The holidays have come and gone with a whimper, it’s now 2017, and my medical care’s still stalled a year after the abuse incident in Emory’s ER, and a year and a half since I first reported the new neurological … Continue reading
If a doctor forced you to decide whether to keep your arm or your leg which would you choose? This is a ridiculous scenario, but figuritively speaking, chronically ill patients are expected to do that on a regular basis, sacrificing one thing they need in order to have another they need just as much.
I found this out first-hand when I began receiving services through SOURCE, a Medicaid waiver program that provides personal assistant services to people with disabilities who need help at home. When I first began with them I was told that I had to utilize a primary care doctor off a list they provided but that I could also keep any other doctors I wanted to keep.
The primary care doctor I had chosen when Emory sent me the certified letter kicking me out was somebody affiliated with Piedmont Hospital and although I wasn’t sure whether she was going to be able to help me get the necessary referrals to out of town specialists a staff person from her office called last week to say that she was in fact working on a referral to Vanderbilt and just to give her some time to get it facilitated.
She was unable (because Piedmont doesn’t accept direct Medicaid payment) and unwilling (because she didn’t want to be inundated with Medicaid Patient referrals) to sign up to get on the SOURCE list but I had been told by the SOURCE caseworker that I could have one doctor through their list and also keep her if I chose.
Today I went to the appointment with the SOURCE doctor I’d picked out (whom I will call Dr. HA). Dr. HA had wavy brown shoulder-length hair and was a little taller than I was; maybe about 5 ft 4 or 5.5 and of medium build.
She seemed nice but I could see fairly quickly that there were going to be numerous problems.
First, she wanted the records from Emory. This was a non-starter right off the bat and it seemed there was no way to make it out of this minefield unscathed. She told me that she had privileges at Emory Midtown (where Dr. H, my Pulmonologist works) as well as at Piedmont, and (strike 2) that “Emory’s good.” Uhhhh…Not so much, I thought.
I told her I’d been going there for 13 years and that it used to be but this past year something has changed, but she wouldn’t leave it at that. This turned into a game of 20 questions. She wanted to know what the political stuff was and on, and on. I reluctantly told her that there are numerous inaccuracies in my medical record and that two very important consults out of town had been sabotaged at the last minute, so I was not comfortable signing a blanket release for that medical record to any doctor, but that I would give her the objective information from test results, vital signs, etc.
“I won’t judge” she said Dr. HA in her thick Russian accent. “I can just go in and pull it since I am affilliated with them.” She then said she would also like the information on my chronically elevated liver enzymes.
“No, the clinical notes are awful. I’d rather you not. I would rather just close the book on it and not re-open any of that. I don’t want this stuff passed on from doctor to doctor.”
“If you don’t want me to look I won’t look” continued Dr. HA.
I’d heard this song and dance before and no longer trusted it. Signing such a release would have given her the legal right to access the electronic record as a whole and it was too big a risk. “I can give you the objective stuff. I have some of it with me and the data on my liver enzymes I can get for you if you need those”, I responded.
This doctor utilizes students from the Carribean and often 3 or 4 heads are better than one, and could ultimately be helpful but these were not residents but medical students so they were not as far along in their training as I’d originally thought. They all looked of West Indian descent with dark straight hair and dark skin.
One woman typed my medical history while another checked my vital signs and… checked my reflexes (ick). This more irritated me than scared me this time. I resisted the urge to throw that hammer across the room, LOL. As usual I had spasticity/hyperreflexia in my legs. She did not check the reflexes in my arms; just strength.
When it came up as to whether I wanted her to be my primary care doctor I explained that yes, for Source, and that Dr. P was already working on referring me to Vanderbilt and that I didn’t want to further delay that. This was a sticking point with her and she also seemed overwhelmed with the referrals I needed. She asked why Emory couldn’t just have me seen in their Movement Disorder clinic at which point I had to further explain that the Chief Medical Officer had kicked me out and then she wanted to know why, yada, yada…and I said that besides, I had never been referred there even before all that happened and that that was a big part of my problem; that the proper referrals to specialty clinics had not been acted upon when they should have been and with all the politicization of my case it would not really be in my best interest to go to their Movement Disorder clinic now even if I had not been barred from going as it is doubtful that I would get a fair and unbiased evaluation.
I went on to explain that I have rescheduled the one at UF Movement Disorder Clinic for January but that I need a doctor to sign off on the necessary forms for my oxygen concentrator to be carried on the plane and the one for the non-profit to cover my travel expenses.
“Really you need to have a neurologist to do all those things” said Dr. HA. “I feel it would be better for me to have back-up in case there ever was a neurological problem I don’t know how to handle.”
“I had two; one in Sleep Medicine who treated my Myoclonus and one in General Neurology” (giving her their names), “but Administration came in and forbid them to keep seeing me. I trusted them because they were going to support me through this process, but I had a really bad experience with a male neurologist and after that I don’t know if I can go to another one here in Atlanta. I looked and there was nobody of the ones available that I was that impressed with, besides, that male neurologist in the Emergency room was out-and-out abusive. I just really am hesitant after that.”
“Did you report it?” she asked?
