Thursday, September 27, 2012
Medical Angels and Demons
I had another routine follow up with GI doctor this week and had great results. I've been taking my B12 regularly for 3-4 weeks now and my B12 jumped from 400's to 800's! It's in the top third of the normal range, I'm not sure I've ever had such a high B12. Course, I don't really notice any difference when my B12 or hemoglobin is low, it all feels the same to me. While visiting with my doctor during my appointment, we started talking about that 1st year of surgeries and previous and future doctors. In my last post I shared about my experiences with my 1st surgeon and the treachery that accompianed him. During my appointment I learned some new information that I didn't remember or know about the medical demons that continue to haunt me. My second complication from my 1st surgery, when I went to the ER for stomach pain that actually was caused by my intestine twisting around itself and surrounding organs my surgeon was actually out of town and it was the 3 residents alone that decided that nothing was wrong with me and told me and my parents that I was merely a "whiny child". This doesn't change any of my thoughts or feelings regarding my 1st surgeon but it reinforced my contempt for the 3 residents. It is because of these residents that I don't trust any resident. To add insult to injury, when I returned again to the ER after that incident and adequate testing was completed to discover the cortortion and emergency surgery was required as it was a miracle I hadn't died during the night from the lack of blood flow. The residents were aware of all this and no statement to my parents was made, no apology that it had led to near death and could have been prevented, no indication at all that these residents had any compassion or understanding for what I had gone through under their care. If they had completed a thorough assessment and testing the 1st time, my complications may never have progressed to such lengths and my years of pain may have been avoidable. But I will never know. My conversation with my doctor reminded me that although I am safe from my 1st surgeon, I don't recall the names of those 3 residents and am at risk of accidently becoming one of their patients without properly protecting myself by being able to recognize their names. So I am requesting my medical records so that I may discover their names and avoid them for my life.
Just as these individuals have allowed and created lifelong anguish and mistrust in medical providers for me, there are a few medical providers whom I deeply trust and respect. I do not easily trust medical providers and this last year I realized that this mistrust and apprehension about new providers has generalized even to dentists. I trust one hospital and a handful of doctors, these are my medical angels.
My GI doctor, who I have known since I was 8, means the world to me. I feel safe under her guidance, she is compassionate, understanding, and extremely knowledgeable and in fact is one of the top pediatric GI doctors in the state. She was the only female in her medical program and she is near 90 now. In the summers she invites me over for swimming and figs from her trees. She is protective over me and goes to great lengths to protect my physical and mental safety, which is why she continues to follow me when I am almost 30. She has promised if and when I am forced to become followed by another GI, she will thoroughly brief the my new doctor about my history, present, medical and psychological needs. Whenever she requested for another doctor to perform testing, she has physically been in the room to oversee the testing and provide me peace of mind as I know that if she is present, she will oversee my care and protect me from harm. She is very dear to my heart and I trust no other doctor like I trust her. There really aren't enough words to describe how much she means to me, how much I respect and trust her, and all the care she provides me.
My 2nd surgeon was an incredible surgeon. My only sadness is that he is a pediatric only surgeon and he won't be able to perform any future surgeries I should need. He has phenomenal medical skills and outstanding compassion for his patients. He understood my fears, my mistrust, my fragile psyche and he gave me hope and support. He was patient with me and also took great lengths to ensure my comfort. He was the surgeon that performed my last 2 surgeries. After my last surgery, I asked him if he could "knock me out" by ordering me Finnegan to be given when my NG tube was to be removed. I had undergone such pain and misery that year from extensive, unceasing medical tests and procedures, hospitalizations, symptoms and near death. I was on the edge, mentally exhausted from it all and not having to endure the pain of the NG tube removal would help to ease my mind and my body. He told me "I'll order you something better". And he did. The only problem was, the nurses didn't give me the medicine. I told them I needed the medicine my surgeon ordered, the nurses told me that there wasn't anything ordered to "knock me out" and I either could have the tube pulled then or wait until they could get an order, which they said would take several hours. I was so angry. I hated my surgeon in that moment. The words that he didn't order me any such medicine burned in my ears, stabbed my heart, and wrenched my soul. I trusted this surgeon for almost 2 years, I believed him when he told me something. He betrayed me, knowing the betrayals I suffered from my 1st surgeon and his crackerjack team. How dare he! I agreed to let the nurses remove my NG tube without any medicine. As every time in the past, the NG tube made my esophagus, throat, and nose raw with pain and I cried and screamed from it all. Once the tube was removed, I thrashed in my hospital bed for hours. I was overcome with anger, hate, pain and I couldn't stop the screaming, the words I yelled at my surgeon, willing him to hear me, the uncontrolled sobbing that went on for hours until I finally collapsed from pure exhaustion and a pained body from it all. My mind could not respond any other way. My mother tried to comfort me. I couldn't be comforted, the man I thought was my hero surgeon had lied to me and betrayed me. Oh the psychological harm it had done to me. He LIED to me!
