Our New Medical System…

When I was a kid, when we got sick, Mom took us in to the Clinic on base, and we were ‘fixed.’  And that was that.  Today it is quite different.

Just after I retired in 2006, I broke my hand.  So I got in my car and headed off to the Emergency Room (ER), at St. Luke’s.  The ER  was empty and I got right in.  But first I had to play “Stump the Dummy” with the receptionist.  He really was a nice guy; ‘moonlighting’ to make extra money to send his kids to college.  As the interview concluded, he asked me to look at this “pain chart” – to tell him on a scale of 1 to 10, how I would rate my pain at the time.  Really?  Okay…

So, I looked at it.  And I looked at it, fully aware of what I was doing.  After a while he asked me if I understood what he was asking.  (These ‘young kids’ are so fun to play with!)  “Oh yeah, I understand perfectly,” I replied, “I am just looking for the description that says ‘Hurts like a mother-fucker.'”  He wanted to laugh, then “professionalism” set in!  LOL!

I then was sent back to X-Ray.  When the doctor finally got back to my stall, he looked at the film and proclaimed, “Yep, your hand is broken!”  Really?  The only thing he could do at that time, was wrap it and offer me a plethora of drugs.  Pain killers.  I declined anything, and went home.  Hell, I could have wrapped the damn thing myself.

The next day I had to drive to my family doctor’s office, about 20 miles north of me.  After playing Round 2 of “Stump the Dummy” with his staff, I got in to see him.  He called up the film (which I thought was pretty cool), and remarked, “Yep, your hand is broke!”

“No shit,” I replied, and he looked astonished I would react that way!  I went on to tell him that I heard it snap the night before, so it wasn’t any great surprise to me.  He explained that he couldn’t do anything else and set me up for an appointment the next day with a orthopedic surgeon.  And then he offered a laundry list of pain killers for me.  Again, I declined anything…

Finally, on Friday I got in to see someone who could do something about my hand.  However, the first thing he says, after looking at my X-ray was, “Looks like you really broke your hand!”  By this time, my ‘No Shit’ light was really burning bright!  But, I just bit my tongue…

After the hand was set in a cast he asked me what I would like for pain management.  When I told him nothing, he just looked at me.  Interesting.

And so, to summarize, I break my hand on Wednesday night, and it is finally set on Friday afternoon.  When I was a kid in Puerto Rico I broke my arm one Sunday afternoon.  By 7 that evening my arm was in a cast.  One stop, 2 to 3 hours, at the base clinic.  In comparison, to get my hand set in 2006, it took almost 2 days; 3 rounds of “Stump the Dummy;” 3 doctors and 85 miles of driving!  And this is considered ‘progress’ in our national health care system!

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