When I Was A Boy, A Doctor’s Insight Was Law

 

aadoctor

When I was a child and was literally dragged to Dr. What’s-His-Face for an annual check-up (less a check-up and more a ritualistic cadence of tsk, tsk, tsk’s) as he poked and kneaded and cold-handedly fiddled with my . . . which backs away from coldness . . . and shy’s away from evaluation like a cub scout whose self-built car elicits jeers from his Scout Master (who also happens to be his dad).  The snap of gloves and odor of soap which resembled anti-freeze gave the doctor time to compose his subtle and sensitive conclusion:  “He’s too fat and getting fatter and his fat is hiding his . . . which, for sanitary reasons may require the removal of . . . which was when I buckled my Indian Beaded Belt and disappeared until hours past dusk when a neighbor found me shivering beneath the front porch.

That incident was a painful secret which I’ve carried on my back for fifty years and continues to cause retreat when doctor’s or lover’s reach out.  Such a sad burden to carry because of one unsympathetic phrase from a stranger who had no right being a pediatrician.  I often wondered how he treated his dogs.

My mother’s ignorance and prostrating to figures of authority always meant that any run-in with any adult possessing even a pinch more aacopauthority than her resulted in stern and week-long pain.  Just what exactly did these arrogant and sadistic adults possess that was never crossed?  They had been appointed to their position because of educated insight which was never, ever, EVER questioned..

Which, of course, perpetuated a multi-century tradition which has continued even to this day.  Most doctor offices have a small-framed notice somewhere above their “All services must be paid TODAY!”  reminder which reads something like,  “My profession hasn’t been questioned or challenged in three hundred years, so don’t try to be the first today!”  And in you go to be examined, quizzed, and questioned only to receive a prescription scribed in ancient Egyptian and an “order” for physical therapy.

aaangryguyDo I sound somewhat angry?  Of course I am!  Doctors get paid enormous salaries yet complain about the escalating costs of malpractice insurance.  Malpractice insurance exists because professionals are trusted and believed and paid.  And for this degree of faith we get an educated guess of what might be ailing us.

But this is what I’m REALLY angry about: Two doctor’s at Froedert Hospital assured me my brother Rich did not suffer a stroke based on a CT scan.  It was 48 hours later when I insisted they perform an MRI.  Voila’!  A clot in a vein feeding the occipital lobe (responsible for eyesight).  Because of unconscionable arrogance my brother is legally blind while these two doctors suffer NO consequence.  Upon discharge from Froedert, I was told that Rich was totally blind due to A) The Stroke and B) A severe seizure two days later.  I made decisions based upon the information told to me by staff in the Stroke Unit.  And guess what?  He isn’t blind!  Albeit his eyesight has been significantly compromised, but his field of vision is approximately 17″ in diameter!  And the staff at Froedert?

And the worst example of guesstimating occurred this past weekend when Rich suffered a severe heart attack.  The errors in order of aapuzzleddocappearance: A) Someone at the acute rehab facility removed his DNR bracelet, yet never informed the paramedics that he had a DNR order in effect; B) The paramedics, unaware of the DNR order, couldn’t inform the ER staff;  C) When Rich went into arrest they performed heroic measures to yank him back to life including five minutes of chest compressions resulting in several broken ribs and the insertion of a temporary pacemaker to maintain his heart rate (why didn’t anyone call me while they repeatedly beat Rich?  They called me after!)  D) An ICU doctor called me and informed me that the ER stepped beyond Rich’s wishes and now, NOW I’ve got to decide if and when we reverse their . . . their, what . . . their adrenaline infused jump to action?  And when YOU do decide he will . . . be gone.

For nine hours I held firm to Rich’s wish: DNR. And I would honor his wish just like I’ve always honored him. And I aastoplightwouldn’t allow my own emotion, hope, or desire to shake my resolve. I spent nine hours picking up strength like a child picks dandelions. And upon my arrival at his room in the ICU he was semi-conscious, breathing on his own, and occasionally howling in pain as he coughed with broken ribs. The equivalent of The Cuban Missile Crisis was over and Rich, contrary to what the ICU doctor emphatically informed me, was alive, on his own, without my intervention. And even though he’d crossed that line, he’d come back, I think, just so we could laugh at the old, standard jokes as though it was the first time we’d heard them!

And those doctors? The heroic and uninformed professional, and the cardiac-specialized professional made two BIG mistakes and continue to work without consequence for their egregious and painful errors. Alas, that three hundred year old tradition continues.

 

My Brother Rick (aka Dikes, Rich) Condition Post-Stroke

asstroke3Last Thursday, a few minutes past noon, I called my brother Rick in Milwaukee (it had become a ritual of sorts especially while driving), and he answered in an odd tone which gave me pause. He began to complain of escalating nausea to which I urged him to see his personal physician.  He failed to remember his physician or the terrible diabetic wound which almost led to amputation or his two-month in-patient hospital stay. I astroke1told him I’d call 9-1-1 and ask that he be taken to West Allis Memorial Hospital ( policy dictates patients be taken to the nearest hospital). However the paramedics discovered atrial fibrillation (fluttering heart beats) which alternately peaked and diminished and therefore paramedics informed me that they were headed to a critical cardiac unit at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

However, St. Luke’s didn’t have a bed open, so Rick was taken to Froedert Lutheran Medical Center. After tests and a CT scan the ER team began antibiotics to stave off a small area of pneumonia in his right lung.  Rick remained on the general medical floor until the results of an MRI showed he’d suffered a severe ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) in the occipital lobe (at the rear of the skull and is responsible for vision). On Sunday afternoon he was transported to the Stroke Unit (one of just astroke2a few in the U.S.) where he was resting comfortably.

On Monday, June 18 Rick suffered a significant seizure which greatly diminished his short term memory and eliminated the peripheral vision on his right side.  I’ve visited and talked via telephone with him this past week.  The cadence of his speech has slowed, he’s practically immobile, he’s approaching clinical blindness, and finds difficulty in fundamental motor movements like holding a cup.  But as he told me earlier this week, “I ain’t going to be like this forever, you know!”

I’d like to ask that anyone reading this post to consider sending him a get well card.  I’m sure your sentiments would help replenish a hopeful spirit during difficult times.  For those of you who send cards, thank you; for those that haven’t, please reconsider.  Send your cards to:

Richard Didrickson
Froedert & Medical College of Wisconsin
5-NW Nursing Unit
9200 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI  53226