“Well I know one at Piedmont who’s good…Dr. _____” (I will call this one Dr. HAA to avoid a mix-up as there are lots of these doctors who’s names start with H), I’d heard of him and can’t remember what his reviews said, but still…he’s a male neurologist. The thought of going through this embarrassing explanation as to what happened at Emory with yet one more Atlanta doctor, much less a male neurologist, was more than I could stand.
The primary care doctor, Dr. HA had me describe my Myoclonus, then looked up something on her phone. “Tramadol could lower your seizure threshold”, she said glancing over at me.
“I know, but the neurologists I was seeing didn’t think my Myoclonus was seizure-related, they thought it was due to the underlying disease-process, so I don’t think that is an issue. Besides, I’d already tested going off it for a few weeks and it made no difference in my Myoclonus at all. It’s much better on the 1000 Mgs of Keppra than it used to be before I was on it. I used to be up all night with it until 7 AM.”
The two students stared ahead making slightly uncomfortable faces at her apparent lack of clinical knowledge regarding the several different etiologies of Myoclonus. I noted it as well.
“Dr. P is in the process of setting up the referral to Vanderbilt. I’ve waited 7 months for treatment already and I really don’t want to delay it any longer. The neurologist may or may not even do that.”
“Let me speak with your caseworker” replied Dr. HA. “I don’t know why she told you to keep both of us. That doesn’t sound quite right for me to be for Source and she wouldn’t sign up but she will get paid to see you too when I went through the paperwork to get on their list.”
I handed her the caseworker’s business card and she dialed the number. “Ms. N? This is Dr. HA”, she introduced herself. “Yes, I’m here with Ms. Carlington in the office. She has told me that she was told she could see a doctor through SOURCE and also this one that she’s already established with who is not with SOURCE. I don’t think that’s right that she sees her and also me. Why did you tell her that? I don’t really appreciate it.”
Both me and the two female students in the room looked at one another awkwardly.
She put the caseworker on speaker. “I just figured she could do everything dealing with the neurological referrals” said the caseworker, “since she was already working on the referral. We really just need a doctor on record and since she was unable to get on the list I told the client to just pick one on the list for our purposes in addition.” And then speaking to me “Ms. Carlington, I guess you’ll just have to take this one on faith so that you don’t lose the home help. I don’t know what else to tell you if she won’t do it along with Dr. P.”
My heart sank “I’m beginning to think this is becoming more trouble than it’s worth. She wants me to see a new neurologist for the referral rather than her to do it if I switch to her. I don’t know any neurologist I trust and who knows if the new one would even give the referral. This could go on forever and I might never get to Vanderbilt at this rate.”I told her I just didn’t know what to do at this point, as I have had to change way too many doctors in a short period of time.
Dr. HA thanked her for speaking with her. I started to ask the caseworker if she’d be in the office when I got home so I could call her later, but she’d already gotten off the phone.
Dr. HA wrote me a refill of my Tradadol (but just 1 month’s worth) and told me that she’d give me a month to decide what I wanted to do, that she wouldn’t bother making copies of my records I’d brought with me until she knew I was coming back, then I followed her and the students back out into the hallway.
I need the referral to Vanderbilt but I also need the personal assistant. It’s not an either or situation. I need both equally. This is a real double-bind, but it seems if I get rid of Dr. P she won’t be too thrilled after she’s gone to the trouble of working on the referral to Vanderbilt, and she’s a sure thing and will save me time if she does it.
This newer primary care doctor is a question mark at best, and whether a new neurologist she recommends will follow through with the referral (if I can even get up the guts to see a local neurologist) is a total crapshoot since she doesn’t want to do it herself. It also makes me uneasy that she’s invloved with Emory on any level. Somehow in all these people’s self-interest I, the patient got left behind.
So many don’t understand the magnitude of my loss. I had two good female neurologists and they were ripped away from me when I needed them most. This is killing me. I need time to grieve. All this not being seen or heard and being required to fit into other people’s boxes I don’t fit just makes my heart ache and all I want to do is withdraw from everyone. Step out on faith? I can’t; not again for the umpteenth time. I need to eat what I like, keep to my routines, pace myself and not make too many changes too quickly. For me that’s a necessity; not a luxury.
After having spoken with many other patients I’ve noticed a commen theme in that nobody except a handful of experts in the medical community really wants to acknowledge, much less treat patients with some sort of Dysautonomia. I keep wondering … Continue reading
Aspergers and other forms of Autism were once thought to disappear once a child reached adulthood, but now experts are discovering that’s not so. Many people reaching the age of majority who were diagnosed as children who may have had services while growing up and an increasing number of undiagnosed Autistics have now “aged out” of the social service system and find themselves at a loss as to how to fully function in society.
While Autism exists on a spectrum with each individual presenting differently in both strengths and defecits, there are certain traits that people with this condition generally have in common;
* Difficulty in reading social cues from others in their environment.
* Difficulty in communicating their thoughts, feelings, and intentions to others in a form others can understand.
* Trouble in processing and making sense of the world around them.
* To some degree feeling uncomfortable making eye contact.
* May have sensory issues, and some don’t like being touched, certain tastes, textures, sounds, and/or smells.
