A Doctor Almost Killed My Father

Street Vendor Outside Bronx Lebanon Hospital

My father’s fragile frame paces through my mind, dressed in a flimsy gown, hiding the dignity he tries to keep. With a nurse on each arm, he sloths toward the exit sign, a cruel promise resonating in a distant hall.

Lingering hysteria shadows the tasks I perform to imitate normalcy. Thoughts of my father ride a tangent back to immediacy, while life shines beyond my reach like sunlight breaching a cloud’s periphery.

My father languishes in the step-down ICU. Smiling weakly beneath a tangle of lines, his pallid cheeks belie a still healthy sense of humor; he jokes between blood transfusions and telemetry readings, PICC line and catheter insertions, during a weeklong endurance test amid painful pokes of regret. A decision by an urgent care doctor put him there. He prescribed medication that caused my father’s kidney failure.

A red flag flapped in the ominous wind that swept into the doctor’s office; his actions ill-conceived. The computers were down. No patient history to see or phone call initiated to the office that could access my father’s records. The doctor’s derelict decision caused an emergency medical ripple effect: a 280 blood pressure spike, a carnival-like ambulance ride, and admitting paperwork before my father landed in the step-down ICU, his kidneys compromised by an ethical lapse in the Hippocratic Oath.

My father lounges in bed amid an atmosphere of urgency: nurses scurrying in and out his room with get-well pills and intravenous goody bags. His eyes tell the story that his lips will never speak–the dull look of frustration, degradation, and pain rises and falls from a wave of the scepter of medical neglect.

His smile wanes in the torture of every passing day. The state of his condition tethered to telemetry and Creatinine numbers, once high now trending downward. My father continues adjusting to the discomforts inherent in a hospital stay, while the urgent care doctor continues prescribing meds to other daring patients.

A risk is the last thing my father or anyone expects when stepping into a healthcare provider‘s office seeking a resolution to pain or mystery ailment. My father and all of us are slaves to an imperfect health system based on corporate profits. We are as good as our last doctor and the medical insurance we can afford to pay.

Elderly patients like my 89-year-old father who is on Medicare will be insulated from the changes in our health care system. People 65 and younger will be affected by the legislation Congress passes. As senators dive into the nuances of health care benefits and test the temperature in high-risk pools, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies monitor the activity from above. They are highly paid lifeguards deciding who should live and who should die. Congress is just the maintenance crew. They work for the lobbyists and special interest groups, the 1% with the most money, not the 99% with the least.

Each day I wait for my father to be released. “Not today,” I’m told, though his condition continues to improve. He probably won’t be leaving anytime soon while the urgent care doctor returns home after treating a flock of patients, unaware that his care might lure them to the emergency room.

The Doctor App – Just Say, “Ah,” and Fog Up Your Phone

Our healthcare system showed signs of dementia last week when BlueCross BlueShield launched the LiveHealth Online App — when you can’t get an appointment with your local doctor.

Just download the app from the iTunes App or Google Play store and get a live video chat with a tiny flat screen doctor from Walla Walla, Washington or other places you usually don’t go.

Yes, you can have an intimate doctor-patient chat with an avatar in a white coat for virtually the same cost (or lower) of visiting your doctor on earth. Because healthcare isn’t impersonal enough.

On Wednesday, I answered the phone and spoke to a Stepford Robo caller from Blue Cross Blue Shield. She was more animated than the usual telemarketing robot, and chatty, too.

In fact, she wouldn’t shut up. “Blah, blah, blah. LiveHealth Online is a new covered benefit of Empire BlueCross BlueShield…No waiting. No people coughing at you…like in the waiting room of a real doctor’s office.”

I hate getting sprayed in the face with a gaggle of germs.

More blah, blah, blah and Robo call gal said, “… And the first 500 people that sign up get a free Amazon Gift Card.”

Sign me up Scotty or is that beam me up?

I suppose a Smartphone doctor would be less creepy than the doctor my medical group schedules you with when the other doctors aren’t available. During my last physical with him, when he asked if I needed him to do a breast exam, I said, “If you want to.”

AWKWARD!!!!

At that moment, I would have preferred to see his face smushed against a screen.

I don’t think teledoctoring is a state-of-the-art service. It’s more of a state-of-a-broken healthcare system, an insurer’s creative attempt to cut back services in a shiny new way.

I mean really. What can be accomplished with a virtual face-to-face appointment without a stethoscope? How do you give a urine sample?

What if your appointment is for an ear problem and the connection drops? Your “I can’t hear you, Doctor” may be misinterpreted as an ear blockage. Then you’ll have to fly out to Walla Walla, Washington for the doctor to shove a light in your ear.

It’s hard to get a good shot of an ear with an iPhone. Getting a flattering selfie is challenging enough.

And how does a Smartphone doctor get a throat culture for Strep? Do you lick the screen?

As BlueCross touts ”…the telehealth service is…a two-way, face-to-face video chat with a doctor who can both diagnose and treat them, along with their family members for non-emergency conditions such as the flu, cold, strep throat and ear infections.” – HealthTechZone

You know how I feel about ear problems.

Frankly, I think BlueCross BlueShield should have their head examined. Just hold the phone over your head and snap a picture. My telediagnosis — shit for brains.

What do you think about the new telehealth service?

When you get a moment, please check out my latest piece at HuffPost/50, “How to Say Goodbye to Summer.”

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