I wish I had a better memory for dates. I’m pretty sure this has been going on since Halloween. But certainly before Thanksgiving. So what happened is, I dislocated my right kneecap. That hurt so bad that I finally decided to go to the doctor, and while I was there I’d have her deal with this pain in my shoulder, which I suspected was a symptom of degenerative disc disease.
She takes a look at my knee, now the general size, shape and appearance of a sausage, and tells me to make an appointment with some orthopedic specialist, if I can find one. I clearly need an MRI, for the knee and my neck both. If I can’t find a specialist who will take me soon, go to Emergency.
I call specialists. None will take me without a referral from my primary care physician, or they don’t take Medicare, or they don’t take new patients. Hum, says I. Ok, I’ll go to Emergency. 3 days later I’m in Emergency. Where they diagnose me with a “sprained shoulder, sprained knee” and tell me I’d only get an MRI if my brains were dripping out my ears. Maybe not even then.
Grr. says I. It’s now mid-December, and I’m having a heck of a time dealing with holiday schedules, pain and what not. So I decide to wait until the beginning of January. If the magic elves of health didn’t waive their wand and fix me by then, I’ll go to another emergency room and ask them, point blank, what the hell to do.
January 3rd arrives, and I spend 4 hours on a gurney in a hallway. 3 doctors came to look at me, all with puzzled sympathy. All agreed I need an MRI, and each one, plus a nurse, asked me why my doctor didn’t write a referral. Um… I still don’t know. But the only thing they could do for me was to write official follow up care for me to see… who? My primary care physician.
Pain makes me bold – I make an appointment for her from the ER for 1 hour hence. If I can get across town in an hour, she can get me in. Oh good. i’m sure that will solve ALL my problems. I’m discharged and head for my primary care physician. Who tells me there’s nothing she can do for me, but writes me a huge prescription for vicadin. Gee, thanks.
Ok, I’ve had it. Let me see if I can explain why. Imagine being shot in your left shoulder, close range, from behind. The pain radiates down my left arm, stopping at the elbow. The pain from the elbow to the fingers mutates into wild tingling – imagine having a firm grip on an electric fence. I can’t make a fist. I can barely use my entire left side. My last two fingers are numb, though I can still type. The pain is 24/7. Oh, and the headache. I haven’t mentioned that yet. See, with discs, the pain is never specific to the area. Sciatica radiates to unrelated places. When my back ruptured, I felt it down my left leg, not the back. So this projects to the left shoulder and arm, and to a headache that, again, never stops. Now, it’s no where NEAR as bad as a migraine. But it doesn’t stop either.
Anyway, to put it briefly, quality of life has ceased to exist. And this bimbo has me running in circles for months.
So I called the hospital directly, and I spoke to a very puzzled receptionist. What do you know? My doctor writes referrals for them all the time. Why didn’t she just write one for me? Hell if I know. She DID write me a nice presription for an MRI, but not for any specific place. Could I give that to them? Receptionist is now deeply puzzled. Um, no, they don’t take that. But if her office could just fax the order, I could be scheduled for an MRI in a day or two.
Say what? Yeah. A day or two. That’s all she needed to do. Or she could play this horse shit game with me and have me feeling as though I’ve just been shot for a few months. They say pain builds character. OMFG.
I had the MRI last Thursday morning. The experience was utterly surreal. Soft music, soft lighting. The MRI itself was warm, and inviting, with soft music, and a scented eye pillow. No, really. And get this. When I left, they had… wait for it… fresh baked Mrs. Fields cookies for us. Fresh. Baked. Cookies. Yeah.
The first MRI I had was in New Orleans. It was in the basement, at the end of a hallway, dimly lit. They yelled at me for showing up, because they cancelled the appointment without telling me. Finally, after I tried to kill a few of them, they decided to do the test. It was cold, extremely painful, and there was this guy with a metal bowl and a jackhammer…
I’m pretty sure I just imagined the MRI last Thursday. Probably the pain pills.
Anyway… I called my doctor last Friday. Do you have the results? No. They’d call me the moment they arrive.
I call again today. Results? Um, no.
I call the hosptial. Do you know when the results might be ready? Oh! Says the nice lady at radiology. They knew how important it was, so they sent it to my doctor last Thursday. Morning. 9am. 2 hours after the test was performed, my doctor had the results.
Oh fuck me.
I call my doctor again. Um… results? By now the receptionist is in apology mode. She knew they were here, and has been leaving messages for the doctor. That’s all she can do.
So I call the hospital and explain, in detail, what the hell is going on. The nice lady helped me find another doctor, and put me in contact with radiology again, who bundled the results up for me to pick up personally. My appointment with my new doctor is next Thursday. Oh yay, no information until then. But at least it was progress. I called back my now former doctor and – very politely I must say – explained to the nice receptionist that I have a new doctor, and she doesn’t need to pester her boss any more.
I hung up. Five minutes later the phone rings. What do you know! It’s my former doctor. There’s a long awkward pause. “I hear you’re getting a new doctor.” I explained that I was under the impression she didn’t really have time to deal with me, so perhaps it’s for the best. She explained that it could take up to 48 hours for her to call with test results. Since it was now 4:30 on Monday and she’s had the results since Thursday morning, even that didn’t make sense. So finally I just asked if she could tell me if the disc was ruptured.
Instead she reads me a few pages of jargon. From what I can tell I’ve been re-confirmed as having advanced degenerative disc disease. Thanks, but I knew that. The problem may actually be one disc down from what I thought, C6 instead of C5. And it looks as though it’s inoperable. The degeneration is causing damage to the nerves. I think. Like I said, it was a ton of jargon and it was less than helpful. But I thanked her anyway and hung up.
So, after this utter circus, it *seems* the problem isn’t a figment of my imagination. However, that makes no difference. According to the great font of knowledge, the internets, if it’s not a ruptured disc my only two options are narcotics or traction. I’ve already tried everything else.
Christ on a pony. I think I’ll have a little lay down now. I’ll see what those in the know say on Thursday. Maybe I can get a straight answer then.