I’m going to dip into the healing waters of medical treatment, and for the letter
I’m going to talk about X–rays.
Once upon a time, Doctor Kildare, or Marcus Welby MD would hold your TV hand and solve your medical problems with a reassuring smile. More recently, Dr. House proved that a good doctor could achieve the most baffling diagnosis in a single episode.
THEN THERE’S REALITY
About a year ago, the wife developed a cough. Not a cold – a chronic, hacking cough. After a week, she also got a sharp pain in the muscles of the bottom ribs, below her right armpit. After another week or more, the cough was still with her, and the pain in the side got worse. Neither of us was sleeping.
She called her doctor, and got an emergency appointment. He listened to her, (maybe) and told her to go for an X-ray. The next day, Wednesday, I took her to the lab. The doctor was to be faxed the results. No call from the office on Friday, or Monday. On Tuesday, she called the office, and the clerk told her that he had not found anything on the X-ray….and had gone on 2 weeks holidays.
The next day, the son dropped her off at the emergency ward at 8:00 AM. I didn’t get a call to pick her up, but went down after lunch to find her, and dug her out about 4:00 PM.
An eight hour stay, and, despite her telling them that the pain was in the muscles of the lower, right chest, they insisted on taking another X-ray, to check for a heart attack. When that showed nothing, they wanted to do a CAT-scan, to check the lungs, but she’s allergic to the dyes that they’d use.
They decided, instead, to do a Gamma-ray scan. This showed that, because of the pain, she wasn’t breathing deeply or strongly enough, and the bottom lobes of both lungs were developing fluid. Not finding any cause for the sharp pain, they released her.
The next day, I took her to the ‘Medical Group’, for a clinic-style, first-doctor-available visit. We got a kindly, retired English doctor, recently moved to Canada, and willing to make a few bucks by filling in part-time for the likes of the one on vacation.
He actually listened to her, and quickly found the source of the pain by reaching over and palpating (touching) her, something that no doctor, nurse or technician had done. He wrote a ten-day prescription for a broad medication – something with a powerful painkiller, a muscle relaxant, and an anti-inflammatory.
He told her to take the pills, and wait another week and have yet another X-ray taken, and book an appointment to see him a couple of days later. The pain quickly disappeared, and she (almost) stopped glowing in the dark. When we went back to see him, he still couldn’t find anything in the results. Of course not! It’s a soft tissue injury.
After three X-rays and a Gamma-ray scan within two weeks, it still took a British Marcus Welby-like fill-in doctor (doubly-named Dr. John Brodie-Brown), relying on his touch and intuition to solve the problem by treating the symptoms, rather than with shiny tech-toys.
A week later, I was reading the blog-post of a lady bicyclist. She wrote that she had developed the same symptoms as the wife. A doctor diagnosed it as ‘costochondritis’, an inflammation of the nerves that control the breathing muscles. It’s known, but not common, among people like bikers and runners, who gasp and pant for extended periods.
Even with the best of treatment, (Which very few of us ever get) it is still often up to us to diagnose our own problems, and insist that we get full and proper care. 😯