I storm my surgeon's office, thoughts on being aggressive but not too aggressive

The surgeon said on Wednesday that he would order an ultrasound if the swelling didn’t go down by Monday. Today—Monday—I was at his office at 8:30, because I didn’t want to wait until the phones were turned on at 9:00, be switched to someone’s voicemail, receive a callback at noon, and an ultrasound appointment later in the week.

The staff made much ado about my presence, and insisted that I be examined, first by a nurse, then by a physician’s assistant. I told everyone that I didn’t want to be examined, I just wanted an order for an ultrasound, yet I submitted in the hope that being seen today meant that I could cancel my appointment on Wednesday.

I finally did get an ultrasound appointment for this afternoon. I’m supposed to drink 40 ounces of water one hour in advance and hold it for the half hour exam. Now, does that seem feasible to you? I have every anticipation of (a) running from the exam room or (b) pissing on the table. There was a time when I wasn’t embarrassed by my bodily functions because I thought I was so good-looking. Now I’m not embarrassed because I’m too homely to give a rip. I’m just glad someone else will have to clean up the mess.

Life would be easier if getting medical care didn’t require that I assert myself so much. If I’m too aggressive, the staff balks at my every request, but if I wait passively for my request to be honored, odds are that it won’t be. I suspect there are people who stay home and die simply because they get tired of jumping through the hoops.

Medicine is like the legal system in that it habitually deals with people who are in a horrible predicament, yet it expects those people to behave as if everything was business as usual. This is why I said it won’t do to advocate for oneself too assertively: you are not helped on the basis of need but of influence and likeability—if that. The “if that” arises from the fact that patients are tiny, anonymous, plentiful, and highly expendable cogs in an immense profit machine.

Thirty years ago, I had but one doctor, and his wife was his only assistant. My current surgeon works in an office with ten other surgeons, and I would not be the least surprised but what there are more than thirty clerks, receptionists, schedulers, nurses, nurse assistants, physician assistants, and who knows who else. Most of my doctors have so many examining rooms and so many twisting corridors, that I get lost on my way out. And these doctors don’t even own their practices; they are on the payroll at Peace Health, the same outfit that employs Peggy along with thousands upon thousands of other people, and which expects its doctors to see a LOT of patients. The more patients, the more insurance claims; the more insurance claims, the more money. Tell me, does this sound like an organization that encourages caring, no matter how many crucifixes it glues to the walls?

The surgeon came by my room beforehand on the day of my surgery. I was in the bathroom at the time, and Walt was sitting fully dressed in a chair by the bed. Although Walt weighs twice what I do, and although the surgeon had seen me five days earlier, and had made a big deal about how my thinness would affect the procedure; he still called mistook Walt for me. Our healthcare system is like a conveyer belt, and conveyer belts only work when everyone moves in a straight line.