Monday, May 15, 2006

Treated Like a Dog

     My wife woke up this morning, Mother’s Day, with a migraine so severe that she had to go to the bathroom twice to throw up.  Kaiser told her to come to the emergency room and after some convincing by me, we went at about 10:30 this morning.  Once there, we had to wait in line at the emergency room for fifteen minutes until an emergency room triage nurse did a quick check to make sure there were no neurological problems.  She then explained that the emergency room keeps a bank of appointments for Kaiser’s weekend clinic and sent my wife over there.  

     We waited for about an hour in a crowded emergency room with the usual assortment of coughing children, elderly people in walkers, and a large middle-aged man in a bathrobe who sprawled out on three of the chairs in the more empty part of the waiting room.  There were a lot of mothers in the clinic waiting room.  One walked by with a big aluminum balloon and a bunch of flowers.  The staff, many of whom were probably mothers too, didn’t especially seem to notice that this was any different from any other Sunday.  Perhaps, Kaiser isn’t allowed to acknowledge Mother’s Day for religious or political reasons.   

     We got seen by a doctor who initially thought my wife was some other patient then walked out the door after she discovered the mistake only to return ten minutes later.  For the fourth time that morning, my wife got to explain her symptoms.  The doctor did a second set of neurological tests that looked like a longer version of the one done in the emergency room waiting area.  She mentioned to my wife that the onset of the migraines might be do to menopause (a true happy Mother’s Day moment) then sent her off to the pharmacy to fill her prescription.

     We waited in a third line at the pharmacy for half an hour until we noticed that everyone who had been there when we started had already picked up their order.  My wife got in line despite the fact that her name hadn’t appeared on the board, the clerk then explained that the Doctor had sent the order to the wrong pharmacy. My wife's migraine suddenly got worse.  We waited another fifteen minutes which ended with my wife complaining to the clinic and me listening to the pharmacist explain how she was supposed to put the pill on her tongue without water and that if she still had the headaches after taking the pills three times in a day, she needed to come back to the doctor.

     We came home at two in the afternoon.  Our daughter saved the day by making Greek pizza and fruit sorbet for Mother’s Day dinner.  

     A month ago, Lucky the eleven year old border collie had gotten sick to the point that she wouldn’t eat her food and was spending most of her day just lying on the deck.  We first thought she might be reaching the natural end of her life, but decided to take her to the vet to make sure.  We made the appointment that morning.  The vet works out of a restored Victorian that has a sunny waiting room with two friendly receptionists who complimented my dog while reaffirming the description of the symptoms I provided over the phone.  

     Within about ten minutes, a tech came in to check out the dog and gave her a full body exam while jotting down some notes.  The exam room was clean, pleasant, and looked out on a fenced yard.  The Vet came in as scheduled, petted the dog, asked some pointed questions then presented three courses of action.  She asked me to wait a few minutes while she made up a batch of antibiotics and I returned with dog to the waiting room where the receptionist asked how the dog was.  

     Within a few days, Lucky was doing fine.  Fwiw, my wife was also fine this evening, but I’m still struck by the stark contrast between the quality of my dog’s veterinary care and my wife’s Mother’s Day experience at Kaiser.  I’m threatening to insist on going to the vet the next time I get sick.

     I’m trying to figure out some of the reasons.  A simple one is that there are probably good and bad vets just as there are good and bad Kaisers or hospitals of any kind.  Some other things came to mind.

  1. The vet world doesn’t involve insurance much.  There’s a direct relationship between the payer and the provider of services.  I’m not sure what kind of malpractice vets have but I suspect it’s not as significant a percentage of the cost of running a practice.

  1. Vets don’t have to keep patients alive at all costs.  The owner and the vet are free to decide when prolonging life makes sense.  

  1. Vets honestly seem to like their patients and their jobs much better.

There are some other differences.  One big one is that we don’t have anything close to universal health care for dogs and cats.  Another is that most animals don’t talk back, but will bite if you treat them badly. Of course we don’t have universal health care for children either. Certainly, some people treat their pets better than some people treat their children.  Still I have to ask what kind of screwy society has veterinarians who understand "humane" better than those who treat people?


At 5/15/2006 08:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if, in the end, your wife felt it was worth it to go thru all that Kafkaesque/Bleak House stuff?

I haven't been to a doctor since 1979 except for the splinter that went completely under my thumbnail last summer (while vigorously sanding a new stake for my Dream Peace sign -- no good deed goes unpunished) -- which splinter got mostly removed but 3 weeks later the endless swelling busted & a last piece emerged. They tried to charge me $400 for this single short visit. (I'm uninsured.)

I do agree that vets seem more efficient and caring and sort of cheaper. I wish we could go to them.

I hope the darn migraines haven't returned. An icepack (wrapped in a cotton tshirt or tea towel to avoid frostbite) at the back of the head and neck seems to do as well as anything by consensus of folks on Larry King one night, including his horribly afflicted wife who has been treated by everyone and thing.

I'm getting much closer to opting for transmigration -- coming back as a cat in a world presumably then rove-less.

At 5/16/2006 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think my wife wanted to be healed, but we went to the hospital instead.
thatks for the icepack recommendation.

She's fine now though, thankfully. The medication they gave her actually did seem to work or maybe the headache went away on its own.

At 6/08/2006 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Please understand, my wife and I didn't seek out the emergency room. Kaiser's phone nurse insisted that was the only way to get seen-there was no alternativel At the time, it wasn't certain that it was just a migraine.

Either the migraine went away or the medication she was prescribed worked, but the more troubling issue is tha the system shouldn't be so insensitive that it literally makes the migraine worse just by making you go through the process.

If the vet can manage that, certainly a medical system that deals with people can manage it. At least that's the question I'm posing.v

At 6/08/2006 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your wife wants to heel, animal trainers are much better than human fitness trainers. Go to Jan at the Sebatopol Community center. Your wife will not only heel, but she will learn to sit and come on command too! Really, animals have it a lot better around here...

At 6/08/2006 03:36:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

First, where is this place Sebastopol? Is it in America or some communist Eastern European country?

Second, I should have mentioned that the Emergency room lady was by far the most personable and sympathetic individual we met that day at Kaiser.
My few times in or around the ER, I've been more impressed with the folk there than the rest of the hospital staff (obviously there are good people most everywhere on an individual basis)

3. Don't know about getting my wife to heel, she's usually the one who tells me what to do. As for the other commands, I don't dare comment on a nominally G-rated website.


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