The State of Health Care

There is a huge problem with medical care in this country.

I've been dealing with spine issues since I was 16; that's 15 years. I had an artificial disc replacement in 2005, which gave me about two months of wonderful, glorious relief. After 16 months of doctors not listening to me, I finally found one who did...who realized from a 13 month old CT scan that I had two fractures at the L5 level caused by the artificial disc. By the time they did a second CT scan that number increased to three fractures. I had a second surgery in February 2007 to fuse the L5 vertebrae, but not the entire L5/S1 level.

Since the surgery I have actually gotten worse. I've seen my spine surgeon twice and two pain management docs; I've had two epidural injections, tried four anti-inflammatory medications and also some weird device thingy that pulses electric frequencies through your body. Nothing helped. The pain is now at levels that I'm having a very difficult time tolerating, and I'm about crawling out of my skin.

What it comes down to is that I have basically been discarded in the medical system. Docs are great when they know what is wrong with you, but the moment you have something a bit complex you are pushed to the side of the road. You set up an appointment. You arrive and sit in an uncomfortable chair for 60-90 minutes before the doc finally comes in. At that point the clock starts running - you have two minutes, if you're lucky. You try to give him the key points but the doc, in the interest of time, keeps interrupting you and comes to his own conclusion of what you are trying to say. You leave with nothing. No answers, no solutions. No "Here's what we should do to find out why you are experiencing pain unlike anything you've experienced in your life." Absolutely nothing but several hours spent away from work that you now have to make up.

People say that Cleveland has some of the best healthcare in the country. Sure, I suppose that is true if it is regarding heart or cancer care. Those things you can diagnose with a scan or a test. I'm glad I do not have problems in either of those areas, but I do sometimes wish I did. Then I would have answers. I would have solutions, even if it wasn't positive. I'd rather have something than "nothing".

I received a survey from The Cleveland Clinic this week regarding their Spine care. Based on the survey, it appears they are looking into block scheduling their patients. Basically, you would arrive for a 10am appointment along with other people with "similar issues." A qualified medical professional then meets with you all at once and you discuss your problem and treatment options. The survey even asks what you prefer more - waiting less than 5 days for an appointment in a group setting or waiting more than 15 days for a one-on-one appointment.

Is this what medical care is coming to? Group appointments? Can anyone say HIPPA violation? How about the part where I would be grouped with others like me - huh? Who else out there had Lyme for four years, followed up by 15 years of back issues that include an artificial disc and then a partial fusion? My guess is there are less than five people on this planet with that type of history.

I know that my medical history is unique and challenging. But why is it so darn difficult to find one doctor out there who takes a look at the big picture? It's not all the fault of the physicians. The medical system is extremely messed up and complicated. I actually work in the healthcare industry, so I see it first hand. Docs are working long hours with less pay. Fewer docs are going into the field. Medical care is at the highest demand ever. Hospitals are having a difficult time staying afloat, so they put all of their resources into the high-paying specialties - heart, cancer and orthopedics. But the thing with orthopedics is that in order to make money you have to have the surgical volume. The medical side of orthopedics doesn't put more money in the docs pocket. So, they look for people they can cut. And if they can't cut them they push them to pain management.

Even the pain management people feel the pinch. They need to do procedures such as injections to make their dollars. If all they have is a patient who needs medications they could care less. It's not going to put food on their table.

So where does this leave me? Alone and on my own. I have an appointment with an acupuncturist who is claimed to be a "miracle worker," so hopefully he'll perform a miracle for me. If that doesn't work then what will I do? Who knows. Maybe I'll go back to the crazy pain mgmt lady in Medina who wanted to pump me full of drugs and run all of these tests (so she could make her money off of me). Maybe that's what it's come to.

I know this is probably the lack of sleep and frustration of constant pain talking, but I just feel like all my future holds at this point is a life of pain. I don't want to be that person who is on disability, unable to work and on pain meds to get through a day. Yet I sometimes wonder if that is my future no matter how hard I fight it. Like "Lost" - if it's going to happen, it will happen. You might be able to avoid it through various methods, but in the end Charlie will still end up dead.

No comments: