off a bunch of stuff about the medicines I wasn’t coherent enough to follow, but I did make out that I needed to start taking them right away.

Fine. No problem. We sat back down and I read the labels. The largest bottle said I had to take four pills right away. I staggered to the water fountain in the lobby and swallowed one of everything, plus four of the pills from the big bottle. I walked back to where my wife was sitting, and she started putting the bottles of pills in her purse, giving each bottle a quick look to see if any needed to be refrigerated. Then, she paused and said, “Oh, f***!”

She dragged me up to the prescription drop-off window and hollered for help. An older man came to see what was wrong, and my wife showed him the large bottle and my ID card. The pharmacy tech turned white as a sheet and said, “Oh, f***!”, and then called for a gurney and a doctor.

The next couple of hours were a blur of activity I don’t remember much about, ending with me admitted overnight for observation. It seems the pharmacy tech who’d handed me my pills had also grabbed a bottle intended for another patient — the large bottle. I had taken a quadruple dose of a major blood-pressure medication and my blood pressure was dangerously low by the time the ER managed to get me hooked up to an EKG.

Even in military medicine, almost killing the patients is generally contraindicated. I recovered fine, but there was a major investigation at the hospital, and the pharmacy tech who handed me the wrong pills ended up demoted or transferred someplace unpleasant — perhaps both. The pharmacy at that hospital changed their standard operating procedures to require careful verification of the name on every label and to cross-check every prescription issued with the patient’s medical record.

That’s how the US Navy nearly got me killed before I set foot aboard my first ship.

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