Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Letter I Wish I'd Written

Today, I had an experience that was nothing short of infuriating. In all honesty, it's been ongoing for about the last week, but today the fat lady sung. The fork was jabbed in. The camel's back was broken.

How fitting, because this post has to do with my gimp back...and neck. For those of you not totally caught up, I was in a car accident back in May. According to doctors, I shouldn't have lived through it, much less walked out of the hospital (albeit on crutches, but I digress...). There. You're now caught up.

Anyway, things seemed to be moving along in my treatment until last Wednesday. Then, I received a set of steroid injections that a) I didn't tolerate very well, and b) was the beginning of a downward spiral. The day of, they even asked me if I was okay, telling me that I looked like I didn't feel very good, and I confirmed that I was indeed out of it. I didn't think much about it, but little did I know, that was the beginning of the end. On Thursday, my back was burning at the injection sites, which, oddly enough, I wasn't too concerned about, as that can sometimes happen.

Friday was a completely different story. Late Friday afternoon (of course it always happens on a Friday), I felt searing, burning, stabbing, constant pain in my lower back--almost like my tailbone and lower spine were going to poke right out of my back. I was wailing. I was actually contemplating asking other doctors I knew if a tailbone was really necessary and could they surgically remove it? I was in agony. Those who know me--and if you don't, I'm about to tell you--it takes a lot for me to say that. It takes even more for me to call the on-call doctor after hours, and more still, to actually make a trip to the emergency room for some relief. One thing I was not, however, was making any of this up by any stretch of the imagination.

After several days of being made to feel like that was, in fact, what I was doing, the final straw for me came today when I followed up with my pain care doctor. What was so different? The physician's assistant called me a liar without using those exact words.

This sparked a very eloquent but forthright nastygram to my attorney (minus profanity, even!), but in thinking about things, there are a few things, that, if those health care professionals were sitting in front of me right now, I wish I had said. When I first set out to write this, I wanted to tell these people what jacktards I thought they were, and what jacktards I thought their mother, and their mother's mother were, but we all know that wouldn't get me very far. I wanted you to know that if you were ever under my care, I would get back at you by hiding the key to the door that houses all the medications. I'm not going to publish what I wrote to my lawyer because of some confidential information, but I think this will get the point across as to what happened, and most of all, I'll get to feel better without violence or profanity.

To those of you involved in my events related to car accident-induced pain over the weekend: 

I am shocked. Shocked and sad. Over this past weekend, I have dealt with pain that, before last Friday, I didn't know existed, but I hope I will never know again--particularly after the way my situation was handled. 

I'm generally not "that person" who complains often and because I think the "squeaky wheel gets the grease"; in fact, I'm usually the one that stays quiet because, as a nurse, I have a deep appreciation for what you do and how busy you are. However, after being treated as though I consulted you for a "score," I've been pushed over the edge. 

As I mentioned, I am part of your club. I am one of you, and as such, I always strove to be the gold-star patient, because, as I mentioned before, I get it. I know what it's like to be so busy you feel like you can't keep your head above water, and then to have someone come in with what seems like a menial complaint that adds to your workload is infuriating. But my pain was--and is--very much real. You have to know that as a healthcare professional, it took a lot for me to even seek help in the ER. I didn't want to be there, but again, I was trying to play nice in the sandbox and do exactly what my doctor suggested I do. 

As it turns out, your colleague who saw me back in my room treated me like a real person who felt secure in her convictions that she was indeed in pain and it was in fact severe. She didn't cut me off at every sentence and let me know just how annoying I was because I had come in with a menial complaint. Perhaps you could take a lesson from her. To the physician's assistant in the ER who saw me, thank you for understanding that I had to think things were B-A-D to even darken your door. I don't think I should have had to push through "please don't blow me off--I'm not a drug-seeker" while crying and hyperventilating at the same time, but you didn't require that of me. 

To the PA who saw me at the pain care clinic today: I hope you're never in my position, because I guarantee you that, if you ever were, you wouldn't like it at all. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you did something worse than write a nasty-gram. Surely, as a professional working in pain care, you recall that pain is subjective. It is exactly as bad as the person experiencing it says it is. Perhaps you missed that lesson in your studies, but I guarantee you that was drilled into my head in nursing school. Then again, maybe you haven't had the greatest of teachers if your boss' response to complaints of pain is, "Ice is the best pain reliever." By the way--I asked him how it was possible that he has a job if that's actually the case; someone as smart and well-educated as he is didn't have an answer. 

Anyway, back to you. I don't know if you were having a bad day or what, but you had absolutely no right to take it out on me, and I won't stand for that. Just so you know, I've also told my attorney this, and I'll be curious to hear what she has to say about it. The thing I really want to say to you right now is How dare you? How dare you call me a liar and try to put me down for a) doing what I was told, and b) feeling how I feel? Again, I guarantee that if you had been in my position, you wouldn't have liked it very much. I don't know where you lost your bedside manner, but you'd better either reclaim it or find another job, because you absolutely cannot treat people the way you treated me today. 

I'm sure I could go on and on about this, but I think I got my point across. Do I think these people will ever see this? I doubt it. Do I deserve an apology? You'd better believe it. Am I going to hold my breath waiting for it? No. I've always been a firm believer in my industry and those who perform within it, but I can finally understand why people get so frustrated and angry; right now I'm both of those things, and it hurts my heart to say it. My feelings are hurt, which only adds to my pain. Thanks, guys.

In all honesty, though, my hope is this: if these people ever find themselves on my side of the coin--regardless of the condition--I hope they have better clinicians and caretakers than they were to me.

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