Sunday, January 11, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here? - Surgeon's Visit Summary

Please keep me and your family in your prayers. The doctor/surgeon's visit was a train wreck. Before you begin reading my novel about my roller-coaster of a day, let me say that I have the best support system possible. I always have several people willing to attend these appointments with me, and those that don't attend back me up in prayer.

Thank you Lauree Hatcher for being my sweet friend and support, and willing to speak up for me at this unexpected turn in the road. Thank you to my parents for listening to my story when I got home, understanding my situation, and being there when I felt like crying it out, but also encouraging me along the way. And thank you specifically to Ashley Smith, whom I was able to call and talk with and ask for prayer. Thank you for praying for me on the spot, over the phone. And, of course, I can't go without thanking my awesome husband, who is always there for me and goes through so much. We've been down similar roads before, and he's always stood strong. On this earth (secondary to my Savior), he is my rock.

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So, we begin the story:

The "doctor/surgeon" didn't even remember seeing me before OR telling me he would do surgery - of which I have documentation and they have the x-rays on file that were taken last time I went, which showed my SI joints in "fairly rough shape". I asked him if we could look at them again. Over and over he said "no". I kept telling him what he said about those Xrays last time. He simply proved that he had doubts about his argument, because he would simply be proving himself right if he really believed himself. If he was wrong however, he would deny that we can view them. He denied over 3 times.

I was told that his experience of 20 years meant that I am not remembering correctly and that he never would have promised to do surgery on me. I was further told by this "doctor" that there is no "medical" reason I should be in a wheelchair (I use it for the lowering of pain levels and ease of mobility, and it is prescribed by my pain doctor). If that's not a shocker, Lauree (my sweet friend & support buddy) then asked "well, if this were your daughter and she were in the same situation, what would you say or do with her?" Thinking we might get an empathetic response out of him at that point (which was a stupid thought, looking back), he said "I would tell her to move forward and get off the narcotics" (he later said we "trapped" him into that statement, and he was "sorry he didn't see the trap coming"). Wow. No surgery...I've tried every means available to me to reduce the pain, which none have worked (all were documented and provided to him). And there is such a thing called "opioid dependence" - something most doctors are very aware of. It is very different from addiction. Is he really that ignorant or that unsympathetic, or both? I vote for the latter.
  • He told me I had no spinal stenosis. I pointed out where I did. He then said "well, that's mild". I have a record where it says "moderate spinal stenosis". At my last visit with him, I was actually told that my Xray showed "moderate to fairly severe" spinal stenosis on the L5/S1. Once again - no records written/recorded by him, and no memory or willingness to trust that what I was saying had any weight to it (which the Xrays would have proven).
  • He told me on the MRI (before we found out he had no memory of surgery) that I had nerve impingement on the L5/S1 (which was also found on the nerve conduction study & electromyography). He then turned around and said I would have to have nerve impingement in order to do surgery, which I "didn't have". I mentioned what he said regarding the MRI. He said he never said that.
  • He said there is no kind of surgery at all to help me. He also said there is not a surgery for a herniated disc. I told him there is, because my dad just had one.
  • I told him about us signing papers on my first visit on 10-22-14 to start the advocate program for the SI-joint fusion procedure to be covered by insurance (through I-fuse bone). He said that's not in my file and he's never seen that. I told him that the process is almost finished and I will be covered on 1-15 because of his medical opinion being written in the findings and being submitted into the advocate program. He then told us that he figured that I had contacted his office on my own accord and told them that the he. said I needed surgery, so they took my word for it and started the process. I then pulled out my handy-dandy paperwork and showed him where he started everything on 10-22 and SIGNED the paperwork. He had no words (this was after I called the manager in).
  • When I asked him why he thinks I drove 3 hours to come see him if I didn't think I was having surgery, he responded "you came to get the test results" - I educated him that I have had these conditions for 13 years now, and I myself can fairly accurately read an MRI of the spine/lumbar, and I especially know exactly how to read an MRI report, all of which I provided him with. Furthermore, I gave him the results to the EMG/NCV (which I know how to read), and the bone scan. He said "I'll give you gas money, but I'm not going to cut on you." I later asked for the gas money that he offered. The manager then said he had conveniently left the office. She could not pay all of the gas money - it is 120 miles one way for each trip (I had made 2). She could provide me with $30 (10 gallons worth - it takes 18 gallons to get me there and back) from her own pocket. I thanked her. She kindly took the fee off for the office visit as well.
There is probably much more that I haven't even covered yet. The more I think about the whole thing, the more I remember what he said that qualifies as "ridiculous" and points to the fact that this man has a pattern - he has now treated both my mother and myself in this fashion, and I dare say we are not the first patients to be treated with such lack of respect. I remember telling him at one point that I'm "done with him", but I highly suggest he NEVER say to another patient that they should simply "come off their narcotics" and that they have "no medical reason to be in a wheelchair" (which is prescribed to me by another doctor - one I see monthly - and he says this despite all my 15 diagnoses that I gave him records of. If he had all the diagnoses I do, I would be interested to see his reaction to the pain, which I would never wish on my worst enemy.). I will be contacting the Georgia Board of Physicians and giving them every detail, including all of my records.