* Literal thinking and impairment in one’s ability to decipher sarcasm, lying, disingenuousness, deception, trickery, two-faced behavior, and in some instances out-and-out meanness.
* Tend to take people at face value.
* A strong moral sense of honesty, right and wrong, and justice.
* May come across as odd or accentric.
* May have trouble regulating emotions (either appears emotionless as in showing lack of affect in voice or facial expression, and/or the opposite may present itself in that the person may get very upset at times).
* May have inflexibility in changing one’s routine.
*May have very specific and sometimes narrow interests that are focused on very intently, and difficulty “switching gears” to transition from doing those activities to doing other activities.
* May speak long-windedly and circuitously especially about those topics that interest him/her, often unaware of when others lose interest.
* Difficulty conceptualizing opinions widely divergent from their own (once believed to be a lack of empathy, but now recognized as difficulty with a particular type of abstract thinking).
*Repetitive behaviors; known as “stimming”(some of which have the function of self-soothing).
*Co-morbid conditions can include ADD/ADHD, Anxiety and/or Depression (usually situational), sometimes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and more recently a variety of medical conditions are recognized as being associated with Autism such as GI conditions, Dysautonomia, allergies, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, and other Autoimmune Diseases.
*Often these individuals are vulnerable to bullying by not-so-nice people who pick up on the fact that something is different about them and take advantage of their “blind spots.” This does not only happen to children in school settings, but can happen to adults also in the workplace, the community at large, and even in healthcare settings.
There are a growing number of cases documented of abuse and/or neglect in ERs and in other hospital settings. Staff often lack the training and patience necessary to accommodate such populations and therefore handle the situation very badly.
(Note that these symptoms in people with Autism often become worse when they are hungry, thirsty, or have medical issues that are not addressed in a timely manner. This is why it is especially important to pay attention to these clues and take them seriously. They are not a sign of mental illness nor of the individulal just being “difficult” nor are they a defect of character, but indicate that something is legitimately wrong that needs addressed ASAP).
It was once believed by experts that boys were affected at a 4:1 ratio to girls, though some believe the ratio is actually 16:1, more recent data suggests that the accurate statistic is likely 2:1 (male to female) or may be even more evenly matched between the genders.
Dr. Judith Gould of the Lorna Wing Center and Center for Social and Communication Disorders believes that current statistics about the prevalence of girls with Aspergers are under-representative citing a 2.5:1 ratio.
Tania Marshall did her docturate in Asperger’s in females, has published a number of books on the subject, and is currently practicing in this sub-specialty. She has found that it’s quite common for girls to fly under the radar until at least secondary school when communication and interaction among girls becomes more emotionally-based and a social hierarchy begins to develop. Females are better at concealing it and emulating those behaviors that are socially acceptable (referred to as masking).
For those adult women on the spectrum who are now in their 40s and 50s virtually no diagnosis of girls existed in the 1960s and 1970s when females of this age were children, so many women are just now obtaining official diagnosis and having to make up for a lifetime of struggle, misunderstanding, and riducule from those who mistake their condition for something else.
Back in those days nobody believed that girls could have Autism, so other euphemisms were used in lieu of official diagnosis when they were taken to neurologists and/or neuropsych tested. (I have miraculously managed to keep a report I had when I was tested at age 5).
This is in effect what happened to me. Neurologists have been telling me for years between the lines with statements such as “Your brain is wired differently” and “Your brain’s not hooked up quite right” and when I asked what I could do about it they were at a complete loss as to what to tell me.
In those days there really were no effective interventions or coping mechanisms. With all the stigma attatched and ignorant people out there confusing Autism with mental retardation, I really didn’t want to “go there” having been given the message that this was a family secret that shouldn’t be explored any further and was better left alone. I pushed it to the back of my mind telling myself it must not be true because all the media images of Autistic people were of children wildly out of control and non-verbal 24/7, 365 days of the year. That was not what I was like, but I had some of those problems at one time or another under certain circumstances and alot of the other quirks I had and still have I didn’t know were actually indicative of it.
When things went South at school due to my inability to focus my parents just switched me to a different school to avoid the inevitable questions that would ensue.
Throughout my educational years I was luckier than most in that I didn’t run into much bullying except for at a new private school in 5th and 6th grade in which the girls were especially snooty.
Then in high school I just tried to remain as invisible as I could and other than appearing a bit shy, nerdy, and separate, nobody really suspected nor bothered me.
I really thought this was something I would take to my grave as I figured things couldn’t get any worse with my just going on with my life and I was used to coping the best I could. It worked fairly well for awhile and I managed to “pass” except for a period mostly in my late teens and 20s when it was mistaken for other problems for which neither therapy nor medication did much good.
Been there, done that, so thanks but no thanks in case anybody’s thinking of suggesting that, LOL. Good old Dr. H. was and he couldn’t have been more off-target. I received some highly disorganized medical records in the mail at the end of last week which included doctor’s notes.
He and Dr. V’s Nurse Practitioner both floored me with their outlandish interpretation of what was going on with me medically; cynical verbiage that I won’t even dignify here because it is so judgmental and unkind that it’s unbefitting anyone who calls themselves a”medical professional.”
