Years and years ago, we had a doctor in town who was arrogant with a capital “A.” Although he was a pretty good doctor, he wasn’t all that he thought he was. He calmed down a bit after marrying a local nurse. Those who thought he was unbearable after matrimony, hadn’t got a taste of his attitude before his marriage.
Mrs. Gibson was a patient in the nursing home who was in a semi-comatose state. Her condition had not changed much so I was a little surprised when I came in on the graveyard shift to find a note in her chart from Dr. Gamble, her attending physician.
In red ink he had written and underlined three times, “If there are any changes in this patient’s condition, I am to be notified immediately or HEADS WILL ROLL!”
I asked the nurse I was relieving what had happened to which she replied, “I have no idea. All I know is Dr. Gamble was adamant that we better notify him STAT if something happens. Nothing has happened so far, though.”
Right after 3-11 shift clocked out, I was called to Mrs. Gibson’s room. For the first time ever, she was having a seizure. As I went to the phone, I thought to myself how odd this was as she is not on any seizure medication and has no history of having them.
Dr. Gamble answered the phone and I began telling him about Mrs. Gibson’s seizure. He quickly interrupted and said, “Why are you calling me?”
I pulled the phone from my ear and looked at it like, really? and then began again with the change in the patient’s condition.
Dr. Gamble interrupted me again, “It’s after 11:00 at night. I don’t understand why you woke me up to tell me about a seizure, Michelle.”
“Because you wrote in the chart to notify you immediately if there was a change,” I answered. “I’d say a seizure is a pretty significant change in a patient who does not have a history of them.”
“Oh, I understand now,” he said quite condescendingly, “You don’t know what to do with a patient who has had a seizure. Right?”
“No, I do know what to do,” I replied. I was holding back, but not for much longer.
With more attitude than I liked, he demanded, “Then what is so urgent that you had to wake me up in the middle of the night?”
“I woke you because YOU said to let you know immediately if something changed. Well, something changed,” I insisted and then yelled before hanging up on him, “I DIDN’T WANT MY HEAD TO ROLL!”
The next morning my boss called me and said, “Did you and Dr. Gamble have words last night?”
“You could say that,” I answered.
With a laugh she asked, “Were they nice words or were you being charming and diplomatic ‘cough-cough’?”
“I was charming and diplomatic,” I answered honestly.
“The family was here visiting yesterday when he was making rounds so he wrote that in Mrs. Gibson’s chart to impress the family,” she explained. “I meant to have Lee take the note out of the chart before you got here. Sorry about that. Don’t worry about him, though, he’s an ass.”
I had never heard of sunblock before moving south. Up north we would pour the tanning oils and lotions all over us trying to brown ourselves but here in the south, the old cliché “a little dab will do you,” carries a lot of truth in it. It isn’t that the sun is different in the south than in the north, however, I think being closer to the center of the equator makes the difference.
When my husband and I took our children to the beach one afternoon as a precaution, I brought along sunblock with SPF 5. At the time, SPF 5 was the strongest sunblock anyone could buy. It was primarily targeted toward children and babies.
In spite of the fact I kept my children swathed in sunblock, I also kept a watch on them to make sure they were not getting too pink. It’s been known to happen. Even with the strongest of sunblock I have been sunburned before when out enjoying the occasion.
Because we’re old shoes at this and live around here, we could lie on the beach and spot the tourists that flooded the white sands. They’re easy to spot because they are all just as white as the silt.
When a nice family parked a few feet away from us and I saw the milky white color of their skin, I pulled the sunblock out of the ice chest and offered it to them.
“Oh we’re fine,” the mom said. “We are used to getting tans at home.”
“Oh,” I said noticing the ghostly white color of the three small children with her and her husband. If this was tan, this must be a family of Albinos. “Where is home?”
“New Jersey. We lay out on the beach all the time there.”
An hour later, I noticed Dad’s bald head was turning a nice shade of pink. Looking at the children ages toddler to preteen, I saw, they too, were getting a little pinkish.
