Omniscient docs have all my money, so I hope they'll be sweet as honey and make me frisky like a bunny

Story I

Dr A, an internist, confidently announced after a single office visit that my LEG PAIN was caused by Chronic Regional Pain Disorder, a degenerative disease that becomes so painful that sufferers have a pronounced tendency to go insane and/or kill themselves.

Dr B, a pain specialist, was absolutely convinced after a single office visit that the same problem was caused by a completely different horrible disease, syringomyelia.

Dr C, a neurosurgeon assured me that Drs A and B were both wrong, but since she had no idea what the problem was either, she gave me a referral to Dr D. Since the pain is showing some signs of getting better on its own, I haven't been to Dr D.

Story II

After ordering thousands of dollars worth of sophisticated tests, Dr E, an orthopedist, insisted that my BILATERAL SHOULDER PAIN was due to arthritis.

Dr F, another orthopedist, was just as insistent that it was due to torn rotator cuffs.

Dr G, my third orthopedist, unequivocally disagreed with them both, and confidently diagnosed another problem.

Dr H, my fourth orthopedist, completely agreed with Drs E and F but completely disagreed with Dr G.

Dr I, a neurosurgeon, suspected cervical cancer and cut through the front of my throat to get a piece of bone from the back of my neck. When no cancer was found, she said she was certain that a series of fluoroscopically guided steroid shots to my spinal cord—administered by her practice partner—would eliminate the pain. When they didn’t, I went back to Dr G who performed two shoulder surgeries, each of which required a yearlong recovery. I’m now in worse pain than ever.


I’ll share just one more story. Peggy had a cyst removed from her leg in the 1970s. The doctor put an airtight dressing over the incision and told us sternly to leave it in place until our follow-up visit the next week. We lived in Mississippi at the time, and it was August, so this sounded like a really bad idea to us, but we ignored our qualms because, as we told ourselves, he was a doctor and we were school teachers, so what did we know.

As we feared, the incision became infected. My point is simply that you shouldn’t put a great deal of faith in a doctor simply because he or she has a medical degree and sounds confident (if people treated you like God Almighty and threw money at you like it was confetti, you would sound confident too). As for “modern medicine,” well, the term has a nice ring to it, but you’ll recall that the modern medicine of one era is the primitive blundering of the next. You’ll also recall that “modern medicine” labored for millennia in ignorance of bacteria and viruses, and that the original appeal of homeopathy lay in the fact that it was SO innocuously worthless that it didn’t regularly kill people as did the modern medicine of the early 1800s (buy me entire carton of a “powerful homeopathic remedy,” and I’ll drink it in front of you). This meant that instead of having to survive both the disease and your doctor’s ministrations, you only had to survive the disease.

I’m far from suggesting that you should feel discouraged though. After all, no drug or procedure is a complete failure if you live to tell about it, and if you don’t live to tell about it, well, your doctor at least succeeded in ridding you of your problem, so you’re actually a winner either way.

24 comments:

The Blog Fodder said...

Your last paragraph is a classic. Medicine is a funny science/art. For example, there is NO website with best practices for a given condition where doctors can post what worked and what didn't. Every doctor depends on his/her own experiences which strikes me as reinventing the wheel most of the time. You are the guinea pig and you pay for the experiment. A trip to Papua New Guinea to one of their "doctors" will likely do you as much good. and if yo don't survive, not only will they have cured you of your problem, you have provided a nice meal of long pig for their next community pot luck.

ellen abbott said...

Why do you think they call it a 'practice'? Because they don't know what the hell they are doing and get to practice on you.

If I've learned anything from listening to other people's stories it's this...

1. don't let them cut on you and
2. listen to your intuition

plus, my dad was a pathologist and he didn't trust doctors.

Snowbrush said...

Fodder, there are double-blind studies done on a lot of treaments, and one thing I like about my present orthopedist is that he seems to know the stats about how one thing works versus how another thing works. However, knowledge and procedures are ever evolving; there is room for honest disagreement about many things; and since most of what doctors do comes with risks, the patient sometimes gets screwed even though everything was done correctly. For example, one of my biggest fears is post-op infections because although a lot can be done to prevent them, there are no guarantees.

