A few years back I tried to find a doctor for my oldest. This was around the time his health began to noticeably decline. I spoke with 53 doctors offices. Two were accepting new patients. I felt extremely frustrated, certain this was what happened when the patient was on a state sponsored healthcare plan. Lack of accessibility. Substandard care. Indifferent providers. If only he had private insurance, or a ppo instead of an hmo. I really should have known better. I do now.
We moved an hour away from the town where our boys grew up. We’ve been here for two years now. I never had any interest in living in this part of the wine country. People hear about where we live and go ooooh. They refuse to believe me when I insist that, unless you have buckets of money, this grapevine covered valley is still just a working class neighborhood. We moved for the instant job promotion that was dangled before us. Move and receive a bigger raise than we ever dreamt of seeing during our years in the military and in law enforcement. Sure, we could never stay here after retirement. Too expensive. Our options for retiring somewhere relatively safe and comfortable would be dramatically improved though.The biggest drawback that I could see would be finding new doctors.
In 2011, after ten years of exhausting, humiliating tests and being shunted from one specialist to another like a hot potato I finally received an accurate diagnosis. Permanent nerve damage to the nerves that control my lower body, permanent nerve damage to the nerves in my right shoulder and arm. Chronic pain, neuropathy, muscle spasms that are kept mostly under control with medication. Eventual need of spinal fusion and possible need for breast reduction to reduce strain. No promise of reduction of pain, but hopefully retention of the ability to walk. A great part of why a correct diagnosis took so long was the massive push to an hmo system of healthcare. No one wanted to deal with the many many hoops required to obtain permission for an mri. As one provider after another dropped our insurance plan, I started over with another provider and another and another. Until I was so miserable I threatened to become an alcoholic or iv drug user or lose my Frickin mind. That’s when I got an mri. Yay!
The attitude of my then-physician underwent a sea change. For a short while. No more useless muscle relaxants that, according to the spinal surgeon “does nothing for your condition.” No more treating me like a Drug seeking whacko. Again, for a short while. The problem is that pain is not visible to a nurse or a doctor. No one persons pain is like anothers, not really.Sciatica, while the proper term for what I have, does not properly convey degree of damage or intensity of symptoms. Neuropathy can be described, but understood only if one experiences the condition, and then only partially. My then doctor has sciatica. For whatever reason, he decided my sciatica is his sciatica. He has other chronic pain patients. He gave me a ranking, deciding my pain is real but nothing debilitating, disregarding the report from the orthopedic surgeon. We won’t even discuss the neuropathy. So when I explained that the meds he gave me helped a little but still left me unable to truly function, he ignored me. Even though I was not exceeding my pain pill dosage, he made snark comments about my concerns about my increasing pain level-to my son. At my youngest son’s appointment. Where I was not present. Upsetting my son to the point he refused to go back.
One day, unable to even get out of bed lest the spasms leave me in a heap on the floor again, I called for yet another appointment with my then doctor. He was out for the week, but I could see his partner. The next day I got a ride and went in for my appointment. This time, the doctor listened, reviewed my history, announced that he saw no reason not to increase my dosages to see how it went, and sent me home with new prescriptions. We eventually found a level that alleviates the worst of the problems, allowing me to actually live rather than just existing. I didn’t want to give him up. Moving could be a problem. Did I really want to start all over again? No. Would it be worth the two hour round trip to keep seeing him? Working for me so far!
Bob didn’t want to make the drive. We had made the switch to a basic ppo with the change of jobs. I assumed finding an internal medicine doctor and a nephrologist here in our new city would be as simple as visiting the insurance company website and making a couple of calls. Two hundred internal medicine doctors popped up. Not a single one of them are located in our area. Turns out the husband will be making that two hour trip. I just hope that, by the time he needs dialysis, we’ll have either moved again or a new doctor will ride into town.