I went to the mom again with the sunblock. “Are you sure about this? I know we use the same sun but honestly, it’s quite different here in the Carolinas.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure, but thank you anyway,” she refused.
Looking at the children again, I said, “Okay, it’s here if you need it though. Just ask and it’s yours.”
An hour past that, we decided our own children were starting to turn pink and we need to go in. In the south, you don’t really redden until after you go inside and shower. Then what was once pink often turns red and painful.
I glanced over at our visiting New Jersey family and notice that Dad is coming up the beach with all three children in tow, and all three are red as lobsters. I also noticed Mom was packing to go.
Still, in a last ditch effort, I went back to the family and explain we’re leaving and offer the sunblock just one last time. "If for nothing else, just as a soothing lotion."
All my efforts were again refused. As we headed off the beach, I went over to mom the final time and said, “You guys are way too red and you are going to pay for this later.” Then, I gave her directions to the local hospital. As red as that family was, they were going to need it.
During a doctor's visit one afternoon, my doctor and I were discussing his documentation of office visits, or lack thereof. I expressed to him he needed to do better than he is. For example: I have fallen and sprained my shoulder 3 times in the last year. He has not documented this.
I asked him, "Why not? What are you documenting?"
He answered, "I try to document pertinent information."
I said, "Don't you think me falling and spraining my shoulders 3 times in a year is pertinent?"
So he started typing it out on his laptop and said, "Okay, its in there now."
As I was leaving, I said to him, "Are you sure you're not a prostitute? I pay all this money to come in here and see you and I walk out feeling like I just got screwed!"
Having just gotten off the graveyard shift one morning, I stopped in at Dr. Sheehan’s office for some dental work. He’s a local dentist who is inexpensive and good at his job. Even if you didn’t like his work, you still could not walk away without liking him as a person. He’s really a special man and very likeable.
Needless to say, since I had worked all night long, I was tired. After given a chair to sit in, Dr. Sheehan came to check my problem out. We had decided my wisdom tooth needed to come out, and soon. Since I had worked the night before, he offered to let me go home, get some rest and come back at a later date and have it pulled then.
“No, I’m okay,” I insisted. “I want to get this over with as soon as possible.”
“Okay then. I’m going to start with numbing the area.” While he worked, he chattered about different things. That’s one of the things that make Dr. Sheehan so likeable; he’s personable and a bit of a chatterbox and always has a kind word to say about the worst person he knows. “I’m going to let that set in for a few minutes and then I’ll be back in to pull the tooth.”
Fifteen minutes later, he came back and explained he was having a devil of a time with the other patient. “Are you good here or do you just want to come back. I don’t want to keep you waiting if you need to go.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me,” I asked jokingly.
Dr. Sheehan laughed, “No, no. I just know you worked last night and probably dead tired. I know I would be if I were up all night.”
“Take your time,” I answered. “I’m just going to take me a nap while you busy yourself in the other room. I do not want to leave with this tooth killing me like it is.”
About thirty minutes into my slumber, the receptionist comes in and wakes me up. “You’re snoring really loud,” she explains.
I mumble an apology and try to reposition myself in order to stay awake. Only a minute or two later, Dr. Sheehan comes in and has to numb my mouth again. “I’ll be right back.”
Several minutes later, the receptionist is back. She jars me awake, “Dr. Sheehan got held up again. He’ll be back in here in just a few minutes and you need to wake yourself up.”
I repositioned again. There’s only so much positioning and repositioning one can do in a dentist’s chair. Fifteen minutes or so later, Dr. Sheehan came back in. Because the stuff wore off again, he had to numb me a third time and said, “I’ll be right back.”
I didn’t get upset because I did agree to this. I could see he was overbooked and I chose not to leave until my problem was fixed. I couldn’t help it though and went back to sleep a third time.
Several minutes later, the receptionist comes in and says, “Michelle, we need to reschedule you. You’re snoring again and it’s scaring the children in the waiting room.”
Every time I go into his office now, I think about that day and just laugh.
