Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting room hell

OK, so as a result of the angiogram I had on March 1st, I now have what's known as an AV fistula in my leg. That means that the femoral artery that supplies blood to my leg has joined with a nearby vein and is not delivering blood to my leg in quite the way that it is supposed to. Sounds bad, and it can be, but this morning a doctor at St. Mike's said that their vascular surgeon took a look at all the test results and symptoms and thinks that in my case it is not serious and can be left to heal on its own.

This is kind of a good news/bad news thing, on the one hand I avoid surgery and yet another stay in the hospital, on the other hand I have this sore lump in my groin that makes it difficult to walk. In addition to the already existing and as yet undiagnosed shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. The doctor says it will take time to heal by itself and I should still be vigilant for signs that it has worsened. But I can go about my life as usual. Such as it is.

This whole thing is frustrating in the extreme. I still have not got a diagnosis for the original problem, and I now have a complication as the result of one of the tests done to find a diagnosis (can we say "iatrogenic"?). On top of that, they wanted a CT scan to try to see if my problem was a fistula, and a CT scan involves way more radiation than an X-ray. The technician had to do it twice, because they have a recording that is supposed to tell you when you are to hold your breath for the procedure, but that recording malfunctioned. I kept breathing, so she had to run the CT scan twice, meaning double the radiation dose.

To be fair, I cannot see any point in the whole process where I can fault someone for having made a wrong decision. Every step of the way there was a good logical reason for the choices made. There were alternatives, but lacking 20/20 hindsight choices were made with the knowledge available.

I could possibly fault the intern who nicked my femoral artery, but that's what interns are there to do: learn from their mistakes under supervision in hopes of not making them twice and having someone die because of it.

This afternoon I got home from the hospital after not eating for almost 24 hours, Gretel made breakfast and coffee for me. In the course of discussing what has been going on, she pointed out that my frustration would have been so much worse if we did not have healthcare coverage, I would have the additional weight of the financial cost of all this on my mind.

If I lived in a country where I had no healthcare coverage, right now I would definitely be thinking about suing somebody, anybody. I would for sure be trying to make a case for malpractice or negligence. If all this had happened on my dime, you can bet I would want my dime back and then some, for all the aggravation (not to mention iatrogenic complications) involved.

I can understand why people might be trigger-happy about litigation in a country with no national healthcare program, and why malpractice insurance would be a very big deal.

It's still sunny and warm here, and today I have a temporary respite from medical waiting room hell, before starting in again tomorrow. So excuse me while I go off to enjoy it.

Can you see the robin?


Rain Trueax said...

That all sounds very frustrating. I hate going to doctors for that very reason but sometimes a person has to do it. I hope all is better soon. Scary what can go wrong after one 'little' mistake.

For sure it's good that you have a better health care system than we do down here in the States :(

Barbara Anne said...

Huge hugs, Annie! At least you know what some of it is and what it isn't.

I'd make someone listen about asthma and insist on that test before or in addition to other tests that they think are important.

You've lived such a healthy life that the amount of radiation in two CTs and some x-rays on rare occasion won't do harm.

Yep, after 30+ years as a nurse, everything is on my dime because here in the States, insurance is tied to employment until retirement age.

Hang in there!

More hugs!

Barbara Anne said...

p.s. Great photos as usual for you! Hope your walk was restorative.


20th Century Woman said...

Keep walking, Annie, 'cause in the end that may be the cure. Jerry had one of those knots in the groin after an angiogram, and eventually it just went away. I hope yours will do the same.

I bet the original problem has multiple causes and that's why it is so difficult to diagnose. At least they have ruled out a lot of life-threatening possibilities.

I feel for you, and share your dislike of going to doctors, even doctors you like. And waiting rooms are the pits.

Tamara said...

Sorry to hear about your medical grief. Sounds like quite the experiences at the hospital. Glad to hear there are few cheery bits in spite of everything - I hope you don't have to go back again anytime soon!

Wisewebwoman said...

Glad you see the diamonds and not too focussed on the stones, Annie. Very frustrating nevertheless. and avoidable.
but like you say, if you had to pay for this you'd be up to 90 rather rapidly.
How was the walk? good eye on ya with the pics, lovely reminder of our gentle spring...

Annie said...

Hi everybody, well it looks like I have a tentative diagnosis now, they think it is acid reflux. Weird, eh? Thank you for all the well wishes!

I walked down by the lake, a little park made out of landfill sticking out into the lake. I drove there and walked around when I got there. I had hoped to get there earlier in the winter when the tundra swans were still around, but they have already left for their northern nesting grounds.

A bit frightening seeing all the smog over the city, but otherwise a pleasant walk.

Barbara, I had a lung capacity test but won't know the results for a couple of weeks. At this point reflux seems more likely than asthma but you never know.

Thanks for the advice 20CW, I will definitely keep walking as much as I can.

Good to hear from you Tamara, I may be back out west sometime later this year, maybe we'll manage to connect then.

WWW, the weather here now is horrid, windy and wet, so the walking will be minimal till the wind and rain stop. Hopefully the rain is washing out some of the dirt in the air.