Monday, August 4

Looking into my husband's head (literally)

Sure, some couples prefer to spend their weekends cooing at each other, going out to eat, seeing that new movie, or some other activity. But that's just so... obvious.

Instead, I spent the weekend peering into my husband's head as we dealt with a MRSA site on his upper left temple.

The pressure had gotten so bad that he said any movement of his scalp (surprise, laughter, talking, etc) felt as though he were being punched in the head.

By 8 p.m. I was getting worried. (And it takes a lot to worry me, these days.) The boil had opened up but, unlike our previous experiences, the pressure hadn't eased. If anything, the pain was worse. And as I was cleaning it, I could see at least a quarter inch into his head. ("In sickness and in health," people.)

When we finally went to the hospital around midnight (he took some convincing), they wanted to just bandage him up and send him home. This was after the obligatory culture, which the doctor wouldn't numb him up for, claiming it would hurt more to numb the scalp. Clearly, he's never had a MRSA wound himself.)

This doc had that annoying attitude: the kind where you're not sure if it's from being a 50-something white male, or from being an MD which automatically qualifies him to always know better than the person who's experiencing the symptoms. When he spoke, he smiled but it was plastered on his face in an unconvincing way.

I tried to talk to him, but he cut me off mid-sentence. "You have no idea how many of these things I see," he said, still smiling and yet managing to look vaguely irritated. He then said something placating and left. I tried talking to the nurse, but though he was sympathetic, he had to follow the doctor's instructions.

The doctor returned and I tried again. I told him we've dealt with MRSA before and this was worst than most. If we had just wanted someone to bandage it, I said, we would have done that at home. Soon, the gauze would need changing and we'd be right back where we started.

The doc responded by repeating the same platitudes as before. He maintained, also, that the area was getting more sore because we had been "poking" at it. (Tim had mentioned trying to push some of the pus out, which is a no-no, but we had barely done this at all because of the pain.) He said the only other option was to drain it. Yes, I said, that is exactly what we want! But he demurred and said he really didn't want to open it any more than it already was.

I told hubby I wanted a second opinion: This doctor wasn't listening. In several instances, we had to repeat the same thing two or three times before the doctor would hear us. And more than once he cut me off mid-sentence. So we decided to go to another hospital.

But as we walked out, I was exhausted and overwrought and also thinking about another $75 ER copay. Don't get me wrong: My husband's health is not something I want to put a price tag on. But I felt like we were getting the brush off at a rather costly rate!

I turned around and found another doctor. I told her we felt our doc wasn't listening. Then -- and I hate this -- I started bawling. "He's not listening to us and I'm afraid there's something really wrong."

She took us back into the room we had just vacated. She listened to hubby's problem and to our opinions, based on our experiences. She said the bandage-and-drain procedure was the usual route, but, since we were obviously worried, it wasn't unreasonable to get a CAT scan. That way, we could see any deep pockets of infection.

In the end, there were no pockets. And it's one of the few times I was happy to be wrong. We ended up with the same instructions and a second antibiotic. But we had more. Someone had listened to us and responded to our problem.

To be fair, I should point out that I have an especially bad reaction to doctors brushing me off. When I got Guillain-Barre, I kept being told I just had a bad case of the flu with weird side effects. Even the ER doctors were sure I was overreacting. And if I had accepted that, I probably would have died.

You see, I didn't know at the time, but my respiratory systems were slowly failing. I didn't notice until suddenly I couldn't breathe. And how do you make it to the phone, let alone call 911, without oxygen? Luckily, my aunt and uncle were there that day, and they weren't leaving until tests were run. They just knew something was wrong. It may have saved my life.

So while perhaps I was just being alarmist, I'm inclined to go with my gut when it comes to illness. Better to sheepishly apologize later than wonder "what if?"

Have you ever disagreed with a doctor? Did you speak out? How did it turn out?

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Blogger ModernGear TV said...

Found you via kirtsy...Thank goodness you're strong enough to ask for a second opinion...many people aren't, and they end up paying for their inability to speak up for themselves and those they love. Good for you. And by the way, I think there are some web sites where you can post a review of the doctor! You might look in to that one...would be good to provide feedback on the male doc. Good luck, and good health.

August 4, 2008 at 12:50 PM


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