Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pain! Wimps! Health Care Crisis!

I'm so rough and tough that I don't go to a doc for ouchies.1 So after spraining my right ham last September in an ill-advised dismount from a sailboard, I skipped medical advice. Couldn't sit down for more than a week, mind you, but I figured I could deal with it myself.

Six months later, it still hurt. My doc sent me to a physiatrist.2

I walked in thinking, "I'm such a wimp!" And the physiatrist said, "Let's start with two visits a week for four weeks."

I was stunned. I'd expected something just short of ridicule. I said, "How about one visit a week for two weeks?"

Later, I phoned my doctor and said, "I'm looking for a reality check. Could I really need that much therapy? Are they just looking for business?" He said I could get a second opinion.

Then I thought, "What am I complaining about?" I say it hurts, and they agree!

I went in to the physical therapist today. She had me lie down and put the leg in the air so she could find the scar tissue. Then she leaned on my calf, peered around my ankle, and said, "What did you decide about how often you're going to come in?"

Instead of saying "Owwww! Let go of my leg!" (because I'm so rough and tough, remember?), I gasped, "I decided to follow your recommendation."

She made a fist, drew one elbow back toward her waist, and said "Yes!" Next came ultrasound, ice, and electrical stimulation with electrodes taped to what the beauty-pageant people might call the "fanny overhang." I've got two visits next week.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not at Kaiser Permanente any more. Then again, I'm now part of the great American health care cost crisis.

My witto weg hurts. Maybe there's a Thumbsuckers Anonymous out there--when the leg's back to normal, I may need to join.

1Thanks to my early training in the Kaiser Permanente Health Care system, which wouldn't hold your hand back then unless it was broken. They're better now. Still, I have a niece in the Kaiser system who's had a strain in her Achilles tendon for a couple of years now. If you ask me, a healthy twenty-something who can't walk more than a half-hour at a time is not getting enough treatment.
2That's a doctor who's an orthopedic nonsurgeon. A sports doctor, pretty much.


Rachael said...

First of all, you have to ask for help to get it, I don't think you can blame Kaiser for me not calling back and saying "it still hurts."

You really expect(ed) to be cured in 2 visits?

I miss Kaiser, it's not an option at my new job.

FididdlyDaily said...

I know you love Kaiser, and I don't want to sound harsh. Kaiser is much better than it used to be. I bet the employees even smile nowadays. When I was a kid they hardly ever cleaned the waiting-room floors.

No matter how wonderful Kaiser is, there is no way that you should think it's okay to live with chronic, debilitating pain.

I expected the sports-medicine place to say "Quit whining!" and send me home. That's Kaiser training.

The only other time I had physical therapy I needed just ONE visit. It was for a neck problem (a mushy disc) that I had for ten solid years, thanks to lack of treatment. The first independent doctor who saw it sent me to physical therapy, where a therapist explained to me what had caused the problem and what I had to do to fix it (plus doing ultrasound, etc.). There would have been more visits, but I moved away. Still, I learned enough to get rid of the problem myself.

It looks as if the hamstring problem will take ten visits in all.