Showing posts with label medical care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medical care. Show all posts

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yay Science!

I've spent the past couple of days in and out of hospitals and dealing with surgeons, doctors and nurses. A few months ago, my husband's doctor discovered a cyst on his thyroid that was 'suspicious for papillary carcinoma' and he needed to have the gland removed. You can read more about his adventures on his blog - he does a much better job of describing it all than I would. But as I was sitting in his hospital room late the other night, watching him recover from getting his throat sliced open, it occurred to me that the people out there who are anti-science and anti-medicine are complete assholes.

I know this is not news to anyone on this blog. But experiencing a medical procedure this close up really gives you a better understanding of how freaking lucky we all are because of science. There seems to be a general vibe in the media, movies and popular culture that science is dangerous and technology is bad. People tell us that we should back away from new media and new technology because these things are somehow de-humanizing. To those people, I say "Fuck off" and here's why.

Let's forget for a moment the incredible amount of technology and science that led to the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Let's just focus on the procedure and hospital process itself.

In less than 48 hours, Christian went from having his throat sliced open to walking about, eating normally and resting comfortably at home. Here are some of the things that allowed this 'miracle of science' to have occured:

  1. The germ theory of disease. Until it was proposed that tiny, invisible creatures were running all over us and could be the cause of disease and infection, doctors and surgeons didn't worry about hygiene and sterilization. Today, the hospital has an entire system in place to maintain a sterile environment in the surgery itself and to keep risk of infection to a minimum.

  2. Sutures. Christian had his THROAT SLICED OPEN. Seriously, he has a wound across his neck and they sewed it up with some stuff that will just dissolve over time; no painful removal of stitches and minimal scarring. He has some pain from the wound itself but that's honestly been the least of his problems (the most pain was from the intibation tube down his throat during surgery).

  3. Pain medication. When he woke up he was in some pretty severe pain and his recovery would have been significantly prolonged and much harder without pain medication. He got all sorts of drugs, including morphine, loratab and some incredible stuff that made him feel better when the morphine wasn't making a dent in his pain.

It also occurred to me that there are a million tiny technologies to be grateful for:

  1. Bendy straws. It sounds silly, but when you have a wound in your neck, being able to drink without looking down is a big freaking deal.

  2. Crocs, NurseMates and the other brand name shoes that keep the nursing staff more comfortable and able to stay on their feet longer and be less cranky. The nursing staff was fantastic, probably not just because of their shoes but isn't it nice to have technology to make their daily lives easier?

  3. Adjustable beds and chairs. We could move his head up, down, forward and backwards, whatever we needed to get him into the right position to eat, sleep, breath better etc. (My only complaint was that the bed was too short for his 6'6" frame). And I got a fairly comfy recliner that I slept in overnight, which allowed me to be a lot less cranky in the morning.

  4. Blackberry, cell phone, wi-fi and laptop technology that allowed me to keep all our friends and family updated (more than they probably wanted!) about what was going on during the surgery and recovery. Plus, IM, email, chat, Twitter, Facebook and text messages that all allowed for different methods to communicate. Suck it Sam Ogden, I'm OK with having options! :)

Ok, you get my point, right? Technology and science rocks. Every minute and penny that people spend on bad science, pseudoscience, 'alternative' medicine and plain old bullshit is time and money that could be inventing the next bendy straw! Think of the opportunity cost of that plus, the time and energy that us skeptics spend debunking and arguing and trying to portray the truth about these idiots and the bad information they spread.

But, when we were up most of the night, watching late night TV and trying to get some rest, we both noticed that pseudoscience is alive and well. Every other commercial was homeopathy, Kevin Trudeau or herbal supplements. The assholes are alive and well. There's much work to do. I take solace in the fact that the science and technology has progressed so much in spite of them. Maybe there's hope for this war after all. If nothing else, we'll probably live longer. :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Non-faith Non-healing

When I was about 13 years old, I was on vacation in India for the summer, visiting relatives. About 2 days before we were scheduled to go home, I developed a cold and a slight fever. My cousin, who was pre-med at the time, told my mom that she should take me to the doctor. Since we were traveling so soon, it was better to get it checked out.

We went to a doctor that my family had known for years. She was friendly and kind and talked to my mom like the old friend that she was. She checked me out and, as she was listening to my heart, noticed that something was not quite right. I had a slightly irregular heartbeat. She then made me drink some water that she said had a "memory" of some of my blood before I was sick, and it would teach my body how to be healthy again. Since then, I have roamed o'er the land by night, drinking the blood of the pure.

Not really. But within 24 hours, I was admitted into the hospital.

I stayed there for nearly a month, unable to leave my bed, as they continued to try to understand what was happening. As it turned out, I had a viral infection that had affected my heart. The doctor said that had I flown home as planned, the altitude would have worsened the condition and she was sure that plane would have had to make an emergency landing.I always think of Dr. Divate when I go to the doctor here in the States. As some of you know, I've been fighting some sort of malingering, hacking crud for nearly 2 months now. I had bronchitis in January, right before TAM 5.5, got on antibiotics to take care of it. I felt OK for about a week (which included the time I was at TAM, thankfully!) but then got sick again. I've pretty much been sick ever since. I'm on the third round of antibiotics, this latest round, prescribed by my doctor over the phone.

My husband went to his pediatrician from when he was a fetus until he was in college, when the doctor retired. Dr. Miles sent his family Christmas cards and had them call him at home, day or night, during emergencies. I think that sort of care and friendship is worth a waiting room full of giant Legos and ducks on the wallpaper.

I know it's a lot to ask, but I really miss having a doctor who actually knows and cares about you. I find that in the U.S., doctors treat the symptoms and don't really spend the time to understand the root cause of the problem. Yesterday, when I told the nurse over the phone that I was concerned that this was becoming pneumonia and that I had been sick for 2 months, she discussed it with the doctor and simply called in a stronger round of antibiotics.

I am feeling better and this round will probably be the last. In addition, I've taken some time off work and am resting, getting fluids, and doing the usual things that will probably help. But I can't help but wonder whether her spending just a little more time with me the past 2-3 times I've been to see her, might have caught something that would have made me feel better faster.
When I take my dogs in to the vet for a procedure, the vet calls us the day after we take them home, to check on them and see how we're doing, even if they just got their rabies booster shots. And you wouldn't believe the extravagant card we got after my husky died, filled with original poems and sketches of Vandal. But the idea of a doctor calling us to check on how we're doing is unheard of. Why do our animals get a better class of health care than we do?

Or, do I just have a crappy doctor? Do you guys have examples of health care professionals who do go the extra mile for you and your family? Do I just need to search for a better doctor? My demands are simple -- I want to be treated with the same attention and dignity as an 11-year-old dog with crappy hips and bad breath. Can I do that here? Or do I just need to save up to put a niece through med school?