Dr. V’s first entry was pretty bad too, but she seemed as best as I can tell to reverse her opinion once more data became available about my Dysautonomia and I had a chance to disclose to her about the AS. (She did officially diagnose my Dysautonomia after our last visit on June 3rd, by the way, so that’s progress).
I’m pretty sure she’d just automatically gone into the first visit with a bias from what The Dark Man had charted. Even though she’d changed her mind later, it really scares me how easily influenced these doctors are to think the worst of a patient.
It appears that Dr. T steered clear of the pile-on and kept her notes constructive; good woman! ♥
These other people were in actuality seeing symptoms of my Aspergers and charting tidbits about my little quirks here and there and interpreting and/or knowingly misconstruing those traits as something almost willful on my part, poking and prodding at it as one would bat at a pinata!
Now I know why they were treating me like some sort of criminal or dangerous individual to be feared and loathed.
Such is prejudice in its ugliest of forms. And now it all makes sense why the spin they put on it is so ego-dystonic to me, because not only were they proposing something I don’t have in me, but it’s the very antithesis of who I am.
It is they who are dishonest and have duped me into believing they were actually trying to help me, smiling and pretending to like me and creating this ruse of positive relationship that I was unable to see through because of my Aspergers!
I find myself now unable to trust another doctor and I don’t know if I will ever be able to, at least not for a long time, because how can I trust when people are being genuine when they can so easily lie to me with a straight face? How can I know that they won’t write these terrible things again that are so untrue and unfair about me?
When I became really ill with the most recent illnesses, the protracted suffering and stress due to the institutional bullying, slow-down, and stoppage of care that I was subjected to over the past year (especially the past 7 months) caused my AS to become much more obvious.
I am now at a stage in which I don’t think I can put the Genie back in the bottle. Now there is one more problem that I need to do something about and find services for soon. Try finding services for a 55 year old adult woman in Georgia on Medicare. It’s not easy, and in fact nearly impossible.
Because of what’s happened at Emory it is no longer stable and manageable and I’m pretty sure this destabilization is permanent. People have no idea what I’m dealing with at home.
Now that I’ve decided to come out publicly I am trying to embrace it as best I can and use the positive aspects of it with which to cope. Although I didn’t want to open up this can of worms initially I am trying now to make lemonade from these lemons and educate the public so that this won’t happen to others who have to go to the doctor for some medical problem and risk falling victim to such atrocity. Maybe others can learn from my process and together we can make the world a safer place.
In 2013 A UK study published in the medical journal “Brain” began uncovering the differences between males and females who have Autism, not only in how they present symptom-wise, but in terms of brain structure.
The Cambridge research published in this esteemed neurological journal used MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to compare males with and without Autism, and females with and without Autism.
What they discovered is that overall, males had greater tissue volume, but that females’ brains with Autism more closely approximated the male brain than did Neurotypical females (those without Autism).
However, males with and without Autism did not show structural differences from one another.
A growing number of experts feel that testing remains behind the times, having been devised to detect Autism in males and that this may account for the under-diagnosis of females on the spectrum.
Many females present with symptoms often mistaken for mental health conditions such as eating disorders, drug abuse, etc…
Women with this brain orientation come from all walks of life. Some are unemployed,
some are professionals,
some are single,
and others are married and/or with children.
They come with all different combinations of skills and challenges. Some look obvious and others, you’d never know unless they told you.
Despite the fact that adult services remain hard to access, there is hope in that more research is being done with adults, and more is being learned about how to cope with it in addition to a growing advocacy movement by and for people with Autism. I will leave you with this beautiful music video by a fellow Aspie woman. Her voice is absolutely lovely. Please share and raise her up.
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Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…on Thusday, June 30th they did. Transportation came late and my assistant and I were worried we’d get there too late to be seen at Dr. T’s office at Emory Sleep Medicine at the 12 Executive Park location. The driver was confused and was about to take us to Clifton Rd. (main campus) but I told him he was heading the wrong way and he turned around just in time stating his GPS was taking him the long way.
There was no time for wrong turns. I was on a mission to bring airline forms to Dr. T. and Dr. V. (whose offices luckily were in the same building) regarding my oxygen concentrator.
I’d printed out forms for both Delta and United figuring those were the most likely two that the GA. Medical Care Foundation might book the trips with. I would need one or the other of the two doctors to sign off on my need to bring my oxygen on board the plane so that I’d run into no problems when it came time to travel.
We got off the van and went to the 4th floor where Dr. T’s office was located. We arrived to find a packed waitingroom. There was a heavy-set black female patient at the front desk carrying out a lengthy transaction to reschedule an appointment. She was wearing a portable oxygen concentrator and the young receptionist behind the counter lingered, typing on her computer. It seemed as though I sat there for 5 minutes. I looked at my watch seeing it was 10:45 already and still not checked in. The last thing I needed was to be considered late on such a crucial day.
The night before I’d sent detailed messages via the Patient Portal to both doctors so that things would would go smoothly and hopefully the forms for the airlines would be signed and handed back to me while I was there, but no such luck.
As my assistant and I waited I saw Dr. T pass through the receptionist area. I waived expectantly to her and she made eye contact with me and smiled her acknowledgement on her way in and out of one of the adjacent rooms. All the while I had no idea what was to come. I thought she’d be coming out to see me shortly, but the next thing I knew a portly, middle-aged white woman with shoulder-length wavy blonde hair called me back.
