Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health care can suck everywhere

In the past I've mentioned some less than stellar experiences with doctors and/or the medical system in Japan. But I feel that I've tried to acknowledge how my lack of language skills, as well as my relative newness to living in the country, may well have factored into the less than optimal outcomes of my experiences there. To even things out a bit then, and to show that health care everywhere can be....lacking, I've got a story that I'll share regarding the American health care system.

A few weeks ago I went to see my doctor regarding some pain just below the tailbone. If you've ever had a pilonidal cyst, the discomfort is similar. I had a pilonidal cyst about 15 years ago. I was concerned that although I had surgery to correct the matter, perhaps it had returned (they can do that). I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago and while she couldn't see any evidence of a pilonidal cyst, she recommended that I get an x-ray to rule out any fractures etc. that might be causing the discomfort. I went down to radiology as soon as I left her office. Here's where the fun begins.

I didn't have long to wait before the radiologist or technician or whoever (let's call him the radiologist for the sake of conversation) came to get me. He escorted me back to the changing rooms and locker area where he started to show me around and then as we stood in the hallway to the changing room he asked, "Is there any chance you're pregnant?" I laughed and said in an off-hand kind of way, "Oh I suppose." Now some of you may understand that this is an incredibly loaded question for someone who's tried unsuccessfully for 14+ months to get pregnant. Not to mention that we haven't really been trying to prevent a pregnancy for the last few months and despite the fact that my period has not yet returned, we're nowhere near pregnant (several negative pregnancy tests at random intervals have confirmed this). Apparently breast-feeding really *can* be that effective as a measure of birth control. Either that or we're back where we started on the infertility treadmill.

Regardless, when I heard the question, it literally caught me off guard for a moment because as far as I can tell, there's pretty much ZERO chance that I could actually be pregnant, although in theory I suppose it's possible. But I think the radiologist heard my laugh and misconstrued my absolute disbelief as flippancy. He then proceeded to sternly warn me that, "This isn't a joke. This is a very serious matter. We can't take the risk that you might be pregnant." He went on trying to convince me of the gravity of the matter, but as it dawned on me that the hospital needs to limit its liability and sure there is the remotest chance I might be pregnant (ha ha) it also occurred to me that there were other people in the hallway who could likely overhear the whole conversation. I really had no desire to explain my entire reproductive history to the radiologist, never mind the crowd in the hallway, and I basically shutdown. He suggested that I go back to the lab, get a pregnancy test and then return if I had confirmation that I wasn't pregnant.

I headed back to my doctor to get the pregnancy test ordered, but only got as far as the main entrance of the hospital before I finally came unhinged. Not only was the radiologist out of line in as much as it's really not his business to give me a stern lecture about my apparent flippancy, but he then conducted the scolding in public. I was appalled that anyone might even suggest that I could be irresponsible with a pregnancy. He had *no* idea how hard we worked the first time to get pregnant. He had *no* idea how upsetting it was to test and re-test for months on end with no hope in sight. He had *no* idea what was actually going through my mind when I laughed at his question. And he didn't really stop to give me a compassionate moment to gather my thoughts before he launched into his speech.

Once I collected myself, I went to my doctor who agreed to order the pregnancy test. She gently explained that frankly, the dose of radiation and location in which I'd be getting it wouldn't really affect the outcome of a pregnancy. A viable pregnancy would still be viable and honestly, and unviable pregnancy would terminate regardless of the radiation. I went for the test.

It was negative. By then, I was too numb to even cry.

I returned to radiology and was greeted by a new radiologist who was escorted by my previous radiologist (presumably this was the hand-off to my new staff person). I cheerfully assured them that I was "cleared for x-rays" and the old radiologist, the jerk as I like to think of him, then had the nerve to say, "It's probably all for the best" just before he walked away. I almost hurled. "All for the best"? When was the bedside manner class and how did this guy miss it?

Needless to say, while I had previously been handling the whole, "still not getting pregnant" thing the second time around essentially by convincing myself that when the time is right it will happen, my interaction with this guy did set me back some. It's been really hard to forget the whole experience and yet I haven't been able to talk about it much. And perhaps what makes it all worse is that he was only trying to limit his liability. On the one hand, I get that's how things work in the USA. On the other.... how crap-tastic that I get to deal with emotional trauma so that he doesn't have to go to court.


  1. OMG, I cant believe what a jerk that guy was to you!!! How insensitive and unprofessional of him. In all honesty, it reminded me of a few experiences I had here in Japan. And despite being fluent in the language, some staff feel the need to shout at you anyway in the hallways and waiting rooms when asking personal quetions like these. It riles me to no end!!! I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that! ((((HUGS))) and I hope that you have found the source of the sore back problem and are getting properly treated for it! What a jerk! I guess it's not just Japan that breeds insensitive "textbook" medical staff, and I am sorry you had to encounter one in the US... ((((more hugs))))

  2. That sounds awful. I am so sorry. What a jerk. Hope you're feeling better today.

  3. :( I'm sorry again that this happened to you. Some people can be SO insensitive, thinking that they know your situation and can judge and lecture like that.

  4. On an unrelated note, I have become obsessed with trying the tomato soup cupcake, and I'm absolutely furious at the store for not having the specialty cupcakes in stock until 11 am. That *totally* doesn't work with our nap schedule. ARG! ME WANT CUPCAKE!

  5. Sorry you had to be subjected to that. Just the fact that his lecture was in public is bad enouhg not to mention the insensitive nature of it. Hopefully you will come across some lovely medical professionals soon.

  6. Emotions run so high around all aspects of health, you'd think that health care workers would hone a better and better bedside manner as the years progress.

  7. I'm so sorry you had to go through that! And I pray that you guys will be blessed again, like you said, when the timing is right!!!

    BTW - I was wondering what kind of health insurance you have in the US?

  8. Oh what a jerk! I think I would have responded the same way - laughing and then shutting down. Ugh! It makes me mad just reading that story. He was so out of line.

    I hope you're feeling better. Long distance hug vibes from over here in MN.

  9. *big hug* sounds like a total nimrod. i'm sorry you had to go through that. hope your tailbone feels better. i cracked mine a few years ago and man that's just not fun.