When I had my lap band done (a surgical procedure that aids in weight loss), my surgeon assured me he had it set up with the hospital that his patients only had to pay $15,000. Being skeptical, I called the hospital and talked to a woman by the name of Kelly.
Kelly assured me, “The surgery usually costs about $28,000 and as long as you don‘t go over that amount it will only be $15,000 and you have to pay upfront, before the procedure.”
I thought about that and then asked three very pointed questions of Kelly. First: “Define usually please.”
“Well, as long as it’s routine, you don’t have any complications, no blood transfusions and you’re in and out of the OR and recovery in the typical amount of time.”
Second: “What about lab tests: Are those extras?”
“No, they go along with the $15,000,” Kelly answered. “Except for your stress test. Because you’re a heart patient they need one prior to your surgery date and that will be at an additional cost to you.”
Third: “Anesthesiology? Am I going to get a separate bill from them after the surgery or are they also included?”
“You will not receive a bill because that is also included in the $15,000.”
“You’re sure?” I asked for confirmation.
Kelly laughed into the phone and answered, “Positive.”
When I went to put a down payment on the lap band surgery, I again, almost verbatim, asked Kelly the same three questions, including the “are you sure?” part of the questions. Almost verbatim, she repeated back the same answers as if I had never asked them of her before.
At the time I paid for the rest of the surgery, one more time, I went over the same three questions and, one more time, she gave me the same three answers.
The surgery went off without a hitch and I was in recovery thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
My doctor came in, being fully aware of the $15,000 deal, as it was his own agreement with the hospital, and said, “That was one of the easiest lap bands I’ve ever done. Very routine, very simple,” he assured. “I want you to stay in recovery for at least an hour but you can stay for up to two hours if you need to."
After the first hour, the recovery nurse came to me and told me that as soon as I could walk twenty feet, I could go home.
I sat up in the bed, dangled my feet, and said, “Let’s do this.”
She tried to sit me back in the bed. “Wait, I’m not sure if you’re ready to walk yet.”
I turned to her and said, “I‘m ready to get this started because by this time next year, I plan to have a thong and two new boobs. So, either you’re walking with me or I’m dragging you behind me. Either way, I’m getting out of this bed.”
We walked twenty feet together and twenty minutes later I was getting dressed and walking out the door. I had been in recovery, for roughly, an hour and a half.
Two weeks after the surgery, I received a $2,500 bill from the anesthesiologist. I called and asked them to explain the bill. When they explained it was for the lap band, I expressed what the hospital had told me. They denied that was ever the case and wanted to set up payments.
“Hold that thought,” I said and hung up to call Kelly.
“I was just getting ready to call you,” she said once I identified myself on the phone. “You’re bill is over $41,000 and you’re required to pay the difference from the $15,000.”
I’m very high strung so I couldn’t help it when I screamed into the phone, “What! My surgery was very routine and I was out of there ahead of schedule!”
“Oh no, no,” Kelly insisted. “They had a few complications and it ran up your bill so you have to pay the difference.”
“What about the anesthesiologist? You said that was included and now they are billing me.”
“No, I never said it was included,” she denied. “That’s a separate issue and you need to work something out with them. Right now, I’m concerned with the other $26,000 you owe us here at the hospital.”
“My doctor came in and told me it was very routine, the easiest one he’s ever done and even said I was ahead of schedule.” I was livid, to say the least. I went on to say, “I’m guessing lying is second nature to you but I’ll fix that. I am going to call him right now, tell him what you’ve said to me, give him your name, and let him call your administrator and work this out.”
I was so angry, I waited to call the doctor for fear I would have misguided anger toward him. In the end, I didn’t call him at all and I never heard from Kelly again nor did I ever receive another bill from the hospital.
As for the anesthesiologist: they continued to ask me for money and I never paid them a dime. Finally, after almost two years of their calls and statements, I finally explained to them what happened and what I was told by the hospital, not once, not twice, but three times, and even gave them Kelly’s full name. I haven’t heard from them since, either.