Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Health Care,

This is an open letter to health care.

Over the years, I have been stricken with--and suffered from--more injuries and illnesses than I can count on all my digits. I generally avoid the doctor whenever possible. I'm not saying I don't trust doctors as a rule, I'm only saying that I've never had a doctor fix me properly.

I had chronic ear infections as a kid. I was treated locally, and on a case-by-case basis, each time. No consideration for the reason I kept getting them ever came up. Now, I have poor hearing.

I had nosebleeds as a kid. One doctor suggested I have my blood vessels in my nose cauterized. It sounded fun. I assure you, it's not. Imagine someone striking a match, blowing it out, and then--quick as they possibly can--sticking it up your nose. That's what it feels like. And I still get them all the time.

I have bad knees, and have had them for as long as I can remember. It took visits with (I want to say dozens) probably five different specialists. It took at least that many before the first one said I had a legitimate, diagnosable problem. He called it chondromalatia, which means 'soft cartilage' in some stretch of Latin. No cure. Chronic pain persists to this day in both knees.

If that wasn't enough, I blew out my right knee on a touchdown scoring play in football (it got called back on a horrible decision by the official, who claimed I stepped out of bounds when I was about 3 yards inside the line), tearing my meniscus and MCL. The first specialist I saw misdiagnosed me, so I walked around in pain for about 3 months (the time he said it would take to heal on its own). The second guy suggested surgery, and I jumped at the idea. Better than another three months of pain. Little did I know that surgery was really painful. I had my knee scoped and then went through a couple months of physical therapy. Range of motion is almost back to 100%, and chronic daily pain persists in both knees (I favor one or the other, and the one getting the extra pressure hurts as a result).

Then, the genetic sinus problems. My first sinus infection was misdiagnosed as mono, then a common cold, then allergies (great work, Schiffert Health Center). The allergist poked me with 42 different needles containing common allergens before announcing I had zero allergies. None. In a family where three people are allergic to cats, one person to almost everything, one almost deathly allergic to many types of nuts, I managed to escape with no allergies whatsoever. Nice. So, five years and 7-10 sinus infections later, I lost hearing in both ears. Imagine being under water...that's how my hearing made everything sound. So, I went to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and it turned out the only part of my sinuses that was not clogged with anti-infection muck was my nostrils. My Eustachian tubes were so clogged that water from my ears couldn't drain and I lost hearing. My ear drums had too much pressure on them to vibrate. More surgery! The doc promised this would reduce all my sinus problems forever. They went in through my nose and drilled open all 6 sinus openings in my skull, widening them for better drainage, and sucked out all the mucus and goo that had accumulated with some sort of sinus vacuum. Then, they put tubes in my ears (no swimming or showering without ear plugs), which stayed in for about a year, until they became partially dislodged and disrupted my hearing again. The surgery itself was awful. I will avoid the nitty gritty of the recovery, but the bottom line is - avoid at all costs.

And now, two years later, I have my fourth sinus infection since the surgery. If it's possible, I'd say my sinuses got worse after the surgery, which cost me (and my parents, who were generous enough to help out) thousands of dollars because the health insurance policy I had was a scam (maybe not really a 'scam,' but I was sure surprised that I owed about $8,000 for surgery).

And the ASU health center is far worse than Virginia Tech's, if that's possible. One hour, two paper forms, three nurses and doctors who each asked all the same questions I answered on the forms, and a pharmacy wait later, I have a sample pack of antibiotics and a generic nasal spray that was prescribed "forever."

So, modern health care, I appreciate everything you have done for me. Thank you for putting so much of my time and money to good use.


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