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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.

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.

Nothing Makes You Feel Better Like A Scolding

, , , , | Healthy | July 2, 2021

I was admitted to the hospital for a life-threatening illness. The doctors were amazing and saved my life. Because my recovery was critical, I was put in a private room and monitored closely by the nurses. Of course, my room had a sink in the bathroom, and in addition, it also had a sink close to my bed to serve the nurses and the constant bandage changes, etc. All the drugs and antibiotics they were giving made me nauseous all the time. The nurses were also great; if I had to go to the bathroom or throw up, they would help me to the bathroom and stay with me if needed.

One day, I was feeling pretty good, and then suddenly, I had to throw up. No warning, it just came rushing up my throat into my mouth. I clamped my mouth shut, slipped painfully out of bed, stumbled two feet, and grabbed the edge of that sink and up it all came. The nurse came and helped me, cleaned me up, and put me back in bed.

She called one of the nurse’s aides and asked her to clean up the sink. As I lay back down in bed and the nurse left, the nurse’s aide began scolding me for making a mess in the sink. What did she want me to do? Just lean over and blow chunks on the floor? Because that’s easier — mopping and cleaning the floor. If cleaning a mess in a sink is your limit, then you need to find a whole other career real fast!

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.

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.