My parents come from a generation of medical specialists who were trained to diagnose illness through hands-on, interpersonal communication. They used their experience and expertise to make a diagnosis and ran tests to confirm them, rather than running unnecessary tests to diagnose an illness. My dad is an ER doctor and my mom an ER nurse; they worked in an environment where doctors and nurses worked together, followed their instincts and saved lives. If a patient needed a recommendation to another specialist, they would recommend the best doctor for the job and it was mutually understood by patient, their families and the doctors, that the patient’s health was everyone’s number one priority.
I’ve lived in LA now for almost 6 years and it took me more than half of that time to find a decent doctor that I could trust. After I found him, it took me another 3 months to get an appointment, and getting in to see him requires significant lead time. If I have an emergency, I’m at the mercy of the MDR ER doctors and nurses, who have no knowledge of my medical history or prior injuries. Yet the amount of time and effort (not to mention money) it took to find my doctor was all worth it, and I put up with it because I have to. Because the alternative only ends much worse if an emergency happens, something I would never know if it weren’t for my family’s medical experience.
My sister is an x-ray technician at a Denver hospital and we were together celebrating her wedding last weekend. One night she and I were talking about the challenges of her job, caused by either medical insurance companies, doctors who are burned out, or worse — both. I was so alarmed by the information that I feel a responsibility to share with all of you, so we can take back control of our health and our bodies, through long-term self-care that builds resilience and strength. Because I believe we all deserve to feel good, and no woman should ever find herself at the mercy of a broken medical system.
Last year, Denver experienced a series of shattering hail storms. Chunks of ice as large as golf balls rained from the sky destroying the roofs homes and buildings, totaling cars, and shattering glass windows. The hospital where my sister works was damaged in the storms, she said they’ve had problems with everything from broken generators, to mold in the walls and holes in the roof. The hospital administration, a very well-paid group of administrators, claims they can’t afford to fix the growing list of issues, so they’ve opted to build a new hospital across the street after months of ongoing problems. And in the meantime, the nurses and doctors are treating patients in unsafe environments with broken equipment, and the patients whose lives depend on their medical treatment are none-the-wiser.
Compounding that issue, she added, is the fact that good doctors are refusing to work with my sister’s department because insurance only allows them to use Stryker equipment. Business contracts and profit margins are hindering their to do their jobs properly. Which ultimately means, doctors are no longer able to choose the equipment that’s best for treating the individual needs of their patients, forcing good doctors to seek alternative x-ray and medical imaging centers. Others are jerry-rigging their process for diagnosis and treatment, often leading to further illnesses and complications for the patients.
But the most disturbing information she shared with me was the lack of care from doctors and specialists who are burned out. They go through the motions with little-to-no attention to detail; details that can result of the loss of a patient’s life. Radiologists make high six-figures and my sister has seen reports that completely overlook the issue the patient came in for, even when it was called out in their medical charts when the x-rays were reviewed. She told me that a child under the age of 14 has a significantly higher risk of getting cancer in life when they are exposed to radiation from multiple x-rays and doctors will order additional images unnecessarily, knowing that whatever they are looking to find can be seen in a single X-Ray. And if they aren’t aware of that, it’s only further proof that doctors no longer know how to treat patients appropriately, they are relying on tests to point the way — yet again, to the detriment of the patient’s health, and their wallets. Adding insult to injury, she said insurance companies will often require unnecessary tests simply so they can collect on the out-of-pocket costs, as if we aren’t paying high enough premiums already.
If any of us ever find ourselves in a position where we are relying on radiologists and doctors to properly diagnose our illnesses, and god forbid they be anything serious like a cancerous tumor, we can all only hope that somewhere within that process we have someone who cares as much as my sister does. Someone who will call the doctors back to request fewer images on young patients, someone who will double check the radiologists’ reports to ensure they read the patient’s file properly and addressed the issue, and in spite of all the challenges coming their way, chooses to put the patient first and not give in to a broken system. This is why self-care matters, we can no longer rely on treatment when we get sick and we must question everything. We must take care of our minds and our bodies, adopt whatever rituals we can that help us wake up to our lives and be present. Self-care is preventative-care. It builds a resilience that can, and might, save our lives one day.
We can’t rely on medical treatment when we get sick. Now what? was originally published in we are all daughters. on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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