Here’s my problem. My father was one of those pediatricians who made house calls well into the 1990s. I’m not going to pretend he was Marcus Welby, M.D., that beloved, kindly TV doctor played by Robert Young between 1969 and 1976. Because my father had a short fuse to irritation.
But he did take his profession seriously and was like a dog with a bone when he faced any tough diagnosis. Since he treated little people who often couldn’t tell him about symptoms, that was often. I was raised with a model of health care that no longer exists in most places and that colors how I view my own health care.
Living down the freeway from Stanford Medical Center we have access to (arguably) some of the best health care in the world. Or so we’re told. And years ago we made the decision to engage with a concierge medical practice centered at Stanford. Our rationale was that we were aging; should anything bad crop up we wanted a good quarterback on our medical team. And we have one who has access to some of the best specialists in their field. When I needed a retinologist immediately, I got to see one of the top young retina surgeons in the world. M’s cardiologist is excellent. No complaint there.
It’s just that the overall system here is very strange.
For example, let’s take the eye practice I go to. It’s a beautiful facility with all the latest high tech equipment and fantastic specialists. Upon your first step into the well-appointed waiting room you are greeted by someone who is there to be sure you are checked in immediately. There are at least four receptionists doing the check in, plus a greeter. All are beautiful and beautifully attired. Ahhh-customer service. There’s hardly ever a long wait. This is the best of what Stanford has to offer.
Not too long ago I woke up with a small, itchy swelling under my right eye. Small. A bite? A boil? I wasn’t sure what it was, so I shot a selfie off to my internist. She prescribed an antibiotic ointment and told me to ice it and check back with her the next day. The ice did nothing. I shot another email photo off and she told me to use warm compresses and keep up the ointment. The following day, after another photo showing no change (not better, not worse), she suggested I hard boil an egg, wrap it in cloth and use that. And she told me it was “sty” and that I should see an opthomologist to have it drained.
Here’s the problem. Over at my eye practice, I have no regular ophthalmologist. I have a retinologist. I have an optometrist. But the good ole general eye doctor is nowhere to be found. Following my internist’s instructions, I called the Big Eye Practice and explained what I needed.
“The triage nurse will call you back…” was the answer. This was Thursday. No call on Friday, so I called them. “Our protocol is to call back within 24 hours. She got your message late and will call soon.”
Nope. Monday, they called.
“We’d like to schedule you with an ophthalmic plastic surgeon.”
I was taken aback. Seriously? It was a tiny sty. That, by the way, disappeared over the weekend after the application of a hot hard boiled egg. But I played along.
“But all I need is to have it drained,” I said. “Wouldn’t it just be a needle to withdraw fluid? Isn’t that what a regular ophthalmologist would do? Wouldn’t bringing in plastic surgeon be like trying to kill a mosquito with a .357 magnum?”
“We don’t have a general ophthalmologist,” Big Eye Practice said. “All of our doctors are specialists.”
So, let me get this straight I go to a Big Modern Eye Practice and can not get regular, garden variety eye care. It’s not even an option. So, to avoid having to pay surgical rates for a simple “lancing”, I would have to engage a different practice. That is, find a regular eye doctor.
Now, Big Modern Eye Practice DOES run an afternoon “clinic” for problems like mine and each of the specialists takes turns staffing it. But it’s unreliable, because shit happens and the doctors can’t make it. I know this because I met with the practice manager after a different eye debacle and he told me. Apologetically.
So, of course, I am on the hunt for a regular, local eye doctor for those garden variety issues that crop up beyond the capability of my concierge internist.
Most interesting is that a home remedy–a hard boiled egg– “fixed” the problem. And I found my most reliable healing this year via Reiki. Which, by the way, my Stanford internist says she doesn’t dismiss.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of “modern medicine.” Sure, there’s a role for it when things get really bad. But “modern medicine” seems no longer able to handle the sort of things our kindly general practitioner used to handle.
And that’s why I’m paging Dr. Marcus Welby, if not literally, figuratively.
What’s your horror story?