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There's no hiding the fact that I am upset, and that I was so hopeful that surgery would help things. I have many mixed emotions....I feel like this "doctor/surgeon" is not suited to practice medicine (no matter how skilled his hands are) so long as he continues to give false hope to those who need it so badly, only to go far beyond insult and emotionally and verbally degrade these people that deserve so much more, not to mention these patients he mistreats provide him with a living despite how he treats them.

Then there's another set of emotions. I'm obviously "down" right now. I talk about this and I cry before I even start the story. But I have so much faith that God is already working through this. I am glad that I now know this man's demeanor, for I would never want someone so cold cutting on me. But I have so much faith that God is already working through this. I told Lauree (my sweet friend and support person) that very thing in the exam room through tears - "I know God has a plan through this, but it's so hard to swallow sometimes." How does his plan play into all of this? I don't know. Maybe I never will. Maybe on the contrary. Maybe God is showing me something. I can already say that I am assessing something from all of this - maybe I put too much hope in the hands of man, not God. Maybe God has plans for me through this broken body. I've seen it happen & I can't describe the privilege and joy that comes from ministering to those with chronic illness. It's hard for me at times to not be able to see God's plans displayed on a projector and mapped out. But that's what makes our trust all-the-more strong and our bond with Christ even closer.

One of my favorite verses that speaks so loudly at this time is Romans 8:28:

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 18:6, 16, 18, 28-29, 30b, 32b 
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice. He drew me out of deep waters, [the enemies] confronted me in the day of disaster, but the Lord was my support. You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. He shields all who take refuge in him. It is God who arms me with strength.



See this flower in the picture? I can see myself in it. How?

I found this beautiful, yet unique flower in my back yard. And I can say that we bonded a bit. There's a reason. Look at the soil around the flower. How could anything grow in that? It's rocky and dry. The soil itself is not the type of soil you would use to plant seeds, greenery, or flowers (it doesn't look fertile). The flower seems to take on many trials in the light of day. But how does the flower stand proud and strong? The flower can be as strong as any flower so long as the roots are strong and in the right nutrients. On the inside (under the surface), the flower is safe. It has bloomed with confidence & beauty.

We have the ability to be the exact same way. The world can be brutal. We may have been planted in some rough circumstances. But God offers rich, fertile soil to plant our lives in, therefore making Him the foundation of our lives. When the strong storms come (and we must prepare before they come), the roots must be strong and deep in order for us to not "blow over" from the strong winds and rain. We have the ability to be just as beautifully unique and blossom in Christ's strength, hope, glory, purpose, and so much more. We will stand tall, proud and strong in His foundation of love, grace, and mercy, even through the most difficult of circumstances.



Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.


Ephesians 3:16-19

...That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.


So where do we go from here? 

I need spinal surgery. There is no doubt about it. I had a list in my medical folder (I am very, very organized) of physicians/surgeons that are within "reach" (even though it might be as far as Gainesville, GA) that perform the specialized procedure of the SI joint fusions using the I-fuse system. Preferably, I'd like to find a physician that does this procedure (a type of spinal fusion) as well as other types of spinal surgery. So, as Lauree and I de-stressed with Starbucks coffee after my "visit" (what better way?), I took advantage of the time and called several surgeons on my list that I was interested in - the total comes to 4 physicians/surgeons. Two of those offices were closed for Friday. I was able to make appointments with the other two.

I now have an appointment with one of the top-surgeons for this procedure in Gainesville, GA (about a 4 1/2 - 5 hour drive from where we live) on January 28. This doctor/surgeon requires an additional $125 administration fee to look over all previous files, as well as a visit prior to or following the initial visit to see the physical therapist and see where the joint is positioned the best (another inconvenience, but possibly worth it for a good surgeon). This physical therapist is one that attends surgeries with the physician and helps place the joints exactly where they need to be before they are fused. He does not, however, do other spinal surgeries. There is a possibility I will reschedule this one to be after the Huntsville/Feb. 4th visit. As I mentioned, the other one is for February 4th in Huntsville, also a surgeon that specializes in the procedure, but he also does other spinal surgeries.

How can you pray?
  • Please pray for wisdom in our decision making process. Pray that we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading prior, during and after all of these visits.
  • Pray for healing to take place regarding the previous surgeon that treated me so poorly. Forgiveness sometimes takes time, and I believe this might be the case here, but I want to strive for forgiveness every single day.
  • Pray for pain relief until we find more options. Some days are really difficult. Some days are really good. Chronic pain is unpredictable.
  • Pray for open doors, if this be God's will for us.
  • Pray for Rence's job situation to be forgiving of days off, if need be. It's near impossible right now for him to miss a day, which is why we are looking to have all of this done be Spring Break (March 23rd).
  • Pray for the I-fuse bone advocacy program to continue to clear my case, and the previous doctor/surgeon to not intervene in any way. This will allow for a quicker surgery date, since I am cleared through insurance.
  • Pray for comfort & peace from God alone for our family in the meantime. He is our hope and strength, and our trust is in Him. He will provide a way when there seems to be no way. He is our deliverer, and He lights my path in the darkness so that I can continue to walk in His strength and purpose day by day.

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Mental Illness and the Church