Are You Pee-rious?

482541_316492855148018_752326112_nI’ve got a fair amount of thinking to do over the last few days; there have been some issues, but when are there not? To reward your patience while I ruminate on things and spend the day writing down how much I pee for the Urologist, here is the letter I sent to several people after my December MRI experience. They decided to take half off my bill, but took no responsibility for the tech’s actions.

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12/21/12

[names/addresses redacted]

Dear Mr. [redacted]:

On December 12, 2012 I had three successive appointments at Med Park 1 to receive three separate MRIs. I arrived at 8:45am to an empty waiting room and was seen in an amount of time reasonable for any medical office visit. When the nurse, Diana, took me back to the changing area I noted one other patient also waiting there. I was shown where to change and in the changing area was asked a little more about my presenting condition, Multiple Sclerosis. I made certain to ask where the bathroom was, and also if it would be possible between MRIs to use the restroom. I explained that my bladder was affected by my condition and behaved spastically, making trips to the bathroom sometimes painfully frequent. She assured me that while the tests couldn’t be stopped while they were in progress I would be able to get up and go between the three tests. When she accompanied me into the MRI room, I noted that no other patients were waiting. I was glad to see that, knowing how long my three would take.

Once Diana secured me on the MRI table in a head cage, I did not see her again for the duration of my exam. I was given a call button, but wasn’t told to whom it would go; I still can only assume it went to the tech running the machine. The MRI technician, Donald (“DJ”) communicated the test’s beginning over the speaker inside the tube. After a long while I was unsurprised that I needed to urinate. I was becoming uncomfortable enough to get anxious for the first time in an MRI tube (this was my fourth MRI). When Donald had to extract my body in order to put a weight on my chest for the third, thoracic spine scan, I was sobbing. I had to use the bathroom terribly but did not use the call button because I assumed I needed to wait until I was between tests (I was not made aware that two had passed already). I asked if I could get up to use the restroom, and Donald replied that I could not move from my caged position during the test because it would mess everything up. I remarked that if I couldn’t be allowed up I might unintentionally void my bladder inside the machine. He waved a hand and said, “don’t worry about that… if it happens you don’t have to be embarrassed.” My response was baffled silence as he returned me into the machine. He addressed my tear-stained face with a rough hand to the shoulder and a “You’re doing great” as I went in for what DJ would mark the second half of the exam.

After the third test, all three tests now had to be done with contrast. This time DJ comforted me by saying “We’re in the home stretch now!” at my now-silent countenance. I still cannot believe, after almost three hours, that my bladder somehow managed not to void itself during this exam – perhaps the idea of sitting in my own waste for another hour and a half helped keep me simply in the kind of misery that still included dignity.

Of course, because MS affects my balance, coordination and sense of space I had to take extra time sitting back up from a table on which I had spent so long prostrate. I took as little as I could without falling (I hoped) and so was finally allowed to wobble precariously without an offer of assistance to the closest restroom. I dressed and returned to my spouse in the public area. While waiting there for a copy of my MRI scans I overheard one nurse mention to another how behind they were. I didn’t understand this because it seemed I was their second patient that day, and after me I saw two others in the suite. A half hour later when DJ brought a copy of my MRI scans up front, they were those of another patient.

I brought this all up with the nurse on duty when I left, Mary Kay, who directed me to call a Ms. Beard with a complaint. Ms. Beard listened, was apologetic and agreed that sitting in my own waste was “not an option” but that DJ was correct not to mess up the sequencing by pausing an exam for me to urinate. I do not think Ms. Beard understood – or was willing to entertain the idea – that these were three separate MRIs and pausing between any of those three exams would not have affected their individual outcomes. I was told by nurse Diana that this was going to be possible; DJ told me it was not. Mary Kay seemed to be the best advocate for what happened, saying “No, that shouldn’t have happened. When you come in here, YOU are in charge.”

I did not feel in charge. My options were to either remain calm while under pained duress, or to remain calm while under humiliated duress. I do not know Donald’s reputation to know if this is something that happened because he felt “behind” like I heard the nurses up front say or if it was because he simply did not care about patient comfort or rights. I need to hear from you that this was an unacceptable enough situation to warrant forgiveness of any bill received. As someone with an incurable, progressive disease but no insurance I am fully aware that I will be in medical debt for my entire life – payment for this “service” is not a hand out I seek (it couldn’t come close to helping), but without bringing criminal charges this is the closest I expect to be able to come to justice.

Sincerely,

Katherine [last name redacted]

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