Posts Tagged 'doctors'

Hip Hip Hooray

Jackie had a hip replacement last Wednesday. Once done as an inpatient procedure involving several nights in the hospital, it is now performed in an outpatient setting. The patient goes home the same day with a hearty farewell and a best of luck.

Until a year ago, Medicare only covered the procedure if it was done as an inpatient. In an abrupt 180-degree turn, it is now covered only if done in an outpatient setting. Private health insurance, seizing on the opportunity to save a buck, soon followed Medicare’s lead.

Jackie’s odyssey began about a year ago when she began to complain of an uncomfortable feeling in her groin. I suggested that it might be due to too much sex, while she insisted that it was caused by too little sex. Attempting to help, I accelerated our conjugal visitations. Although the increased activity didn’t eliminate her discomfort, we broke new ground in our relationship.

The discomfort increased and casual conversation with others pointed to her left hip as the problem. Verification required a visit to an orthopedic surgeon; glorious recommendations were forthcoming from those who had already dealt with the problem.

Two prominent surgeons rose to the surface. Doctor Golden in Ventura received high marks for both his bedside manner and his technical skills. Doctor Yun in Santa Monica, somewhat younger and located in an area with a plethora of expensive hotels and elegant dining establishments, won the day. Some insensitive wags also suggested that Jackie might get egg rolls if she opted for Doctor Yun.

Instead of egg rolls, Doctor Yun supplied a 50-page binder that reviewed the entire hip replacement process in great detail beginning with a pre-operative Zoom class and concluding with post-operative instructions. Jackie’s eyes bugged out when confronted with the sections dealing with pain, bruising, swelling, urination, dislocation and infection. Her hourly mantra leading up to the day of surgery became “Why am I doing this?” In response I would occasionally offer to resume the now-discarded alternative of more frequent sex.

We arrived at the Ambrose on Tuesday. The Ambrose is a moderately priced comfortable hotel directly across the street of St. John’s hospital. Its location is perfect. Its only negative is the regular arrival of an alarm-blaring ambulance that causes one to muse about the medical condition of the vehicle’s occupant, and reminds you that your turn is coming.

The Ambrose watering hole has a wonderful happy hour with an unlimited supply of free wine and beer. It also provides the opportunity to share experiences with other hotel guests who have chosen the hotel because of its proximity to the hospital. Sharing diagnoses and life-threatening conditions of their loved ones takes the place of watching comparatively boring sporting events on ESPN.

Wednesday morning reveille was 3 a.m. Adequate time for a workout in the hotel’s Covid restricted gym, a hot shower with mysterious antiseptic solutions, and a one-minute ride to the hospital in complete darkness. As hotel visitors were persona non grata, our 5 a.m. arrival meant a tearful separation from each other. The brave girl marched into the hospital lobby and I swear that I could hear her mutter “Why am I doing this?” for hopefully the last time.

It was still dark when I drove back to the Ambrose. My deteriorating night vision hid stationary roadway obstacles, turned the presence of other drivers into a crapshoot, and made entry into the hotel’s underground parking lot an adventure worthy of passage through a celestial black hole.

Trying to go back to sleep was like stuffing a genie back into the bottle. Time passed and I was happy to get periodic calls Doctor Yun’s staff who told me how things were going. I tried doing crossword puzzles but failed miserably at answering some of the easier clues. Even the overused what’s a Dutch cheese, “Edam”, seemed like a trick question.

At 1 p.m. I was summoned to the hospital to retrieve my girl. With the help of a friendly hospital orderly, she managed to hobble out of the temporary wheelchair at the curb and slide her pretty bottom into the passenger seat. I forgot to unfasten my seatbelt and nearly strangled myself trying to lean over and kiss her still beautiful face.

Assuming she was hungry after avoiding food for eighteen hours, I asked her what she’d like. “I want to have my nails done.”

In preparation for surgery, Jackie had been required to remove her nail polish so an oximeter could measure the oxygen saturation in her blood. Done with all that, it was now time to put the polish back on. As I’ve learned, much like a Starbuck’s, there’s always a nail emporium within shouting distance.

My suggestion that she wait a day fell on deaf ears. “Sweetheart, they just removed a chunk of bone from your hip and replaced it with something that makes you a bionic woman. There will be discomfort that needs careful tending to.”

“My discomfort is in my nails. They feel naked. They are thin. They are vulnerable. They need attention. Food, rest and pain can be dealt with after my nail emergency.”

She found a nail shop around the corner from the hotel. Fortunately for the owner, they had an open slot. We drove a thousand feet. Jackie emerged from the car, embraced her walker and rolled into the shop. They coddled her, did her fingers and her toes, became the best of friends, and gave her a discount for daring to do this just seven hours after major surgery.

The end of the nail emergency brought a precious smile to her face. 

She didn’t say “Why am I doing this”….for a whole day.

Is it prostate or prostrate?

It’s the simple things that count.

