Having lived with my arm in pain for roughly six years and having spent a year of that time trying to get the pain to go away, I quickly realized that the medical industry is seriously lacking an ability to manage pain. It turned out that chronic moderate pain was out of scope for most practitioners and the response was mostly “live with it”. No methods for coping with the physical pain, no treatments, nothing. I dealt with it and adapted – but always yearned for the pain to go away.
Finally last week I had a procedure (interposition arthoplasty w/an allographed tendon) done to get rid of the pain. I was pretty excited at the re-assurance the procedure would result in the pain levels going down and was ready to deal with a few days recovering on pain medications. There were the usual assurances on the amount of time it would take to recover and the level of pain I would be in during the recovery.
After getting home and having the general anesthesia wear off, I found that the pain medication they gave me wasn’t working. I thought maybe it was some extra swelling or maybe I wasn’t taking it easy enough, so I waited – taking it easy, arm raised, and regularly taking the perscribed doses. As the evening went on, the pain got worse and we started calling the numbers the UW Medical Center (UWMC) provided us. My wife was calling, frustrated that I couldn’t sleep because the pain was too much and both of us concerned with taking too many of the medications. The UWMC nurse lines that answered said there was no way to reach the surgeon and if we wanted relief, we needed to go to the ER… Great 1am and the only option is to get the kids up and ddrive the family to the ER for who knows what. My wife thought it through and called our medical providers nurse line. After a quick discussion we decided using benadryl to knock me out would be more effective, get a faster response, and be less costly for everyone. Of course this worked like a charm, while I didn’t sleep like a baby, I slept and was prepared to attack the pain on Saturday morning.
We quickly found that despite it not being 1am, we were up against the same problem – everyone at UW Medicine had the response of “go to the ER” – ok fine. We’ll figure out what to do with the kids and come in… off we went for what we expected would be a visit with an orthopedic specialist, after all this hospital had all the records of what they did to my arm two days prior. When we arrived and explained who we were, we were confronted with the usual questions – occupation, address of the place you work, etc. Ok, fine – so the people in admitting are incompetent – surely when we get triaged, they’ll have all our records and get us routed to the right place…
Well the incomptetance didn’t stop, no one in the hospital had any clue about what their surgeon did to me a few days ago, in fact they didn’t even know what I told the triage nurse, or any of the other nurses. In total we saw three nurses, sat in a room for four hours and were ultimately given two pills of a different medicine. Of course this other medicine worked and after some research on the internet (that my wife and I did on our mobiles while we waited) proved that the need to use a different medication like this is common. Of course none of the nurses beleived us, they all blamed poor care at home, a lack of staying on the pain medications, and all the other things I could have done to screw up. So – I was sent home with instructions to use the original perscription and told everything would be better again. A few hours after getting home – he arm started hurting again and we were at square one!
This time my wife was irate and started calling the UW again – crying, yelling, anything to get someone to respond. This time they agreed to page a surgeon and he would call us back. Thankfully my wife didn’t stop there and she called the medical provider nurse line again to get a second opinion over the phone. It took a few more hours and by the time the surgeon called it was nearly midnight again. The surgeon asked a few basic questions – reviewed my file – and said that the other pain medication would be the best option, so he wrote a perscription and my wife went to get it Saturday night.
Amazing, hours and hours of pain, hours on the phone with nurse hotlines, four hours with nurses in the UW ER, and this doc spends five minutes reviewing the details and perscribes a solution. If this is everyones experience getting healthcare, no wonder it costs so much. It seems anyone who read the details, understood what was happening, and understood the pain medicine involved could have solved this problem quickly and affordably.