And They Call This Health Care
After I was injured and maimed by a surgeon, the biggest shock was how I was treated by health care providers. My nasal and sinus membranes had been ripped out. My nasal cavities and sinuses were raw and infected. A pile of bone and cartilage had been drilled and power-sawed out of my face, for no medical reason. If a psychopath had broken into my home and done this to me, doctors would have donned their super-hero capes, and flown to my rescue.
However, one of their own had done it. And this is how they responded:
Dr. F. read the report of what the surgeon had done, as I sobbed, and described pain, intense nasal dryness, and suffocation. He noted that I was “raw and infected.” “Have you heard of Sjogren’s?” he asked. Sjogren’s is an autoimmune disorder that causes minor drying of the mucous membranes. “I don’t have Sjogren’s,” I said, with unmasked disgust. It was impossible not to see Dr. F.’s agenda, in that moment, and feel like disposable trash.
I was raw, infected, crying, and gasping for breath. Dr. F. ordered an antibiotic, and asked his assistant make me a follow-up appointment for five weeks later. Five weeks.
In the letter he wrote to my GP, he devoted considerable space to defending the surgeon’s rationale in doing a baseless surgery. He used my words out of context to create a skillfully crafted lie about what I had said. He manipulated medical facts and terminology, in the same way. Even my GP—not as well trained as the specialist–was stunned by the letter.
Dr. F. didn’t bother to culture my infection until two rounds of antibiotic had failed to cure it, and it had taken over. The infection was antibiotic-resistant. Even when this became apparent, he left me on the wrong antibiotic and postponed doing a culture until I finished the inappropriate antibiotic in five more days.
I was vulnerable to developing atrophic rhinitis, a rotting condition of the sinuses, caused, in the developed world, by aggressive sinus surgery. Infection following surgery is a factor in its development. My life—really–hung in the balance, as Dr. F. endeavored, first, to cover the surgeon’s ass, and then his own.
Dr. F. refused to answer my questions. He ignored my e-mails. He refused to provide referrals that I needed in order to see other specialists. I had to haggle with his assistant, K., who was mean and verbally abusive, over every simple request.
When I saw Dr. K., he was hostile. “Put away your notes,” he said. “I don’t have time for that.” He proclaimed the surgery a success, and my mucous membranes “pink and healthy,” even though I had acinetobacter infection, intolerable dryness, a nasal deformity, and I couldn’t breathe. “Why is my nose collapsing?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “What do you want from me…a deposition?”
How odd that my mucous membranes were “pink and healthy,” at their worst, but now—a year later–they are dry, purple, and atrophic.
When I saw plastic surgeon, Dr. H., he demanded to know why I was in his office as I had an excellent doctor—Dr. F. I pointed out that Dr. F is not a plastic surgeon. He decreed that even though my nose was smaller and different than the pre-surgery photos, the surgeon had not done it, as he had not mentioned any reductions in his report. The photos—head shots– were dated on the back, by the film processor, and had been taken three months prior to the surgery. When I asked him to look at my before-and-after CT scans, he ordered me out of his office with a great sweeping gesture, as if demanding the removal of a bum.
At one point, Dr. F.’s assistant, K. gave me a card stating that I had an appointment with both Dr. F. and his partner, Dr. S., the ENT plastic surgeon at the medical center, together, in three months’ time. Dr. F. had agreed that he and his partner would operate together to rebuild my septum and reshape my nose. But K. never made the appointment with Dr. S. When I discovered this the day before the double appointment, and begged her to help, she chewed me out for bothering her in the last fifteen minutes of her day.
When I did see Dr. S.—without Dr. F.–he announced that the bridge of my nose had atrophied away due to aging—and in three months time! Then he asked when Dr. F.—his partner—had done the surgery.
Dr. F. refused to provide a letter that I needed regarding my condition. When he finally did, the letter was a slap in my face, stating that I had such terrible sinus problems “that surgery was performed in the past due to the severity of them.” He knew better. I had shown him a letter from my GP stating that I had never been seen for a sinus condition in six years with her office.
His crowning cruelty was canceling an appointment that had been on the books for five months without notifying me, at a time when I desperately needed it.
Words like “histrionic” and “personality disorder” began to appear in my permanent medical records. Dr. F. is now taking time out of his busy day to call my physicians—several have told me—and telling them these things.
They say that a woman who has been raped and reports it, is raped a second time by the system. It is what happened to me.
These are only a few of the blows I took from the medical world, at a time that I barely had the strength to make it into their offices. I was dancing on hot coals. I couldn’t breathe. My head was exploding with pain. I spent my days hanging upside-down, trying to get blood to flow into my nasal area, sniffing oranges, pacing to subdue panic, crying, praying, cramming products up my nose, searching the Internet for a miracle.
It goes without saying, these days, that body and mind are interwoven. The “care” I received from the medical world was anti-care. It was destructive. The stress hormones produced by all this hatefulness created more free radicals, more inflammation, more autoimmune reaction, more pain, more swelling, more infection, more depression and insomnia. It delayed, and perhaps, prevented, healing. The words came to me numerous times, in the midst of this hell: “And they call this health care.”