Well, Ellen, Peggy--my nursey wife--was saying just a few months ago that surgery never seems to help anything, but she's to have an operation this week. When you're in terrible pain, can't work, can't do many of the things you love, and have tried absolutely everything else you can think of, you (meaning people in general) tend to have surgery. To tell you the truth, that's where I am. No matter how tired I feel, the pain won't let me sleep for more than a few hours, and, following that few hours, it won't let me sleep for more than a few minutes until, finally, it won't let me sleep at all despite the fact that I'm exhausted. If I become so desperate for rest that I'm willing to take enough drugs to knock a horse off its feet, I can sometimes get a little more sleep, but then I feel so bad the next day that I'm no better off than if I had stayed awake. Yet, like you, I'm not keen on surgery, but if I were, I would have started in on the joint replacements a year ago. I've had enough though. I would probably have my left shoulder replaced next week if Peggy wouldn't be needing six weeks to recover from her surgery.

The Elephant's Child said...

You have hit the nail firmly on the head again. I accept that doctors are a necessary evil but I do take a lot of what they tell me with a (large) grain of salt.
I had a relapse towards the end of last year. The neurologist assured me that the only option left to me was chemotherapy? Huh? But I was desparate and gave it a try. Amazingly it worked. Even if they did burn and blister my wrist administering it. For nearly three weeks it worked. Sigh.
I hope Peggy does well next week and that more options appear for you.

Snowbrush said...

Ellen said: "my dad was a pathologist and he didn't trust doctors."

I overlooked this when I responded just now, Ellen. I would be astounded if a pathologist in particular DID trust doctors because they tend to see preventable mistakes everyday. But it's also true of medical people in general--as well as patients who have years of exposure to the medical system--that they lose the ability to simply lie down and trust the "experts" to cure whatever ails them. Doctors are SO fallible, yet many of us talk about them as if they know everything and can do anything because if we can maintain that illusion, we won't freak out when we have no choice but to turn ourselves over to them. I certainly don't wish I were that naive any longer, but when I was, it did make life easier in some ways.

Myrna R. said...

My husband is currently recovering from knee replacement surgery. Luckily he has a good surgeon and is doing well.

I hope Peggy's surgery is successful and eliminates her pain. I hope you find the right doctor who can give you some relief. I can't immagine suffering from pain like yours. But I can understand your reluctance to trust the medical profession.

By the way I like what you wrote, it certainly makes the point.

tattytiara said...

Criminy, what a trial you've been through! Good advice. No degree in the world guarantees infallibility.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I hate doctors and I'm so not looking forward to my old age!

Bernie said...

I enjoyed this post Snow, I am happy to say I have a great family doctor who I have trusted with my life.....I still take responsability for my own body and any illness, they can't cure everything/anything without our help and input. Perhaps I am one of a few who luck into meeting my Doctor years ago, wouldn't trade him for the world....:-)Hugs

Gaston Studio said...

Good post Snow. Frankly, I don't trust any of them. I do all my research online and question the hell out of them. If I don't like their responses, I move on. This is after being misdiagnosed 3 times on 3 different problems over the past 5 years. These days, you need to know almost as much as they do in order to survive! And I fully intend on surviving.

ellen abbott said...

I know there are some good doctors out there. I know that sometimes surgery is necessary and it does help some people. I also know that there are many many unnecessary surgeries done. And there are a lot of doctors who are in it for the money. that's why they became doctors, not out of some inborn desire to help and heal. my BIL died last December of metastasized lung cancer. He didn't have insurance. His incompetent primary care doc sent him to an orthopedist when he complained about pain in his shoulder. The orthopedist ordered an x-ray. the radiologist report stated that the pain in his shoulder was arthritis but there was also a mass in his lung. that was in May. There was no mention of this by any of the doctors to my BIL, no recommendations given, no treatment offered. He continued to be in pain with it spreading to both shoulders, down his back and into his hips while his primary doctor continued to insist it was a pinched nerve. when he became incontinent, we took him to the emergency room and he was finally diagnosed...stage 4 lung cancer. He lived another two weeks. Obviously neither the orthopedist nor the primary doctor read the radiologist's report. Or if they did, they ignored it and blew him off because he was self pay. the only reason my sister knows this is because she went and got copies of all his medical records and read the reports herself.

rhymeswithplague said...

Before I read this post my day was bright and sunny, but now all I can think about is the fact that my nose is rather runny....

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm sorry you're suffering! Yikes.

The truth is, a diagnosis is not as helpful in many cases as you might hope it would be. I turn to Chinese medicine on a regular basis, because it makes so much more sense to me than "regional discomfort disorder" or whatever your diagnosis was.

Yes, we've visited each other's blogs on occasions so we do kind of know each other.

Hope you're soon on the mend.

Putz said...

my doctor , r. olsen said in all sincerity<><><>you be the doctor and i will consult with you as you make decisions about your diabetis<<>><>i think it is that way more and more>< a a i bet you would write off most doctors if you could just get past the pain

Diana said...