Our day started with a trip to Dr. Ericson’s office for Sweetie’s every three weeks’ allergy shots. A ritual that has gone on since well before the foundering of the Titanic, the serum allows us to luxuriate in the Upper Ojai where, other than during a nuclear holocaust, something is always discharging its microscopic sexual reproductive organs into the air. Pleasantries exchanged, Nurse Ratched smilingly deposited the magical serum into both of Sweetie’s arms. Better two than one, I always say.

Following the insinuation of the sinus clearing, sneeze modifying and itch suppression miracle drugs, we proceeded across the road to the ever friendly confines of Ojai Community Hospital. Other than the classy emergency room which is usually entertaining a near-relative of Evel Knievel who misguidedly believed he could defy the laws of gravity, the hospital normally seems quite peaceful and generally deserted. As though it were really a front for something else, like a pot farm, it graciously absorbs our periodic donations, generated to some degree by our fear of the hospital’s potential demise. Thereby condemning us to the big city where we will be absorbed in the less homey environs of the ever-expanding Community Memorial Hospital.

It was my turn in the barrel. My last physical revealed the continued, fear inducing, and generally misunderstood elevation of my prostate specific antigen. Better known as PSA, I have been following my own numbers with mild interest for several years and have, with an occasional slip, finally learned the difference between prostate and prostrate.

My two-year ago physical, ably performed by Dr. Ericson, prompted my first visit to the friendly Dr. Goldberg, a jovial, middle-aged urologist, conveniently located near Trader Joes. Dr. Goldberg’s probing and diagnosis resulted in his sage country doctor advice to “go home and let me know if anything happens”…whatever that meant.

Nothing happened…until two months ago when my PSA crossed a new, exciting threshold prompting Dr. Ericson to say, “let’s try that test again in February, maybe this one was a fluke…oh, and avoid sex within five minutes of the test as it has been known to raise PSA levels.” Although mildly constraining, I accepted his reassuring technical advice. Hence, my return to the hospital lab department where, after a search for a suitable vein, I proceeded to donate several liters of PSA laden blood.

Unfortunately, the results of the make-up PSA test mirrored the previous one. I had again flunked the test with a D-. Time for me to listen up and pay attention. Especially since Dr. Ericson had previously regaled me with a plethora of mind-numbing tales about the misguided folks who had, in the words of that ancient grail knight in one of the Indiana Jones movies, chosen poorly. Not me. I’m going to spend another glorious afternoon with Dr. Goldberg.

The debate over the need for and value of the PSA test continues to rage. Googling will provide you with a boxcar of information that is both informative and argumentative, not to speak of the impact it has on your systolics and diastolics. Friends are likely (other than women friends) to either have personally been confronted by rising PSAs or will have a relatively uninformed, but kindly opinion of what one should do about it. Ranging from nothing, to better make sure your will is up to date. Easy for them to say.

Cousin Ronnie was particularly helpful by sharing his own story, that of our three prostate challenged uncles and, finally, the alternate universes experienced by a gaggle of his business colleagues, some of whom had, as we say, chosen poorly. Bless his heart. He means well.

So, it turns out that March will be my “let’s explore new vistas” month. In addition to the probing sure to be employed by the jovial Dr. Goldberg, it’s also the ten-year anniversary of my last colonoscopy. It’s an event scheduled to nearly coincide with Dr. Goldberg’s hide and seek party. Alas, it’s too bad the plumber and the gas man can’t buddy up and lead but one expedition into the dark recesses of my anatomy.

And keep things simple.

Adventures in Healthcare

Spent most of Wednesday in the hallway of Community Memorial Hospital.  No, they didn’t forget me on a gurney.  Sweetie was there for an angiogram.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure,  an angiogram is an x-ray that uses a special dye and camera to take pictures of the blood flow in the arteries near and dear to your heart.  A little puncture near your groin.  A teensy tube inserted in a blood vessel.  Noxious dye coursing through your body.  Medical exploration of your most private parts.  People who have really poopy x-rays sometimes have their chests split open for what is jocularly called triple or quadruple bypass.

Our arrival at the hospital was the end of a long journey that began one evening several months ago as we sat on the couch watching TV.  Sweetie suddenly straightened up, stiffened and complained about chest pains.  “They’ll go away, like every other discomfort”…we thought.  After ten minutes of feeling my blood pressure rise beyond the limits of my sphygmomanometer, I said “Put your shoes on, we’re going to the ER.”

Most people headed to an ER hop in the car and in less than five minutes arrive at that place of refuge.  But not if you live in the Upper Ojai.  You wind down Sulphur Mountain Road avoiding boulders that have fallen during the night,  get onto Highway 150 behind a hay truck driven by a myopic senior, crawl down the Dennison Grade, drive through Ojai’s stoplights…red of course, and eighteen minutes later arrive at Ojai Community Hospital.  It’s the longest eighteen minutes of your life.

After three hours of pokes, jabs, tubes, electronic invasion and fixation on the monitor attached to Sweetie, her condition was determined to be a muscle spasm.  Whew.  But alas, the EKG was inconclusive.   Doctor ER, in telephonic consultation with Doctor Cardio, determined that it would be prudent for Sweetie to pay a call on the heart guy.

