I cannot help it. While most people worry about this time of year when it comes to income tax returns, for me, mid-April means so much more. Every time at this time of year, I cannot help but think where I was, now nine years ago.
In all the chatter about health care by our government, there is hardly if any, conversation or concerns expressed about two of the most important players in health care, the patient and the doctor.
I am blessed to have the primary care physician that I have had. In fact, in 51 years, I have had only 3 PCP’s, with my current one, caring for me for well over thirty years. Since I am not mentioning her name, I am not calling her out about her age, so that is not rude. But I have made it clear to her, that after she makes the decision to retire, there will be no more PCP’s for me.
I consider us friends though our company has been mostly limited to doctor-patient time for the most part. There have been the occasional interactions outside of the office. As a fellow adoptive parent, I have watched her children grow up.
I call her a friend also, because she has something that I demand most in a friend, trust. Sure, she is my doctor, but other than my mother, no one, no one has any better clue about me, than my doctor. The funny thing is, she also practices with her husband, who in that entire time, I have only seen him once as a patient. If there is an occasion that has come up that I am receiving emergency care, my emergency bracelet says to contact her first.
Up until 2008, I was a fairly reliable patient, coming in once a year for a seasonal allergy shot. Even the staff knew that I did not complain about health ailments. I took no prescriptions. If they saw me in the waiting room at any other time, everyone knew that something had to be wrong.
It was around this time, nine years ago, that I contacted her about an issue I was having, for nearly 4 months that I could recall. It was a tightness in my chest, on the left side. It appeared at the immediate commencement of any physical activity. I ignored it, because after about a minute, the discomfort would go away. But because it had been happening for so long, it became annoying. Here is how the conversation… over the phone went…
Me: Hey doc. I was wondering if you could help me. It’s just something weird and annoying. I get this tightness in the left side of my chest whenever I start something physical. It goes away after about a minute. It has been happening for about 4 months, but is happening now, every time. Do you have any idea how to get this to go away?
Just like my office visits, expected this phone call to be that simple.
Doctor: Well, given your medical history (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), and you are a bit overweight, I think I am going to order a nuclear stress test. We will see from there.
Ok. At this point still fairly simple as far as I was concerned. I had no idea the point behind the nuclear stress test, just as I had no idea when I was sent to an oncologist for suspected cancer.
But here is where our doctor/patient relationship paid off in huge dividends.
A nuclear stress test is not a cheap test. It is also not normally ordered on people my age at the time (42). But knowing that I do not complain about little aches and pains, she had an idea what she was suspecting. And while many critics may complain about tests that doctors order that they feel are unnecessary or without looking at other options, my doctor went right for the big one. Also, her office was the one that would make the appointment for me. Because as anyone knows, if you have to make an appointment with a specialist, it could take weeks or even months.
My doctor, my best advocate. The test would reveal a major blockage to my heart. Though even this test would not disclose just how serious it really was. The procedure I was immediately schedule for right after that stress test, would show that I was about to die, at any minute. And that is not being dramatic. That was a fact.
It was discovered that the main artery to my heart (the LAD), was scarred badly enough from radiation treatments that I had 18 years earlier for my Hodgkin’s, that the artery was restricted 90%. I had what is often referred to as a “widow maker”.
There is more to this story as I have written in the past. But my point for writing this today is this, our government is still trying what to do, or not do, in regard to health care. And no one in our government is looking at availability or affordability. No one is concerned about prevention. And no one in our government is looking at the fact that our doctors are not even being taken into consideration when it comes to health care.
We have the quality doctors. I know this personally. But had she followed “guidelines” or “insurance requirements” instead of her being “just a doctor”, I would be dead. She knows her patients. She is the best person to make this call, not someone in an office somewhere in the country or even across the globe who has never seen me. Yet, that is what is driving the health care argument – how to protect the greed of the insurance company, not giving the best and necessary care.
Health care should not be for the healthy and wealthy. But that is how it is being treated. But even with that horrible attitude, that does not change the fact, that doctors are not being given the ability to be a doctor, without being overruled by a penpusher from Wall Street.
In spite of all this, I still have the faith of my doctor, my friend, my advocate. And until the day she chooses to retire, she will be my doctor, my final doctor. I trust her with my life. Because of her skill, her advocacy, I am here nine years later for my two young daughters.
I do not have permission to print her name, but she knows who she is. I am forever grateful.