This is exactly why I stay away from the doctor unless absolutely necessary. My husband on the other hand wants me to go at the slightest sniffle! I hate going to the doctor, ya just never know what your gonna get! Love Di ♥

All Consuming said...

Well you know my history with doctors, I have very little faith left in the medical community over here full stop. If we had to pay for all treatment and tests I've had since I was 21 I'd be dead as a Dodo.

I know more than some of them about my conditions and the newest meds which might help. It makes me so angry to hear about them doing this to you, I can really empathise with how you feel. x

The Elephant's Child said...

How is Peggy? How are you? Thinking of you both.

kylie said...

i have very little faith in doctors as a group but if i was sick i'd feel obliged to listen to them.

dana said...

I've now arrived in the land of no doctors: Florida. I'm hoping the sunshine will help. After a nervous breakdown, my brain seems a wee bit inclined to go that route again out of habit. My shoulder, hip, knee pain is just as bad as before, but I've been lifting things I shouldn't and the stress of moving has wonked me.

BUT, I am amazed at the people here who run helter skelter into one surgery after another as if it's no big deal...and they actually seem GRATEFUL for the help they received. I am amazed that they DID receive help, since my luck runs in the other direction.

I, on the other hand, would rather die on my own than allow a doctor to shove me on my way.

My attitude obviously has a lot to do with experience.

But I've always said: "Go to a foot doctor and your shoulder pain will be diagnosed as a foot problem. Go to a dentist and he'll say it's caused by the fillings in your teeth."

Snowbrush said...

Ellen, I haven't responded to your sad tale because I have no words. To lose someone you love is always hard, but to lose them to negligence by the very overpaid doctors whom they turned to for help is beyond imagining. I, personally, would be murderous.

Dana said: "I am amazed at the people here who run helter skelter into one surgery after another as if it's no big deal..."

I know. More and more people are opting for joint replacements and doing so at a younger and younger age. Peggy is a labor and delivery nurse who--like many nurses--is appalled by how willing women are to have unnecessary C-sections. And, of course, most surgeries do turn out okay, and many times people will say that they only wished they had had opted to have such-and-such a surgery sooner than they did. But in my case, I've been through hell after all three of my orthopedic surgeries without even coming close to suffering as badly as many do, so I take them very, very seriously. I'm going to go ahead and get my first new shoulder though because I've given up on having anything like a normal life without it.

Elephant's Child, Peggy is off skiing today. It will be her last hoorah before her surgery. She's doing okay about it--nervous, of course, but not terrified. Maybe I mentioned it further up, but her problem is De Quervain's tenosynovitis, a painful wrist condition that often afflicts new mothers--and labor and delivery nurses.

Kylie said: "i have very little faith in doctors as a group but if i was sick i'd feel obliged to listen to them."

Same here, Kylie. That's why I'm going in for a shoulder replacement. As scary as it is, living in worsening pain for the rest of my life doesn't sound so great either.

Diana said: "My husband on the other hand wants me to go at the slightest sniffle!"

I'm the same way about Peggy. It just drives us men crazy to see our wives suffer without us doing SOMETHING to make things better.

The Bipolar Diva said...

This reminds me of my daughter, 27 surgeries in 6 years, and it makes me angry that answers are elusive.

bstuart598 said...

I'm a new kid, maybe older kid, on the block.
I was in Nurse Practitioner school in 1991, and another student who I knew well enough to trust her words, told me a story about accupuncture.
She was living in Thailand, and a farmer wanted to move several pigs from one farm to another. As she watched, an accupuncturist showed up, put a needle in the ears of each pig, which promptly flopped on its side.
They trucked them to the new farm, unloaded their floppy bodies, took the pins out, and the pigs ran around as usual.

A former non-believer, I am considering accupuncture for pain now, altho schooled in the Western Medicine Magic Show.

Snowbrush said...

Hi, BSTUART, I wasted $600 on acupuncture, and haven't considered it further. What I've read about it more recently is that needles stuck anywhere are as good as needles stuck along the supposed meridians, and that fake acupuncture (if you've had acupuncture, you can see how it might be possible to fake the slight pain involved) is as good as real acupuncture. As for the pigs, I would want more than the word of one friend that it was true. My wife, whose integrity is beyond reproach, said she saw a ghost one night, but I didn't even believe her because people can be telling the truth as they know it and still be wrong for all kinds of reasons, and extraordinary claims do seem to demand more than ordinary evidence.

WeThePeople said...

When I fume over idiot doctors my sister always reminds me that half the doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.