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24 February 2002

My mother was telling me tonight about a relative who has been told by an attorney (or maybe it was a doctor) that she has very good grounds for a malpractice suit. It seems that she was hospitalized in November with pneumonia--in advanced stages. There was some question about whether she would recover.

The hospital dismissed her too soon and sent her home with oxygen and no instructions for how to use the paraphernalia. Nobody told her that she should be changing/cleaning the nasal tube and as a result, she was rebreathing the same infected air and became very, very sick again. Worse the second time around.

She's home again now and says she's doing well, though my mother thinks she looks terrible and questions what sort of residual damage was done by the hospital/doctor's poor judgement in releasing her too soon and failing to give her proper instructions.

I grew up with Ben Casey, Marcus Welby, Dr. Kildaire...all those wonderful, caring doctors who would be at your bedside when you coughed, knew your history as soon as you walked in the door, without having to consult your chart, who would call you if they thought you might be having a hard time.

Don't you love fantasy?

On Monday I will attend a class which is supposed to teach me how to live with my diagnosis of Diabetes II. It's called "chronic condition management."

I was tested for Diabetes II TEN MONTHS AGO. It was me who asked for the blood sugar testing; it was not on the regular panel. And when I went to see my doctor two months later to follow up on the labs, I had to ask him to check that particular test because he didn't think to look at all the lab results.

When he looked it up, he said "Uh...well...yes....this does put the diabetic range...." He sat there and stared at me. I finally asked what that meant, exactly. He said that he had a nurse who worked with him and that she ran a diabetic clinic and he would make sure to give her my information and that she would contact me about the class.

This was August.

In September I wrote to him about the class.

In October I wrote to him about the class.

In November I called and left a message about the class.

I finally wrote again. I said:

It is now four months since my diagnosis and I have not received so much as a pamphlet with information about diabetes. I've been told by friends who are diabetic that I should be monitoring my blood sugar, but I have had no information about this from you or your nurse. Is there any hope that in the foreseeable future I will have some medical guidance about how to handle this condition? I even tried to get information about the diabetes class on my own, but learned it is by physician referral only. Your assistance would be much appreciated.

A week and a half later, he called me. He said I must have slipped through the cracks and that he would make sure that his nurse contacted me. He also said that yes, I should be monitoring my blood sugar, and that he would order a kit for me. "But...uh... you'll need ... uh... instruction.'ll get that at...uh...the class..."

So much for medical assistance.

But he had promised action on the class. It was another two weeks before I heard from the nurse and my class was scheduled for a month and a half from then. Tomorrow is the day. But it's been 10 months since I first requested lab tests. The news is full of the dangers of diabetes and here I am sitting on this time bomb with a doctor who didn't think to check for it, didn't follow up on his promises and seems not to care one whit whether I get treated or not.

Marcus Welby he definitely ain't. (I didn't find out about the diet/exercise component and other information about diabetes until I started pumping Dr. G for information.)

I hate HMOs.

(Incidentally, the flexible sigmoidoscopy which was ordered in April still has not been scheduled either...but I'm not chomping at the bit for that test!)


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