“Hi” I greeted her. “Are you the nurse?”
The woman stammered a bit and explained that no she wasn’t but that she’d explain. I followed her to a room on the hallway to the left-side of the receptionist desk. As we entered one of the rooms she sat behind a small computer desk and I in my wheelchair, across from her. Not wanting to waste another minute I launched into my request about the airline forms that I needed the doctor to sign. I explained that I was due to travel on July 6th, just a few days away. It was clear from her response that she was fully aware of my Portal message from the night before, but she stopped me in mid-sentence.
“Before you get started, I need to tell you; I’m the Office Manager. Patient Relations has been calling us all morning telling us that you’ve been terminated from the clinic and that we aren’t allowed to see you. I was going to save you the trip over here but it seems you’d already left. Because of the termination I can’t give those forms to Dr. T. She won’t be able to speak with you or fill them out.”
I felt suddenly as though someone had punched me in the gut. I could hardly believe that after all this that Administration was still placing obstacles in my way. It was at this point that the full impact hit me. Tears began pouring from my eyes.
“Look”, I said. “This is what happened. I was abused in the ER in December and instead of doing the right thing and correcting the problem Administration is covering it up.”
“I don’t know the story” she replied.
“Well now you do,” I said looking her dead in the eye. “I am honest as the day is long! They called in a sadistic neurologist to scare me and he beat me with his hammer, then had his female resident come back into the room afterwards and plop her butt down on my foot. Then he put defamatory things in my chart to destroy all my doctor/patient relationships so I could never get help. This was an impaired professional with an anger management problem.
Think about it. If I were what they’re painting me as I would be in a mental hospital right now after the past 7 months of harrassment Administration has put me through since the incident. You have no idea the tactics I’ve been subjected to. I must be one hell of a strong woman to withstand all that and still be talking to you rationally as I am now! This is not right! I was the victim, not the perpetrator and now I’m being punished for something they did to me!“
“That’s all the more reason why you should probably get your care outside of here and start somewhere fresh” said the Office Manager.
Tears continued to flow down my cheeks. “This cannot be allowed to happen. This is not the time!”, I pleaded. “I’m actively ill! It’s not like I’m coming in for a routine check-up. I really needed this appointment. I’m so sick that I need to go out of town to these top level specialists to get more advanced testing than I can get here, but nevertheless, I still need my neurologists here locally to come back to afterwards. Dr. T treats me for the Myoclonus. and Dr. V was fully intending to help me get these evaluations but Administration is sabotaging my trip!
I’m supposed to leave on July 6th! I don’t have time to start over right now with all new doctors. Don’t you understand? I’m sick and need to go soon so they can find out why! I’m waking up multiple times a night choking and gasping for air. My hair is falling out. I’m Dysautonomic and nobody knows why. They can’t do it here in Georgia!”
“I’m not a clinical person”, said the blonde-haired woman. “I’m just an Office Manager so I don’t know what to tell you in regards to that.”
“Also, I need those sleep study tapes because the specialists need to see my abnormal movements for themselves. The reports don’t go into enough detail although they had some EMG leads on me. The report didn’t document the rate of the jerking, only said that they picked up the movements but that they weren’t PLM. They are some sort of Myoclonus but they don’t know what specifically. They present at the onset of sleep and only under certain other circumstances like when I’m lying on a hard surface or my upper body gets too cold.”
“The reports will be good enough. The problem with providing the tapes is that it requires a certain kind of software to view them that’s not compatible with anybody else’s.” On the face of it that sounded a flimsy excuse at best, and at worst it may have been a lie.
“These out-of-town appointments took months to get” I continued, “and if I have to reschedule it could be up to a year for me to get another appointment…And also…I need to tell you something. I have (condition that can’t be named at this time) which is a neuro disorder; not psych, and therefore I don’t do well with this sort of disruption to my life. What they’re doing is really not good for me.”
The Office Manager seemed to soften for a moment. “I understand, and I empathize, but there’s nothing I can do” she said lamely. “Because we’re not a private practice the doctors here have to go by what they say to do. It’s now in the hands of Patient Relations.”
“Patient Relations is just a mouthpiece for Administration”, I replied. “They aren’t going to do anything. Do you want to know what their idea of an investigation is? They ask the perpetrators what their side of the story is, write it up, and send it to the patient. That is not a fair and unbiased investigation! I used to work as a patient advocate. I was instrumental in designing the Protection & Advocacy system in the state of Georgia. I never did my investigations like that!
I pulled the forms from my white 3-ring binder. “Here. Give these to Dr. T. just in case. Without this I can’t board the plane with my oxygen concentrator.
She needs to go to bat for me as my doctor! Have her tell Administration that blocking my care here and sabotaging my trip is putting the patient at risk. Have her advocate for me!”
The office manager looked at me from across the desk. There was a sense of futility in her body language. I found it increasingly difficult to look at her.
It seemed as though tears came in waves and then in-between got stuck and wouldn’t come out. I felt as though the wind were knocked out of me. I covered my eyes and leaned forward in my wheelchair teetering on my seat. I opened my mouth and no sound would come out.
