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Lazy Medical Work Is Infectious

, , , , | Healthy | March 2, 2021

I have a lump under my chin that has been swollen to the size of a blueberry for three months. I finally go see my doctor, who refers me to a specialist.

Specialist: “Oh, that’s no good at all. Three months, you say? We should remove it as soon as possible. It could be cancerous.”

Scared, I agree and am set up to have the surgery two weeks hence. I go in for pre-surgery bloodwork one week after the specialist appointment.

The very young nurse assigned to take my blood does not clean the skin, use a tourniquet, put on gloves, or even feel around for a vein. She looks, stabs, and fails to get blood.

Then, she walks out of the room, leaving the needle stuck in my arm. The very professional older nurse who comes in next is able to draw blood easily, but I am left with a bruise taking up my entire forearm from the first nurse’s attempt. I suspect she was a very nervous student.

One week later, I come in for my surgery. I’m missing both a college exam and a few days of work for this. They start the IV and give me the first level of anesthesia, sending me to sleep.

I wake up. I yawn and find it immediately suspicious that there is no discomfort when I do so.

Nurse: “I’m sorry, but your doctor is actually out of town. She is teaching a seminar. This was her usual surgery day, but it was blocked. I don’t know how you got put on the schedule, but we can fit you in again in two weeks.”

I agree. Three days later, I cut the back of my thumb fairly deeply on a plastic notebook divider in class. I immediately leave to wash my hands and use my first aid kit to put antiseptic and a bandaid on it.

The following morning, I notice a red line creeping up from my thumb. In the next two hours, it has gotten all the way to my wrist. My first class of the day is with the same professor whose class I was in when I cut myself, and my second class of the day is three hours later with the same professor.

Me: “Hey, Professor, remember how I cut myself in class yesterday and then washed it? Yeah, I think it got infected anyway.”

Professor: “Oh, my gosh. Yeah, go to the student clinic right now. I won’t count it against you if you miss class later. I’ll email you any relevant information if you’re not there. Be safe.”

At the student clinic, they give me two different antibiotic injections, two oral antibiotic prescriptions, and instructions to go to the emergency room if the red line keeps progressing.

A few days later, it is now a week after I was supposed to have surgery. Not only has my thumb infection been defeated, but the suspicious lump is also gone. I call the specialist’s office to tell them this. Surprisingly, I get to talk to the doctor herself, not just one of the nurses.

Me: “So, I got a badly infected cut and the lump went away. What does that mean regarding my surgery?”

Specialist: “Oh, yeah, I’m reviewing your bloodwork, and based on that, it looks like you just had a low-level infection that had isolated itself in a minor lymph node, causing the swelling. If you had gotten an ultrasound, we would have been able to tell that.”

Me: “You didn’t offer me an ultrasound, though! You told me it was probably cancer and should come out immediately!”

Specialist: “Based upon the shape and size of it and what I have in my notes here, it was more likely to have been a benign tumor, not a cancerous one. If you had gotten an ultrasound, I would’ve been able to tell it was neither of those things.”

Me: “You didn’t offer me an ultrasound! I didn’t even know that was an option!”

Specialist: “Well, would you still like to have it removed?”

Me: “No! It’s totally gone and you’re telling me it was just a swollen lymph node! Please cancel my surgery. I’ll call the hospital tomorrow to make sure I’m off the schedule.”

A month later, I get a bill from the hospital for the surgery I never had as well as for the anesthesia I did have. My father works at that hospital. Armed with my lab results, which he is qualified to interpret, and my bill, he stays late after his shift to talk to the billing department for me.

They inform him that they can take off the surgical fees, but that the anesthesia will not be covered by the insurance.

Father: “Any doctor could look at these lab results and tell you that cancer is unlikely. The white blood cell types are all wrong for that. In addition, the only reason the surgery wasn’t performed at that time was because the doctor was literally out of the country. If this bill doesn’t get written off, my daughter will be suing both the hospital and the specialist for everything she possibly can.”

They saw reason, and I never had to pay anything for that fiasco. Over a decade later, that same lymph node still gets swollen every time I’m fighting off an illness. Multiple doctors have assured me it is fine and can even act as an early-warning system that I am getting sick. 

I never went back to that specialist, or that hospital, ever again.