Thursday, October 23, 2014

Managing Frustration

I am trying to remain positive and patient.

The best way to describe the interaction that I have had with the medical profession is like dealing with the keystone cops.  In other words, it feels like I am being routed from doctor to doctor, from building to building, from department to department and no one is privy to any information on the previous interaction.  There are delays in scheduling, phone calls not turned and questions are left unanswered.  I don't feel this is a reflection on all medical professionals, but right now I feel like given the current situation, I am being given the run around and kept in the dark.

Today I put a stop to all of it.  Here is what I mean.

I began to experience hoarseness on August 27.  I didn't want to rush to see my family doctor immediately for something that was really nothing, so I gave it two weeks.  Unfortunately, I had a 3 week work trip to New Zealand after that two weeks, so by the time of my initial visit to my family Doctor, I had been symptomatic for 5 weeks.  This is no one's fault and I am not complaining.

After seeing my family doctor, it was a 3 week wait in order to see Dr. Teachy at North Alabama ENT.  I have no problem using actual names.  He is well known within the Huntsville ENT community and came highly recommended.  So when I first met with Dr. Teachy, I had been experiencing hoarseness for 8 weeks.  The procedure involved putting a scope through my nose so that he could  examine my vocal cords.  The initial diagnosis was that I had 4 polyps on my vocal folds.  Dr. Teachy then indicated that the next step was to get imagery on the vocal cords to determine the actual severity.  I assumed that I would get to ask more questions, but he said there was a chance they could be cancerous, that surgery was required and then he went to see about scheduling.  He personally did not come back so I was left in the dark with my questions.  In the mean time, my ability to speak had diminished greatly, such that it was a strain to even whisper.  I went home and Googled frantically everything I could on vocal cord polyps, surgery, recovery, etc.

The next appointment was at the same facility, a week later, and with a different person.  I am not certain if they were an official doctor or a medical technician, but she conducted the imagery analysis of my vocal cords.  She was helpful and answered many of my questions, but also gave me what turned out to be false information.  She indicated that because of the severity, that they may prefer two separate surgeries, allowing for one side to heal prior to working on the other side.  I would later find out that the doctor would never perform this procedure at two separate times, but in the mean time, I am again left frantic on thinking that I may have to live through this recovery twice.

As I left that appointment, the surgery scheduler indicated that they could not get me into surgery before mid November,  I politely explained why this was unacceptable and she indicated that she would call me back.

The following day after that visit, I had to call back myself because I had not received a call from the scheduler.  I spoke with Dr. Teachy's nurse and the surgery scheduler.  They were now offering early November.  With a crackling voice with nearly zero audible tone, I asked if that was the earliest possible.  I waited patiently for the rest of the day waiting to see if there was anything that they could do.  There was no call back.

The day after that, I called back again to the surgery scheduler.  Now miraculously they had an opening on Monday, November 27.   Finally.  I accepted the appointment.

My frustration reached a new level in the whole process at this point because even though I have been to see the Doctor, a technician, a nurse and talked to a scheduler, no one had actually consulted with me on the recovery phase.  I hate to shout and use all caps, BUT YOU ARE ABOUT TO OPERATE ON MY VOCAL CORDS AND THE ONLY THING I KNOW ABOUT THE POST SURGICAL RECOVERY IS WHAT I HAVE READ ON GOOGLE.

So I called back in today and politely asked to speak with Dr. Teachy's nurse.  I indicated to the receptionist, that if I was not able to have a verbal conversation about the recovery before having the actual surgery, that there was not going to be an actual surgery.  How am I supposed to explain to Rachel (my fiance) what care I need, or to my employer how much time I will need without speaking, if I can't actually speak to tell them.  Yes I have gotten accustomed to typing things and making hand written notes, but there is no way I am going to have surgery on something so vital as my vocal cords without understanding the details.

So while my surgery is scheduled, until I hear from the nurse, I would not consider my attendance on Monday as confirmed.  Call me any name you want, but I want to understand how the surgery will be performed, the plan for recovery, the frequency of checkups and have confidence that I am getting the same factual information from everyone involved in the process.  I honestly don't have much confidence right now, knowing how I have been routed from person to person without any consistency (or complete lack thereof) of information about what is about to take place.

I feel like I am in the same room with people and they are talking about me and never to me.  Just because you perform this surgery ten times a week doesn't mean that I should be left in the dark for something that they determine is routine.  It is surgery.  There will be prolonged recovery (well from what I read on Google).  It is serious and I want to understand before I commit.

I did finally get a call back from the Doctor's nurse and was able to ask all of my questions.  It was a small victory.