Somehow it seemed especially cruel knowing that Dr. T. was just a room or two away but could not come in and speak to me. They didn’t even have the decency to let me talk with her one last time.
Even that being the case, all they had to do was have her sign my forms and bring them back to me but The Almighty GD Administration was like a huge fart in the room, rancid and putrid and taking precedence over everything that was rational.
The Office Manager was like a deer in the headlights, a lemming walking automatically over a cliff. Only one thought entered my mind at that moment. No job is worth casting a patient still in need of care out into the street to God-knows-what fate. The finality of it all fell like a thud to the floor.
After awhile she followed me out into the waitingroom, still packed with patients. I was still crying. My assistant was not where I’d left her. The Office Manager asked me her name, I told her and she said she’d try to look for her. At first she couldn’t find her but came back and took me back the other way to a waiting area that was less crowded.
“I’m just getting you more upset” she said turning to her right as if to leave.
“No you aren’t. It’s not you, it’s them” (meaning Administration). I reached out my hand and she took it. This was bigger than either of us. She asked if I could wait there for a minute and she’d try again to find my assistant. I nodded. In a few minutes she returned with her. The Office Manager explained to my assistant what she’d said to me about Administration not allowing Dr. T. to see me. I told her to ask Dr. T. to do everything she can to stand up for me.
My assistant turned to her. “So you’re basically saying that she needs to find all new doctors?”
“Yes, pretty much”, said the Office Manager.
“Let’s go call transportation” my assistant said to me, turning away from the woman in disgust. “We can do it from downstairs.”
“I need to give these other airline papers to Dr. V. on the 5th floor first and try to talk with her nurse before we go.” We headed toward the elevators in the main hallway. As we were leaving the Office Manager called out after us “It might be a waste of time for you to go down there because Dr. V. won’t be able to do what you need her to do, but you can try. Good luck with everything.”
The first one to arrive was too full, so we opted to wait for the next. Once on the 5th floor I approached the reception desk and asked to speak with J. Dr. V’s nurse and the receptionist told me she’d call her.
In just a few minutes J. came out and introduced herself. She told me Dr. V. was only here on Fridays. I told her the situation and asked her to ask Dr. V. to advocate for me and advised her to get in touch with the Union rep about this situation because Administration is putting pressure on medical professionals to act against the best interest of patients. She said she would and wrote some notes on a small post-it pad.
I handed her the airline forms and asked her to give them to Dr. V. The nurse said she’d call me. Once we’d gotten home I checked my phone messages and found both the confirmation of that day’s appointment and a later message from A.B. of Patient Relations stating the appointment was cancelled. The following is a sound file of the confirmation and the message from Patient Relations.
By the time my assistant left at 3:30 PM on Friday no call from the nurse had come in yet to confirm that the form had been completed and faxed over.
The next call on the tape is from a contact person at Medicaid informing me on June 1st that the GA. Medical Care foundation had still not received my paperwork from my doctor. Late last night I saw a Patient Portal Message. I logged in and it was a goodbye letter from Dr. V.
Corporate had prohibited her and any of my other doctors from seeing me. A message just underneath from the nurse which merely typed the instructions for the GA. Medical Care Foundation process implied that the paperwork had never been filled out or faxed, thwarted by the top brass at Emory Healthcare.
No reason was given to Dr. V for the “release” as Corporate so euphamistically referred to the expulsion (as the real reason; discrimination and retaliation for filing a complaint is against Federal law so they wouldn’t admit to that).
I wrote back to her telling her that I don’t think I can bring myself to start over again with a new neurologist, that I wanted to keep seeing her and that maybe she should contact the Union and tell Emory to take this job and shove it if they wouldn’t budge on this issue.
I left her my number and asked her to call me if/when she goes into practice somewhere else. I said that there is a shortage of good female neurologists in the Atlanta area and especially ones who really care about patients, and that I could tell she does. When you’re ill like I am and have been through what I have, being more than just a number, having a doctor who cares if you live or die and is truly invested in you is especially important.
Until I’d spoken with the nurse the other day I thought she’d worked there fulltime but in fact it’s only half a day on Fridays, so I guess it wouldn’t be any big financial loss if she decided to tell them to stick it up their collective posterior!
I cried most of the night and woke up crying again this morning.
We are not a bunch of chess pieces (patients and doctors) for Administration to move around at will!
We are people with real relationships! To destroy those relationships which can even determine life and death for a patient is to do harm!
Logistically I don’t know what will happen to me now or who will fill out the forms necessary so that I can get the care I need.
What the suits in the ivory tower fail to understand is that in order to do those kinds of things a relationship, a connection must be there and the doctor has to care about you. You can’t just find that in any doctor, and if a patient finds a good one it’s best to keep them.
I looked out there plenty before I saw Dr. V and after the first appointment (knowing Emory had her by the short-hairs) and I didn’t find it. Then as I got to know her I realised she was it. She would have done all that…if Administration hadn’t in effect held a gun to her head not to.
If you are a patient who has been mistreated at Emory please see this post; and contact me privately to give me your written signed statement. It’s never too late to make your voice heard.
