Yes, the medical system is backed up, overloaded, and breaking down. Yes, I am extremely grateful I have access to pretty much the latest in technology. But man, I'm going to strangle some incompetent Dilbert before this is over. I've been trying to find out exactly what I wrecked in my knee so I can repair it. It's been over a year now. Something is very wrong in there. Spent most of the first year waiting for xrays and to see doctors as I got passed through the specialist queue. The surgeon decided he wanted an MRI. MRIs, his staff advised me, were scheduled by a branch of a certain hospital and they did not know if I'd be contacted directly when my appointment was made, or if I'd be called by one of the surgeon's staff. I was to call back in a week if I hadn't heard. A week later I was told it can take two weeks to be advised of my appointment date. This is just to put me on the bottom of a list for MRIs and then tell me what day that is in the months ahead, you understand, not the actual MRI. Next week I called again. Well, I was now told it can be four weeks. I waited two more weeks and phoned. Well, it can take six to eight weeks to... --Hold it, I said. Give me the number of the MRI office. I phoned. I told them I needed to schedule an MRI for my surgeon. The nice lady said, "Just a moment," then rustled some papers. "Wow. Are you sitting down?" she said. "I have to," I said. "Well, the next available appointment is in three months," she said. "Sign me up. Thanks."

Gee, that was hard, wasn't it? I phoned the surgeon's office back and explained as if to a four year old that the next time they need to book an MRI, if they phone that number and ask for the date, the nice lady will give it to them. I was through being pleasant. I appreciate overworked people and try to be their nice customer of the day. Now I switched into super-nice mode, which can chill the devil. The surgeon's staff said they could book me after the MRI, but the surgeon's one month vacation began then, so they'd have to book me for after that. Fine, said I.

Finally, on that day, with surgeon and MRI results together, I waited for my 9:00 am appointment. I endured 45 minutes listening to the relentless AM radio and to the staff turn away people showing up for their appointments with another surgeon who was actually off doing a scheduled surgery that morning. The packaged apologies of the staff sounded like well worn carpet. The surgeon, who is a nice, competent man of exactly the sort I'd want cutting into me, pointed at the scans and said some latin which means small pocket of liquid. He translated because I asked him to, then said it wasn't something he could solve by surgery, and he left. On his rush out the door I asked if I should see my doctor then. "You can if you like," he said. Yes, I said, since I have this trouble with my knee I think I'll be going to my doctor. I did not say "thank you" because he was no longer there to say it to. I asked at the desk what was next with them, if anything. They said they would send a letter to my doctor. Downstairs, I phoned my doctor to book another appointment. My doctor, I was told, was on vacation but I could see the stand-in this afternoon. Um, great, but hold on because you probably want this letter the surgeon is supposed to write. Yes, said my doctor's secretary, who is too damn busy not to be efficient. She phoned the surgeon's Hall Of Incompetents herself. They explained to her that the letter would be written in the next week or ten days. And then it would be mailed. She relayed this to me and declined to book my appointment until she had the letter in her hands. She's sharp. A week later she left me a quick voicemail to say my file was still on her desk but no letter so she would give it the ten days. I phoned her this morning and she said she was about to go rattle their cage. Go for it, said I. She phoned back in 30 minutes to convey that the surgeon's dictationist had left for a month's holiday [can you imagine a full month's holiday? I can't.] and the substitute dictationist had left them. Somehow that last bit didn't surprise me at all. Look, I said. This surgeon has nothing to say in that letter but that he has nothing to say. Can you get the MRIs and give them to your stand-in? Let's do that, she said. Next tuesday I start at the beginning: I get to see a doctor, and this time we have photos. I wonder what's wrong?

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2001 Owen Briggs