Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I needed and what I got

This morning I headed over to UCSF for a routine visit with my new neurologist. I started seeing this guy last year when I landed in SF. He came highly recommended from my old-tried-and-true neuro that I've seen since 1990. I loved him. This new guy, well, I am sure that he's a great doctor. I mean, he really IS a brain-surgeon and all. But, in all honesty, I think he was sick the day that bed-side manner was on the syllabus. Luckily, the guy has a sort of assistant doctor. I sure there's a fancy technical term for her like "resident" or "co-brain-surgeon." I don't know. But, I do know that she's nice. She's like the Hyde to his Jekyll. It makes seeing him a more palatable experience.

But so much for the intro. I had one of those visit-the-doctor experiences that was pretty text-book. I head over to the BIG hospital. I check in at the OVER-STRESSED receptionist desk. I sit down with my reading material and I wait. I wait some more. And, I wait some more (pretty standard stuff). An hour later I decide to get up and find out whether I need to have lunch catered in. I am glad I hopped up to inquire, as the sullen receptionist indeed retorted, "Ooops, I must have missed you on the list!", but then quickly added, "Hmmmm, it looks like your appointment was cancelled." Not the news I was hoping for. Sure, my book was good and everything, but sitting around in the neuro waiting room isn't scads of fun especially when you're sitting there for nothing.

So I asked the simple question, "Why?" At that point, the Supervisor was called in. This was not something that your basic receptionist felt enabled to track down the answer to. Supervisor fiddles with the system for some many moments and then says, "Hmmm? Your appointment was cancelled by someone in the emergency room back in April. They can't do that!" To wit, I wittily replied, "Well, obviously, they can. Cause they did."

Supervisor then thought it was necessary to call and chase down the fellow who deleted me. I stopped her mid-dial. I gently explained to her that that wasn't going to help solve MY problem. In fact, I didn't really care who did it, and I wasn't entirely curious as to why it was done, I was only focused on what was going to be done about it. The first two issues were hers and hers alone to solve. I just wanted another appointment. Guess what folks? The next available appointment for my brilliant-stick-in-the-mud doctor was NEXT MAY! The guy may be about as much fun as a seventh day Adventist school dance, but his dance card was clearly chock-a-block full.

So, it was time for a compromise. I asked if I could see his lovely assistant instead. (Truth be told, I just wanted a prescription for some Ambien for my upcoming trip to Cambodia. It's not like I was looking for a diagnosis or anything.) And, I did get to see the lovely assistant. She took a couple of minutes to come out to the waiting room as she wanted to review my file quickly and read the results from an MRI that I had about 4 months ago. Guess what she told me??? Brace yourself for this one!! She told me that I have MS. Honestly. She came right out to the waiting room to tell me that the films from my recent scan verified that I had MS. I had to pause for a second to think of the right response to her. I rifled through a number of pithy nasties (something that would have made the headlines of the No-Shit Gazette such as "Neuro diagnoses 20 year mystery problem in a single bound"). I tried to come up with something astute and droll. I came up solidly empty. So I just said this, "Really? That's good to know. Now about that Ambien?"

So, while the assistant doctor is the nicer one, she seemed unable to get to the one part of my file that says, well, that I've had MS for like forever. Although, in her defense, she seemed truly heartfelt when she delivered me the devastating news. She seemed even more eager to write the prescription for the drug and to get the supervisor to squeeze me in to see the real guy sooner than next year once I tipped her off.

In summary. I spent two hours to not see a doctor and to get a diagnosis for a disease that is now 20 years in the making. I did get sleeping pills. I should have asked for something stronger.


Jana said...

I'm guessing she will relay this story about a patient who took the MS diagnosis better than anyone she's ever seen! :-)

KB said...

I love that she didn't bother to, you know, glance at your history that you wrote in the waiting room and is probably pages long.

Ambien rocks though. It was worth it.