Recent events have gotten me thinking now about the need for linkage with services to help chronically ill people when it becomes necessary to seek help outside their local communities. To know just how big a need there is out there you have only to look at GoFundMe, Youtube, and a variety of other public online forums. There is help available but it’s not always well-publicized. The financial cost alone to travel out of state can end up more than you have.
Most of the specialty clinics don’t cover lodging, and consultations are usually done on an outpatient basis, so that often requires staying in a hotel for several days on your own dime. For many on a low income and/or uninsured, this is impossibility without some financial assistance. The question is; where to look? When I found out that my local Medicaid transportation broker doesn’t transport people for over 50 miles, and the hotel fee for 4 or 5 days in just one of the two cities I need to travel to next month was going to cost most of my Disability check and that I would be forced to default on my regular monthly bills (already behind) in order to go and receive the more advanced medical help I need I was frantic and really bummed out.
I was able to find a non-profit organization called The Georgia Medical Care Foundation that covers airfaire, lodging, and food for the time one has to be away for special testing, assessment, and/or treatment. This organization is connected with DFACS (Dept. of Family and Children’s Services).
If you live in Georgia and need financial assistance for such a medical trip have your doctor call (678) 527-3000 and have them fax him/her their application form. They will want to know your name, date of birth, dates and addresses of your travel, and possibly some medical information. Once the doctor fills it out, faxes it back, and you’re approved it then goes to Ginger Henry, the contact person at DFACS who cuts the check (404) 657-3596.
At first somebody gave me incorrect information that the funding was probably by reimbursement (which would have made this an inaccessible option for me), but when I spoke with another representative I was told that it is issued to the patient and/or airline/hotel up-front.
My neurologist, Dr. V. left word yesterday through one of her nurse practitioners that she’d be the one to fill out the form ( a big relief, since as of my last post no doctor had yet committed). I need to call my contact at Medicaid in the morning to follow up on where my application is in the process. I hope Dr. V. got it filled out and faxed back yesterday.
In my search earlier for other resources I found this webpage you might find useful which covers resources throughout the US that are available to help with various medical needs. There is also a section where you can search by state. You can also contact your state legislature to find out if they have set aside an indigent care fund (many states do). Your local representative can probably tell you if such a fund exists where you live and find out what the process and criteria is to access it.
There are also some illness-specific groups and organizations that will help financially.
I’m having alot of pain extending from the center of my spine inward to my abdomen, feeling as if someone has kicked me in the stomach, and waking up every few hours each night now with my body temperature all dysregulated; burning hot, then freezing cold, so I hope that the doctors at these clinics can find out what’s causing this and that there is some treatment that will get it stabilized at least. It is getting to be a bit too much.
I had about 2 weeks reprieve from the GI symptoms but they are back again. Now when I go to the bathroom my bowels feel like I’m passing shards of glass, and yesterday evening I noticed the toilet paper dotted with blood, and both back and front feels raw. I can’t tell whether I have another infection or if it’s something related to my Dysautonomia, or a combination of both. It’s 5:42 in the morning and I just took some pain medication so that I can hopefully get some sleep before the personal assistant comes at 9:30 AM.
Nothing about this diagnostic process has gone smoothly, but transportation was the one thing I thought was wrapped up. I’d called Southeastrans (Medicaid’s transportation broker for this area) a month ago to find out what the process was and was told that they’d schedule these out-of-town trips just the same way as they did the in town trips; that I just needed to call their main scheduling number and they’d set it up.
Meanwhile I set about requesting all the necessary medical records (two discs for each of the two doctors).
The sleep study tapes were elusive and I found out that Radiology nor Medical records has those accessible; that they were handled by another records department connected with Sleep Medicine. After about a full 2 days I finally got routed to the right department, but initially only the latest sleep study (July 2015) was showing up in the computer database. I had 3 sleep studies in all (each of which yield important data that any top level specialist will be able to see the significance of in the diagnosis of multi-system disease). Researchers who are up on the latest medical knowledge understand that sleep studies are often the first sign of such disease processes and they give important markers that may not be fully detectible via other tests for years. Finally after much searching around somebody suddenly located the other 2 tapes and I was told they were being copied onto dics as we spoke.
I suddenly found that people who answered the phone in the various departments and call centers were greeting me in an uncharacteristically friendly and helpful way, asking if I were “having a good day”, some almost as if they knew who I was, and this time when I called to schedule my follow-up appointment with Dr. V. the appointment went through! Suddenly people were actually returning my calls again and they were not proxys but those whom I had asked to call me back!
It remains to be seen whether or not everything is unblocked now since they received my cease and desist letter. I hope it is and that I will have no further blocks on my scheduling from here on out. I have since received no explanation via Patient Relations nor from Administration directly as to whom initiated the block and the circumstances under which their Chief Medical Officer was called in.
Good old Dr. H. the pulmonologist may have helped me much more than he knows. Even if he (the subjective human) has or had doubts in the short-term about my underlying condition(s), his objective data reveals important tuths that can’t be denied. Within these studies could lie the key to my underlying condition(s) and when viewed by the right specialists who understand patterns and correlations it could be my salvation, and will very likely get my treatment back on track.