A few days later, we visited Doctor Cardio.  ” Hmmm, he said.  Need more information.  How about a nuclear stress test?”  Again, for the uninitiated, a nuclear stress test involves injecting a nuclear isotope in your arm that makes you glow in the dark.  It helps the scanner to more clearly see what’s going on inside your cute little body.  So, being obedient patients, Sweetie glowed.

“Hmmm”, Dr. Cardio said after the atoms had done their work.  Looks like we need more information.   “Up for an angiogram?”  I was beginning to tire of “hmmms.”  The alternative was an impressive sounding 64 bit cat scan.  A recent development performed by a doctor who spent two months in Germany learning how to generate new revenue.  But the results might still be inconclusive.  “Hmmm” we said.  Off to angiogram heaven.

Bright-eyed at 4:30am, we rose and shone.  Had to be at the hospital in Ventura at 7 for a procedure that was to start at 9.  Musn’t be late or we’ll miss our spot in the angio line-up.  In the car before sun-up.  Merrily on our way.  Arriving before 7 we checked in with admitting.  Fortunately they knew us.  “Sit, please…it will only be a moment before one of our people leads you to the promised land.”

Wham!  Lights out.  Transformer blows.  Power gone.  Emergency lights on.  Surely they aren’t serious.  After all this and Edison conspires to cheat us of our long awaited appointment with the cath lab.  Thirty minutes in near darkness.  They’re going to send us home, I thought.  Bastards.  Do it all over again they’d say.  Not on your life I’d say.  We’re going to stay here even if it means sleeping on the floor.  I’m not going through this again, I selfishly thought.  We’re going to poke that hole in Sweetie even if I have to do it myself…in the dark.

Forty minutes since lights out.  But wait.  Coming towards us is an angel of mercy.  She must be an angel, I thought.  She appears to be at least 80 with a cute pink outfit.  “Come with me”, she intoned.  We went.   “Sit here.  I want to take your temperature.”  Good thing it wasn’t my blood pressure.  After trying twice to take Sweetie’s temperature, she muttered “hmmm” and left us alone…in the dark.  Not a good sign.

Finally, off to the prep area.  Blessedly the lights sprang to life.  A succession of lovely angels of mercy paraded through the room.  Major accomplishment was the delivery of a styrofoam cup of coffee…for me.  It wouldn’t have mattered if it was last week’s cold coffee.  I consumed it.

Two more hours in prep seemed designed to raise our expectations, our appreciation of the complexities of hospital procedures, and our stress levels.   But, relief was in store.  When our original ancient pink lady announced that our Dr. Cardio was also her mother’s cardio, Ila turned to me and said “her mother’s still living?”  I wet my pants.

The IV nurse showed.  “I am an excellent IV nurse.  It’s what I live for.  I don’t rummage around in your arm like those other neanderthals looking for the holy grail.  I look closely, explore with my eyes and then I stick you.  You won’t feel a thing.”  Know what?  She was right.  It pays to advertise.

Two hospital orderlies with biceps the size of both my thighs arrived.  All aboard the gurney, Sweetie.  You’re off for your long awaited tryst with Doctor Cardio and his merry band of explorers.  Kiss, kiss.  See you soon.  Have fun.  It will all be OK.  I promise.

A woman who looked strangely like Nurse Ratched said it would be an hour before Doctor Cardio would arrive with any news.  “Sit in the x-ray waiting room…you know, the one with the hard chairs, no reading material and a few hundred others who look like they’d rather be somewhere else.”

An hour.  Hmmm.  Must be a way to get a real cup of coffee in this institution full of revenue generating medical marvels.  The promise of sustenance lay in the basement.  A full cafeteria.  Home away from home.  But not at 10:45 in the morning.  It’s between meals.  No food.  But, wait.  There’s a coffee machine…undergoing an angiogram of its own.  Busted.  Won’t be up again for an hour.  Suffer, buster.  Might as well wait in x-ray’s Devil’s Island.  Sat there for fifteen minutes doing nothing.  The clock never moved.

The door where only angels are allowed to tread opened.  Dr. Cardio appeared.  “Rothenberg…are you here…stand and deliver.”  I got up, stared at him, waiting.  “Everything’s fine.  She has pristine arteries.  She’ll be in recovery for about three hours.”   Thank you, Doctor.  You are truly a god.  He left.  I stood there.

There is only one place in the hospital more uncomfortable than x-ray’s Devil’s Island.  It’s the little row of plastic chairs right outside the cath recovery room.  At the opposite end of the hall there’s an automatic door that seemingly opens and closes without any apparent human intervention.  And stays open long enough for a blast of icy air to chill you to the bone.  I figured that it must be how they keep us awake and upright.

Two and one-half hours repositioning my ass on that plastic chair allowed two things to happen.  First, it made me promise to never complain about the seats anywhere else.  Second, it let me observe the comings and goings of the endless throng of hospital visitors.  Short, tall, old, young.  And, above all, generally obese.  Tomorrow’s candidates for the cath lab and Doctor Cardio.

Hmmm, I’m sure my pink angel of mercy will still be there…taking their temperature.

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