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Raging Pencils by Mike "In-betweener" Stanfill

John Wile E. McCoyote

John Wile. E. Coyote was pissed because he specifically ordered the bagel-powered senator.

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Does This Hurt?

"In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." - Bertrand Russell

out to lunchLong Story Short: The Medical Money-Making Miracle

I'm a ridiculously healthy human. Over the years I've generally visited my physician only after having contracted the Creeping Crud, which occurred like clockwork about every fourth Thursday in November ("Please pass the sweet potatoes, and the protozoans.") but the wonder of flu shots eliminated that little inconvenience years ago.

So it was with pop-eyed wonder which I beheld all that is wrong with the medical industry after my beloved Pookums dislocated her shoulder this past weekend. I'm sure you all have your own tale of medical woe. This is hers.

This has happened to her before as she damaged the shoulder in a fall many years ago. Usually she could manage to coax it back into place but this time it was really bad. Her shoulder was clearly out of its socket and no amount of prodding on our part, even with the advice of a retired nurse/friend, could convince it otherwise. So it was off to the local clinic.

After gingerly getting her into the car we drove to the local doc-in-a-box, but all they could offer were x-rays. "What good is that going to do her?", I asked with a degree of exasperation approaching homicide. The clerk behind the counter began furiously chewing her cud and tried hard to pretend I wasn't there.

We then proceeded to race through the scattered remnants of hurricane Ike to the nearest hospital and there the real drama began.

Now this is a dislocated shoulder, remember? And when we entered the emergency room, on a Saturday afternoon, there was but one other person in the place, seemingly only having dropped by to catch Notre Dame vs. Perdue on the big-screen TV. If the volume hadn't been set to "newkular" the place would have been as silent as a tomb.

During the admittance process the receptionist asked what I considered to be a rather ridiculous question ---

"On a scale of 1-10, how much does it hurt?"

The answer is always "27" because one doesn't visit the emergency room to soothe a modest itch, you're there because you HURT! And they already know that, especially if your shoulder looks more out of place than Puff Daddy at the RNC.

Besides, a pain of 10 should mean you're dead or something, right?

This might actually be an important line of questioning if there had been, say, a zeppelin crash and the waiting room was stacked with mutilated bodies. Triage is very important but not on this particular day.


After culling all her personal data the the staff hustled her back to a private room whereupon they proceeded  to:

(1) Put her on a saline drip
(2) Hook her to a heart monitor
(3) Put her on oxygen
(4) Attach an automatic blood-pressure cuff
(5) Other arcance procedures beyond my naive ken
(6) But no pain medication. At all. (That only came after a midnight trip to an all-night Walgreens.)

Then everyone vanished for a surprisingly extended period of time, allowing me and the girlfriend to make uncomfortable small talk, each of us trying hard to ignore the terrible pain she was quite stoically enduring. An X-ray technician eventually broke the suspense, shuffling in for some 8X10's of the GF's injured wing.

Watch the irradiated birdie!

When the time came to re-set the shoulder, four hours after the initial shoulder separation, there were eight people in the room, four of whom did absolutely nothing except observe the proceedings. I watched with fascination as the doctor levered her shoulder back into place, basically lifting the arm up, back and to the right, as his helpers held her in place. He said he was surprised that in slid back in so easily, without even a pop.

(Side note: The GF was rendered briefly unconscious for the extremely short duration of the actual procedure, about a minute, due to the properties of a miraculous potion called Propofol. It's a milky fluid, injected directly into the vein, that the staff continually referred to as "Milk of Amnesia". Har-har-har.)

After a successful realignment Little Miss Gamma Ray returned for a final set of x-rays.

Later the Doc returned for a little bedside propaganda, giving an almost-but-not-quite-persuasive "aww-poor-baby" plus a side-order of "tsk-tsk" at the state of medicine today, though not offering anything in the way of preventative advice.

The bill was $950. The x-rays may be extra. We're not sure yet. This is an important number as the GF has been consistently denied insurance because she is self-employed and has fibromyalgia so this all comes out of her own pocket.

It's clear to me that this vast parade of procedures weren't as much about the hospital covering all its legal bases as much as a standard process of squeezing every last dollar out of each patient.

Don't get me wrong. I am of course grateful to live in an era when medical technology has reached almost magical levels of effectiveness but that doesn't mean we have to be treated like sheep with credit cards. It's bad enough to suffer physically. It's worse to be treated like chumps in the process.

Pookums and I are both currently studying anatomy books and sourcing effective muscle relaxants on the web. She's also considering gritting her teeth, tightening her belt and engaging in a little arthroscopic surgery. I'll keep you posted.


end rant

Raging Pencils is a minor personal conceit of:

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