Let Me Hear Your Voice

The last few days, my goal has been simply to get out of my apartment and go for a walk. I didn’t make it today. The pain in my face is excruciating. Looking at it in the mirror is equally painful. The cheekbones are caving in. My nose now looks like a big, honking truck in the middle of my face. Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve taken a Vicodin left over from my unnecessary surgery in order to manage the pain.

Two years ago, a doctor removed vital structures from my nose and a large quantity of bone from my face for no medical reason. And without mentioning it to me.

I’ve seen a number of doctors since this happened. I’ve watched the color drain from their faces as they read the surgery report.  “A Caldwell-Luc?!” one exclaimed. “That’s a last resort!” Another dropped the report in my lap as if it had burned his fingers. “No charge for the appointment,” he said to his assistant as he backed out of the room. I was certain the one with a kind face was going to help me. He read the surgery report and quickly handed it back. “He was just trying to help you,” he said.

That one is stuck in my mind today. I called my daughter. “Help me with what?” I asked her. “What was he trying to help me with? Did you ever hear me complain? I was at your wedding two weeks before the surgery. Did I have any breathing problems?”

“No,” my daughter said. “Never. At the time I wondered…then you said it was for polyps. I didn’t know anything about polyps.”

Neither did I. I had never heard of sinus polyps. That’s how much of an issue they’d been in my life. I had seen the ENT for tinnitus—ear ringing.

The last plastic surgeon I saw was willing to do the surgery, but he wanted to remove a fourth of my nose. I ran. I didn’t want anything removed. I wanted things added back. I didn’t realize how much of my face had disappeared. Some more had to shrink away before I accepted the horror.

This was removed from my face: “multiple pieces of flat bone and cartilage, in aggregate measuring 4.0 x 4.0 x 0.2 cm.” I didn’t know until six weeks after the surgery. Then, smothering and in agony, I requested my surgery reports. Later that evening, I read those words. That’s how I found out I’d been maimed by a surgeon who’d said he was going to remove a polyp.

It took more time to focus on the term, Caldwell-Luc, in the surgery report. The term meant nothing since I’d never had a sinus issue or seen a doctor for one.  In Peterson’s Principles Of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Volume 1, page 307, published in 2004, the Caldwell-Luc is referred to as “obsolete”: Google Book Link. In other publications, Caldwell-Luc is mentioned as a being an option only in cases of cancer, or possibly, cystic fibrosis. Even in these cases, it is a last resort. It is an invasive and destructive surgery. Why was it a first resort surgery for an asymptomatic patient?

How can this happen? It can happen because medical malpractice has been all but legislated out of existence in the state of Ohio as well as in most other parts of the country. It can happen because doctors cover it up: http://www.patient-safety.com/defensive_documentation.htm.

Does anybody care? Not just about what happened to me, but about the fact that this can and does happen. If you care, please raise your hand. Send me a message or an e-mail: ens311@gmail.com. Tell me your story. Let me hear your voice.

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~ by ens3 on January 19, 2010.

2 Responses to “Let Me Hear Your Voice”

  1. Doctorblue, Thank you for speaking up. I have read some of your blog. I hope to get you and I and those dozen others, and the thousands of others, together in one place. You say you have to believe that a group as large as we are–assembled–could have a voice and make a positive impact. I have to believe that, too. Joel at Patient Safety has made a place. You might want to talk to him about that.

    I am encouraged to hear about Virginia’s Supreme Court ruling. I am rooting for you to get through all the steps you outline and make that documentary. I would love to be part of it, but like most of us, I face some obstacles. Possibly they can be overcome.

    I think you are right about that boat load of money. How sad.

    My story is even more complex–and horrifying–than I am able to tell on this blog. I have written a book which I hope to make available soon. Meanwhile, I can’t find a contact e-mail address for you. Please contact me at ens311@gmail.com.

    Our separate voices may be lost in the wind, but together we will be heard.

  2. ens, I’m raising my hand. What happened to you is beyond words. I’m appalled this can happen and the injured patient has no way of getting restitution. It’s hard to stomach.

    I’ve left comments before so you may already be familiar with my story at http://doctorblue.wordpress.com. I’ve run across more than a dozen other blogs like mine — about patients whose doctors justified their fees by spouting some throw-away diagnosis rather than trying to help the patient heal — so I’m feeling rather typical compared to what happened to you.

    These patients all have similar symptoms akin to Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme…which most conventional doctors don’t have a clue about so they just tell the patient she or he is fine, writes a referral or prescribes antidepressants for a fee. The patient ends up disabled. I don’t know how these doctors can live with themselves.

    And they all protect each other at the patient’s expense because they know doing otherwise in our society is career suicide. It really shows you what their priorities are and that this is really an “eat or be eaten” society. Take no prisoners. Shoot or get shot. Everyone for himself. This is the wild west.

    With all the injured patients that I’ve encountered on the internet and in hospitals, doctors’ offices, etc., I have to believe that a group that large — assembled — could have a voice and make a positive impact. The problem is finding someone with enough energy and resources to try to unite the group. We’re all chronically ill and broke! Joel at PatientSafety.com has similar thoughts and is trying to help us all link together to get greater visibility. But I guess you knew that given that I found his link on your blog.

    The one thing that gives me hope is that in Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that in cases involving continuity of care for the same medical error, the statute of limitations tolls until treatment ends. That gives me enough time to get the surgery and treatment I need to get on the road to recovery while I try to raise the money I need for a malpractice suit. I’ve already identified the attorney I want to handle the case. I also want to find a way to make the trial into a documentary so the public can hear how doctors defend their outlandish behavior.

    My goal is what keeps me motivated. It would be great if the documentary could include stories like yours. When I mentioned this to Joel he said that many patients are afraid of naming names due to retribution from doctors. They are also afraid of being sued. Nonetheless, we both believe there are enough people out there like me with nothing left to lose willing to stick their necks out. It would be an amazing documentary! And I’m counting on people like you to do whatever you can to pass the word. I saw that you’ve already posted a link to my blog for which I am very very grateful. Your blog gives me inspiration.

    I bet if you had a boat-load of money, there would be a plastic surgeon who would be willing and able to help you as well. These days surgeons can separate conjoined twins, for God sake! I also know that there are integrative doctors out there who can correctly diagnose and treat many of the patients with disorders like mine. No one should have to spend money doctor-hopping to no avail only to be told you’re making yourself physiologically ill with your mind.

    There have to be philanthropists out there willing to help people like us. It’s just a matter of getting their attention and making an impression to elicit some compassion.

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