The next morning my surgeon visited me. I told him I hated him, he betrayed my trust, he knew all I had endured as a child. He listened to my rant and didn't say anything until I was done. He apologized to me. He explained that he had ordered the medicine but the hospital pharmacy didn't carry the medicine and he wasn't informed so until after the NG tube was removed and the nurses told him how distraught I had been. He explained that if he had known the pharmacy wouldn't fill the medicine he ordered, he would have ordered something else. He explained this quietly and kindly, not a hint of defensiveness in his tone or body. He didn't lie to me, he had tried, he cared. My heart sank with this new information, I had genuinely hated him without real cause. Instantly my mind was began to repair itself from the previous day's anguish and became stronger again knowing that I could still trust this surgeon, I hadn't been betrayed.
There aren't many doctors that will listen to a patient release their emotions and kindly apologize and explain the mishap without defensiveness or blaming the patient but instead continue to provide compassionate understanding.
My anaesthesiologist in high school was also so kindhearted. My GI doctor knew how safe I felt this this anaesthesiologist that whenever I had to have a medical procedure or surgery that required anaesthesia, she scheduled my procedures for when he could care for me. To this day, she offers to do the same for any procedures I have to undergo. Another example of just how amazing my GI doctor is! My anaesthesiologist is a very funny man and uses his humor to help relax his patients, distract them from the procedure they're about to undergo and carefully monitors them. He knew about my difficulty with local sedation, that I've become immune to locals and require general anaesthesia and my fear of waking up again during any procedure. He provided reassurance that he would not let me wake up during a procedure and made certain I was comfortable as I could. I am forever grateful for his care, as every little bit helps to reduce the agony that medical issues brings.
My gynecologist is another medical angel. I didn't like my previous gynecologist, I never felt comfortable with her and questioned her competence. Early on I knew I didn't want to have any children myself, I knew I wasn't meant to become pregnant or give birth and with good reason. There are so many risks for someone with such abdominal trauma to undergo pregnancy and childbirth. The intestine can wrap around the uterus, the intestine can rupture, can't take the medications that are so necessary for daily functioning just to name a few. I knew in my heart of hearts that if I were to become pregnant, I would most likely die and if I didn't, I would wish I had. Mentally and physically, I wouldn't be able to take the pain and the threat of such risks. I definitely wouldn't be able to take it if the threats became reality. After my last surgery, I decided that if I ever had to have surgery again that I would opt to have my tubes tied at the same time. I wouldn't choose to have the surgery by itself because I had already gone through enough surgeries and didn't want to go through another one. But if I was having another surgery anyway, I might as well have this one at the same time. In graduate school I found out about the Essure Procedure and this is what I had been waiting for all my life. You can read more about it at the website, but basically it is an outpatient procedure and tiny metal coils are inserted into each fallopian tube. Anaesthesia isn't required although you are given a light sedative, a relaxer and pain pill as the cervix has to be opened. After about 6 months, scar tissue builds around the coils to permanently block the fallopian tubes thereby preventing pregnancy forever! I researched the procedure, the results, the risks and felt confident this was a great option for me. I searched for a local Essure trained doctor. I had little hope that there actually would be a doctor in my area but there was! I called that day to schedule my appointment. I was only 23 and knew that some doctors would refuse to perform a sterilization procedure for someone so young who hadn't even had any children yet. Realizing the potential obstacle, I had my speech prepared, more like my plea, on why I wanted the essure procedure and why the doctor should perform it for me. When I arrived at the office, I felt like I had chosen the doctor well. She voiced her concerns about my possible regret and I pled my case. She was very understanding and realizing my commitment to not becoming pregnant, agreed to perform the procedure for me.
I met my now husband a month and a half before my sterilization procedure. After 2-3 weeks of dating, I told him what I was about to embark on and I told him that he needed to decide if he wanted to stay or if he needed to exit because I wasn't changing my mind for anyone or anything. Without hesitation, he told me he was staying and would support me in whatever health decisions I made for myself. This said a lot to me about my now husband's respect for others and respect for women's healthcare.
My gynecologist and her clinical staff were very understanding about my medical history, my anxiety and fear of any pain and the trauma I've endured and were thus extremely supportive and eager to provide me reassurance and to reduce my anxiety. The procedure was very painful, although it wasn't the worst pain I had ever experienced and I was determined to make it through to the end of the procedure.
I thought I would have fertility issues even if I did want to become pregnant because I've had health complications that increase infertility, all the adhesions in my abdomen and pelvis, fluid in my fallopian tubes (my medical team never could find out what was going on here), I had a fistula on my tube or something similar. My gut instinct was right, one of my fallopian tubes was blocked shut!
After my procedure, I decided to become a permanent patient of this gynecologist and I've never regretted it. She understands the GI issues I have and how they relate to my reproductive system and supports my healthcare choices. I actually look forward to my annual exam with her as my doctor!
Even though there are medical providers whose incompetence have permanently scarred my psyche and risked my life, there are also providers who have my best interest at heart and make every effort to protect my health and safety. It is because of these medical angels that I'm doing as well as I am today.
What are your experiences with medical angels and demons?
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. After complications and 6 more surgeries. I had an ileostomy for 6 years and am currently living with a straight pull-thru.