25 August, 2009

The Passing Doctor

Many years ago, I called a friend for a primary care physician’s name who is gay friendly. He gave me his Dr’s name and number and I signed up with him. He was curt and efficient, with some pretend friendly… sprinkled on top. On his card it said his specialty was gastrointestinal, which I hoped never to need.  He was always passing both physically and in comments to others around. I remained with him for many years only because he was on my plan and knew me. I quickly moved to the doctor’s assistants because they would listen and spend 1 1/2 minutes more each visit. So, in effect, he was my doctor only because his name was on the door. We would speak, if I saw him, but as time passed I saw less of him. It was common to hear him rant at one of his employees or speak too loudly of a patient he was seeing in other rooms.

I saw this Dr. out once at a bar with his partner who just happened to be the billing person at his office. His partner was not even friendly in the bar, and I began to put two and two together that this was caused by the Dr.’s caustic and abusive manners. Later, when I had my bi-lateral strokes the first time I saw him afterward, he chewed me out for not coming to him for a referral instead of having any compassion for a man that could not speak or swallow…limping in. While going to outpatient treatment to learn to swallow and physical training, his office was kept up to date with my progress. At any time, he was only a phone call away from my status.  As time passed, I could tell he was amazed at my progress but never really said it besides saying I was fine. I was busy doing acupuncture to speed my healing process outside of his care.

One visit, he told me about a new stomach tube that instead of hanging down which I had to tie up to a necklace, there was a new kind which screwed in when you fed yourself, and unscrewed to a flat tab on my belly. He said it would free you up from that dangling one. I did not know at that time that I had made such progress swallowing that I would quickly be off the tube altogether. I pretty much was too busy working on getting better and sleeping a lot.

We went ahead because I so desperately wanted to trust someone after my brain injury. Meeting him there in a hospital across from his office, I laid down. Without finding out first which kind I had, which incidentally, was the balloon kind. With no anesthetic he proceeded to pull out by force my old tube, almost putting his foot on my belly. I was in so much pain, I said stop by drawing my hand across my neck, and give me some pain drugs…gestering, for I could not speak at this time. He was never good at listening anyway, so this was fun.  A supposed quick change was turning out to be a nightmare over the course of a couple hours. After getting it out, and putting the new one in, without an x-ray to make sure it was placed correctly, I went home.

I was hungry, and I was still 25 lbs under what I am now, living only on meal supplement drinks poured in. Alone again at home, I opened a can, and poured some in the tube immediately feeling discomfort while still having hunger pains. Stopped and tried later, thinking it was the trauma of the new tube. It just felt weird, like it was going into my body, but not in my stomach. I called my partner, who came later that day after work, and we both decided with my increasing pain to drive me to ER. The Dr would not meet us there even though we called his service. Our treatment was so bad that my partner started to make notes of everything going on. When I got x-rayed at ER, the tube was delivering food into my body cavity and not my stomach. They said I would run the risk of infection with all this food in my body, and they had to suction it out. It was a long day and night, needless to say. I was already 2 days without a meal by the time it all got settled. Less than 10 days later my tube was taken out, as I had developed enough swallow to survive without it. It was the second time a nurse said to me what did this guy do to you? My guess, his suggestion for the new tube was done solely to bill more money, and the person in charge at my outpatient was so pissed he never called to check before doing it.

Then came the $5000 in bills from the Dr’s office. I called and said I would not pay and was treated to tirades from his partner in billing. The Dr knew that I told him I would not pay for this unneeded procedure, and I think he was happy I did not sue him. My outpatient Dr was so angry that my primary care Dr never contacted them before doing this procedure. I let it go. I just had no energy left.

Things got back to normalish, and the Dr. was a bit friendlier. I continued to see other Dr’s in his office just to avoid his rants and short attention span. I built up a good report with another P.A. and stayed with him. I would occasionally talk to my primary care Dr, still joking and trying to put the past behind us. I did not bring up the tube mistake with him. Just about the time, I finally finished fighting with my Dr’s partner over the bill, that they never took off my account…I heard through friends that the partner killed himself drinking. A few years later passed uneventful as far as medicine goes, but I was trying everything alternative to help me. Then came the news that my Dr had a brain tumor, and would have an operation. I saw him a few times as his office back at work. I thought to myself maybe he will soften some, but I did not see much change in his personality. We talked about getting together to have a glass of wine but it never happened. Then his gradual withdrawal from practice signaling a worsening of his condition, I asked of him at his office.

Thinking that time is precious, I decided to go by his house to, in effect, say good bye. His house was an old church converted into a nice loft and not very far from my house. I ran his bell and he came to the door dressed up in a suit, and I said I came by to see how he is doing. I asked him for some time to talk, hoping to share some of my wisdom about life changing events or at the least give him a hug. He was not really happy to see me, and started in on another rant. But that was his way in almost every circumstance since I had known him. I said, “If this is not a good time…then I’ll leave,” walking back to my car. His tone changed a wee bit enough to say thanks in his awkward and roundabout way.That was the last time I ever saw him.

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