So I’m sitting in the treatment room on my first visit to Dr. Suzanne Lamanna and the almost-an-LPN has just told me that this appointment is “just a meet-and-greet,” then she tries to take my blood pressure. She fails to manipulate the blood pressure cuff properly so it takes her two or three tries to get it right. Meanwhile, she has put the clip on my finger to get my oxygen level and pulse. The clip is attached to a relatively large yellow box that is loudly beeping in my face. It bothers me. A lot. A doctor explained to me that most people’s brains habituate, that is, when confronted by anything that is repetitious they adjust to it and relegate it to the level of background noise. My brain doesn’t. It keeps spiking with excitement every time the stimuli occurs. In other words, repeated stimuli drives me up the wall.
The box is registering numbers, so I pull the clip off my finger. Nicole immediately puts it back on, saying that it takes two minutes to get the pulse right. I ask her if there is any way to shut off the beeping and she takes the clip off my finger and leaves the room. Huh. What’s up with that?
Shortly she returns, led by another young woman in scrubs who flounces over to the counter, looks at my chart and—with her back to me—snaps, “So what’s the problem here?”
Offhand, I’d say that the problem is that Nicole doesn’t have the intelligence or skill set to check my pulse manually. All she had to do after she took the clip off my finger was put her fingers on my wrist but she’s a new age child who is unable to function without a machine. All I did was ask for the irritant to stop and look what that’s gotten me—another irritant. Instead of accommodating the individual needs of a particular patient, Nicole ran and told mommy that the patient wasn’t playing nice.
So Miss Flouncy-butt demands to know what the problem is. I reply, “What’s your name?” Well, that pisses her off even more. She says “Samantha” and we have a brief exchange about data gathering. Then she puts her hands on her hips and snaps, “We have to have the information!”
Why? What are they going to do with it? Treat me? They have no idea what’s wrong with me; their data gathering hasn’t included a medical history and, besides, today’s “just a meet-and-greet,” remember? They’re not going to treat me for anything, so what do they need my vital statistics for? Samantha’s belligerent attitude has triggered counter-belligerence in me. She said, “We have to have the information,” and I snapped, “Tough!”
I point out that the patient has the right to refuse any procedure and the medical care provider simply has to accept that and go on. Most people don’t know that. You are under no obligation to let any medical provider do anything to you. You have the right to refuse unless, of course, you’re dealing with the psychiatric arm of medicine, in which case they can illegally coerce you into doing lots of things that aren’t good for you. Legally, you don’t have to submit to any medical procedure, including having a machine check your pulse. You only have to do those things which you believe will be in your best interest. Since this is “just a meet-and-greet” they don’t need my pulse rate and will not get me to tolerate a painful beeping sound.
Of course, nobody is listening to my learned dissertation on patients’ rights: the almost-an-LPN and Miss Flouncy-butt are hot-footing it down the hall to get Sister Suzanne and rat me out for not being obedient.
Sister Suzanne/Doctor Lamanna and I meet in the hall. She asks me what the problem is. I start by telling her about the black box and me having to sign away my rights without getting a hard copy. Doctor Suzanne/Sister Lamanna replies, “We have to have that for insurance purposes” in a tone that says, “and that will be the end of that.” We exchange a few more words and then she says—(wait for it; here it comes)—“We’re only trying to help.”
This is the ultimate cop-out of the medical profession: we are only trying to help. We are good people. We are righteous. If you don’t cooperate with us, it is because you are wrongous. We are good; you are bad. Oh, woops, that just crossed the line between medicine and the church. You put the medical hierarchy on one side and the Catholic Church’s hierarchy on the other side and the sick sinner for sure gets crushed in between.
I angrily tell Sister/Doctor that she has no idea what help I need, that nobody has paid any attention to me, that I have been treated as an object to be processed by their machine. Fairly spitting with rage, I say, “You don’t even know why I’m in this wheelchair! It’s because of the damage done to me by a doctor! You don’t know that and you don’t care to!”
For Christ’s sake, handle me with kindness; I’ve been hurt by people like you.
I wheel back to the waiting room and up to the receptionist’s window, which is closed. The receptionist—different from the one with the black box HIPAA issue—shuffles some papers then looks down at her desk. She refuses to meet my eyes. I say loudly, “Please open the window.”
She looks to her left, then says to me, “Dr. Lamanna says ‘no.’”
I yell, “I need you to call medical transportation so I can get the hell out of here!”
You cannot imagine how awful it is to be in a wheelchair and totally dependent on others.
The receptionist opens the window, takes the phone number and makes the call. When the transportation vendor asks my name, the receptionist has to ask me. She doesn’t even know. I say, “Anne Woodlen.”
The receptionist says into the phone, “Anne Woodland.”
After she hangs up, I snap at her, “If my name was Anne Woodland, I would have said so. It is Anne Woodlen.” If they will know nothing else about me, they will at least know my name.
I wheel out of the office, hurt to the core that nobody wanted to know who I was or what I needed.