Friday, October 16, 2015

Wow! I could not describe my symptoms

So, I finally broke down and called my doctor's office.  I said, "Dr. A. told me he would write a prescription for a steroid pack any time I needed one.  So I need one."

The nurse said, "Well, Dr. A. is not in today. I'd have to have Dr. K. help you. It would be his decision."  

Shit, I thought.  That pretty much blows that idea.  No other doctor understands my asthma like Dr. A. I pretty much knew my attempt to get a steroid pack was doomed.


The nurse said, "Can you describe your symptoms?"

Okay, so I have been an asthmatic for 45 years, and a respiratory therapist for 18, and I couldn't answer this question.  I knew if I said the words short of breath, the doctor would assume the worse and tell me to go to the ER.  He would do this for liability reasons, more than anything else. 

What I wanted to say was, "Listen, I've had this disease 45 years, and if I say I need a steroid pack have the doctor write me a damn prescription for a steroid pack."

Okay, but that wouldn't do it.  Look, if I thought I was bad enough to go to the ER I would go to the ER. Let's get that off the table.  I do not need to go to the emergency room.  What I"m feeling is cold-like symptoms with minor shortness of breath, but just enough to think I should do something.  I should have just said that, but I didn't.  

After stalling quite a bit here, I finally said, "Well, I'm.... I.... I'm using my inhaler more than usual."

She asked, "Are you short of breath?"

What the f((& do you mean, am I short of breath?  If I wasn't short of breath I wouldn't be calling you. You see, my problem here is that if I say I'm short of breath, the doctor will certainly assume the worse.  So I tried to avoid saying I'm short of breath.  But, for lack of a better way of explaining myself, I said, "I'm short of breath.  But not bad enough to go to the ER.  I just need a steroid pack to get over this shit."

"So, how do you feel?" She repeated the question. "Are you having chest pain?"

Isn't that the question of all questions.  If I answer yes to this I am doomed.  "No."  It was the truth. 

"Are you short of breath?"  

"Well, yeah, but not bad enough to go to the ER."  I'm just feeling uncomfortable.  So, how the hell do you explain to a doctor who does not know you that you need a steroid pack but you are not sick enough to go to the emergency room.  You can't.  I knew it. 

"Any other symptoms."

"Look, I'm having allergy problems.  That's what it is.  I'm short of breath because of my allergies."  In retrospect, I wish I would have said I have a cold and colds often lead to further complications for me.  I need a steroid pack to nip it in the bud.  But I'm not good at thinking on my feet that way.  These ideas only come to me in retrospect.  Unfortunately, we can't live our lives in retrospect.  

She said, "Well, as you know, Dr. A. is not in the office.  I'll run your concerns by Dr. K. and we'll see what he says."

I thought, "Well, we pretty much know what that's going to be: "Go to the ER!" Which I will not do by the way. That last thing I need is to spend three hours in the ER to have a doctor tell me what I already know and give me the medicine I already know I need. 

Now, I'm not faulting the nurse here.  She was just the middle person, and she did an awesome job screening me.  The turned the tables on me, forcing me to explain how I felt, and I blew it.  Still, it didn't matter what I said. In the end, the result was going to be the same regardless. 

If Dr. A was in the office, however, this line of questioning never would have occurred. This, my friends, is modern day medicine. Because of all the lawsuits, doctors will not just write random prescriptions for patients that are not theirs, even if they know you. 

One thing I was extremely impressed with was the rapid response.  Less than five minutes later the nurse called.  

"Hello!" I said, miming enthusiasm. 

"Is this John?"

"Yes it is."

"Dr. K. said you need to go to the ER."  

Shocking.  Well, not shocking, considering it's exactly what I expected.  "Okay, that's what I figured he'd say.  But I'm not going to the ER.  I don't need the ER."

"Oh, okay, that's your choice."

"All I need is a steroid pack to get over this shit.  I will just wait to talk to Dr. A. on Monday. But thank you for trying."

This was kind of funny, because she didn't know what to say to that.  I concluded by saying, "Thank you very much for your time.  Have a good day."

"You too."  

You too.  Yeah, what else was she to say.  It's not like she could say, "Have fun suffering with your asthma."  No, she said the politically correct thing. She'll report back to Dr. K., tell him what I said, what no other patient would dare say, and he will say, "Well, that's his decision."  

Personally, I don't blame Dr. K. at all.  I in no way was expecting him to write me the prescription.  In fact, I would have been shocked had he done it.  However, this gives me the idea that I should tell Dr. A. to talk with Dr. K. about me, and let him know that it's okay to write a prescription for a steroid pack should John call for one.  

Anyway, bottom line here:  I have been an asthmatic for 45 years, and a respiratory therapist for 18, and I couldn't answer this question: "Can you describe your symptoms?"

In my defense, I worked third shift last night, so have only had 4 hours sleep in the past 24 hours. Not that it should matter.  In my defense, trying to explain how you feel to a doctor that is not your doctor through a mediator is not easy. In fact, if Dr. K. just looked at me he'd know I did not need an ER.  But, 'tis the way it is. 

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