Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writing to Heal

Although my blog is a form of writing to heal, I also write letters to people that I sometimes don't send. This is one of those letters I can't send for obvious reasons, but it makes me feel better to write it.

Just to give you a bit of the back story, I had another unbelievably bad experience today with my mother's doctor (a new one who replaced the two awful doctors that preceded him). I've come to the conclusion that there is something so wrong with the medical profession that unless we speak out, we'll only have ourselves to blame when our time comes around.

Dear Doctor Smith, (a pseudonym)
I hope that no one treats your mother the way you treated mine today. When we arrived at your office--after Dr. Jones (the orthopedic surgeon called you)--and we were waiting in the reception area, I know that you saw my mother and me and chose not to come out. How dare you!

Three weeks ago when you agreed to be my mother's doctor, and you told me that the care she had recently been given was terrible and you would take her on as a patient, what did that mean to you? Before she left the hospital, I specifically asked you to help develop a wellness plan because of the problem of dehydration, you said you'd handle it. But you didn't.

So today, after I had been on a vacation with my family, and I saw my mother and realized that once again, she was dehydrated, I was sure you'd take care of this. That's why I had the orthopedic surgeon call you.

We had a scheduled appointment with him to look at her broken knee, and when he said, "Is she okay?" I said, "No, she's dehydrated once again. Could you please call Dr. Smith?"

The reason I decided to handle it today is because: 1) My mother was obviously in bad shape; and 2) We were in your building. And while no one seems to care about this, it's been almost impossible to bring my mother to your building because I can't get her into my car with her leg brace. And the ambulance ride is very difficult for her because of her leg.

So we scheduled a Dial-A-Ride service, which we had to book a week in advance. And mother didn't fit into the first Dial-A-Ride van because of the brace on her leg and the way her legs were extended in the wheel chair. So they had to send a larger bus to pick us up. By the time we arrived at the surgeon's office, we were already tired.

However, after he saw her and called your nurse who said that we could come to your office, I just assumed you'd fit us in because my mother was clearly ill. But no...you peaked at us behind the counter and immediately disappeared. Why was that?

How can you care so little for a patient that she could be sick--and sitting in your office--and you chose to hide? Was it because we didn't have an appointment and you were offended by the lack of propriety? Or was it because she looked so sick? Or was it because she's old and you didn't know her when she was young, so you're marginalizing her? Or was it because your nurse suggested I take her to the ER and I refused.

Do you have any idea how exhausting it is for an 85-year-old woman to go in and out of the ER? Last time (three weeks ago) we were in the ER for eight hours before they took mother to her room. I couldn't put her through that again. And I was afraid that once she checked into the hospital, she would die.

At best, it's a difficult experience. People like mom who have Dementia get disoriented. And she's just now recovering from her last stay. By the way, perhaps you weren't aware--because no one at the hospital noticed--when my mother returned to her assisted living facility, she had two bedsores, which is a serious problem for someone with diabetes.

I could go on but suffice it to say that your treatment of my mother today defies description. I was so angry and disappointed that if I felt I had any other options, I would try and get my mother another doctor. But I don't think it will matter.

I now believe that most doctors hate old people as much as they hate the mentally ill. Surely, my mother has received as terrible medical care as I have. I'm not sure what to do about all this. I guess I may just have to write a book.

What I find so ironic is that you were appalled when I told you that I detested my mother's last doctor because she stood there and did nothing when my mother slid out of her wheel chair while she was being examined. Today, your behavior was equally appalling.

All of you who have taken the Hippocratic Oath and treat patients this way should be mightily ashamed. And you should be punished as well, but that's between you and God.

Today, I guess I'm really grateful that I'm not you, because when your time comes at the Pearly Gates, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do. When God asks you about how you treated my mother, I can't imagine what you'll say. But I'm sure glad I'm not in your shoes.


Susan Bernard


Syd said...


I'm speechless. And I'm so sorry. What an awful experience, especially after all of the previous awful experiences leading up to this one. I wish there was something I could say or do.

Your letter was superb, by the way. I know you're inclined not to send it, for reasons that I understand clearly. But on the other hand, would it be so bad if you sent it to this doctor? Could his treatment of your mother get any worse? If he refused to see her, are there any other options? It sounds like he refused to see her today anyway so I'm not sure what you have to lose, unless of course he's a specialist and the only game in town.

I'm rambling, I'm sorry. I know you'll do what's best. Know that I'm thinking about you and your Mom and Murphy too.


JayPeeFreely said...

I've written those letters too.

Boy, oh boy, I hate to extrapolate out the future of medical care, but, I think doctors are losing much of that Hippo oath to their own personal objectives.

I do think it is a case of disliking too old or too mentally challenged. I don't pity the doctor that faces those problems in his future. Hope the medicine tastes swell..

And thanks for the comments too. You make me come to the library to read them!!!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sydney and Jason,
As always, both of you made me smile for the first time today. What pillars of support you are!


SZ said...

Dearest Susan...as your sister-in-law, I can only say that I am no longer shocked at what happens in the medical field...as you know, my own stories with my mother and with myself have been appalling...I did not know about today, however, and yet, ANOTHER dismal result, in trying to help your dear mother!!! Dear God, help us all when we need medical attention, because we will be better off "with the kindness of strangers"...(read Path of Destruction, by Douglas Brinkley, and you will see the way we treat the elderly in this country!) My heart is being chipped away by the worse sin of all: indifference!! Yes, I know you and you SHOULD write a book, and I'll help with the research and add my own juicy tidbits of my experiences...I am there for you in love, spirit and RAGE!!! SZ

SZ said...

sorry, Susan...I mentioned the wrong book...It's The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley! Very interesting.