Milt Hankins:Why must we fight for the proper health care?
Recently, after my healthcare provider took an EKG, I was admitted to a local hospital. Since I'd had open-heart surgery and numerous cardiovascular issues, she made the right decision.
Upon admission, the ER determined I had not suffered a heart attack, but I was admitted for "observation" and was scheduled for a stress test the following morning. A previous stress test had been a nightmare! Horrendously painful, nurses had refused to terminate it and, later, a heart catheterization showed that I had a blockage. I was very apprehensive. To make a long story short, all of the tests, including a sonogram of my heart, came back negative. Apparently, nothing was wrong with my heart. Showing no anomalies, the doctor determined that I would be sent home.
Having had similar circumstances in the past, my wife and I briefly discussed the situation and decided that I was NOT going home until the cause of my symptoms (constant severe angina, shortness of breath, and lack of mobility) was recognized and appropriately treated. To say the least, our obstinacy was less than well-received. This lead to a visit with the physician who repeated the plan of treatment: changes in my medications and rest at home.
I pointed out that I knew my body better than anyone else, and I was certain, in spite of the test results, that something was seriously wrong. Was I to spend the rest of my life with the symptoms I was experiencing? The doctor explained that "protocol" and "guidelines" made me ineligible for a heart catheterization. He indicated, perhaps by Freudian slip, that personally he thought I should have one. After some 15 minutes of bantering back and forth, I asked him if he could perform a heart catheterization. He seemed a bit taken aback and pointed out to me that he could not only perform a "heart cath," but other heart procedures (which he described in detail) that other local cardiologists were unequipped to do.
I said, "Then, let's get on with it! If you believe I should have this done, and you know how to do it ... let's get it done!" Did I want it now or the next morning? Thirty minutes later, I was being prepped for the procedure.
During the heart catheterization, I heard him mutter, "Ah, ha!" Then, he stuck his head around the draping and said to me, "You have a blood clot at the edge of one of your arterial stents." I was sent back to my room and put on 12-hours of a "clot-buster" administered by IV drip. The next day, I was discharged from the hospital with some stronger, more effective medications -- and hopefully, without a dangerous, life-threatening blood clot!
If you are admitted to a hospital, make sure you have an advocate with you, and do not settle for test results if you know, without a doubt, that something is seriously wrong. It could mean the difference between your life and death!
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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