Maybe in time he will come to understand that his hunch about a central process in the Pons and/or Medula was correct all along. (Afterall, that was one theory as to why I had the slowness of muscle transmission in my left leg EMG results). Not that anyone would want something to be wrong there, but sometimes a doctor’s admitting he was wrong in his doubts of his first instinct and the patient’s instinct is the best thing for the patient and for the doctor/patient relationship. If the underlying condition(s) can be identified, caught early enough, and treated with the best science has to offer, maybe all’s well that ends well, and all of us can go home satisfied.
I have always and will always maintain that my team of doctors need to keep their eye on the ball and avoid becoming waylayed and distracted by other agendas. The doctor/patient relationship is paramount, and anything that stands in the way of it must be removed. Such distractions are exactly that; distractions, and must be put aside if one is to serve the best interest of the patient. This is an ethical and moral imperative above all else.
There is enough evidence now that something serious is going on in my body, and so I hope from here on out my doctors can dispense with any questions they may have had in their own minds as to that reality, so that we can put our collective effort into finding out what that is.
Well, back to the transportation issue which pulls all this together; I called Southeastrans last week to set up the trips to these two out-of-state specialists and suddenly got the response from the scheduler “We don’t do that.” The scheduler got her supervisor on the phone and she told me that even my Florida trip was too far for Southeastrans to travel; that their broker system only takes people within a 50 mile radius. She did not know of anything else. My heart sank. Knowing that this is a major consideration and that I cannot afford to cover transportation out of pocket with my tiny Disability check amount, I persisted, asking what the process is to get it authorized, as I knew I’d heard from other patients that they were covered for longer-distance trips, especially when their home state did not have the proper testing facilities and specialists and were at an impasse. Surely they couldn’t just leave indigent patients up a creek without a paddle.
The hotel in Cleveland Ohio has been booked, appointments have been made, and records have been ordered on disc, along with many hours of logistical telephone calls, blood, sweat and tears on my part. I have done the majority of the work myself to facilitate these independent evaluations and I was going to be damned if a technicality so idiotic would stand in the way now. I called the Medicaid Commissioner’s office whose aid then put me in touch with another department and there I spoke with a man and a woman who basically told me it was not going to be a problem; that all I had to do was have my doctor fill out a form with a foundation affilliated with Medicaid that would cover airfaire, lodging, and food for my trips, but advised that my doctor start the process right away since time is running short.
I’m supposed to be boarding a plane bound for Cleveland, Ohio on July 6th, come home Monday afternoon the 11th, and then head out to Gainesville, Florida early the morning of July 13th to arrive there at 9:30 AM for a full day of testing. It required my scheduling the Cleveland Clinic appointment 3 months in advance, and the one in Ganesville, FL, 6 months in advance. All their other doctors were booked a full year in advance, so I was lucky to get an opening in 6 months as it is!
I couldn’t imagine there would be any problem in having Dr. V. fill out the certification form so that this non-profit organization could ensure these evaluations came to pass, but I was wrong in that assumption.
My detailed message containing the process, foundation’s phone number, and my necessary information sat on the Patient Portal for about 2 days un-forwarded (Dr. V. was unaware of its contents since somebody else needed to forward it to her first). As soon as I realized the doctor had not received it herself I called by phone and was told by a representative in “Brain Health” that she would then mark my message “high priority”.
Soon afterwards I received a reply with a nurse’s name on it as though she were forwarding a message from the doctor asking me to ask my new GP to fill out the form instead (the new GP who does not work for Emory). I could not believe this! There is no time to waste, and besides, why would Dr. V. not fill out the form when she herself wanted me to have these consults? It didn’t make sense. This is one delay that could throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, and I don’t know how long it takes to process once the doctor does fill it out and submit it through the proper channels. My first date of travel is about a week and a half away (not counting weekends), and nothing is nailed down yet! I wrote back saying I would ask the new Primary Care doctor (Dr. P), but that if she says no and feels it’s the job of my neurologist to do since these are neurological consults, then I will still need Dr. V. to do it. I impressed upon her that time is ticking away and I can’t afford for anything to go wrong. I have not put in all this work and effort just to lose this opportunity.
With no local autonomic clinic close by, and my abnormal movements being not your average garden variety movement disorder, these doctors (if they care about me) should move heaven and earth to see that I make it to both appointments and do everything they can on their end to make it happen. It’s just the right thing to do.
After I got off the Patient Portal I immediately wrote a letter to my new PCP with the same request I’d sent Dr. V and faxed it to her. I have since found another fax number on some other paperwork from her office and am faxing it to that number as well (to make absolutely sure she receives it).
I hope to God that when I follow up on Monday that I’m told it’s been done and being processed by the foundation that issues the funds and makes the arrangements and that all this will be in time for it to go off without a hitch! It has to! I don’t think I can wait another 3,6, or 12 months to reschedule and arrange this over again.
Last week some nice person in one of my chronic illness groups sent me the link to another woman (this one in Colorado who had received a letter very similar to the one I received from the Chief Medical Officer. This patient is a civil rights attorney.
It seems as though these big healthcare corporations are devising boilerplate FU letters to send patients when they’ve messed up and mismanaged somebody’s care and want to shift responsibility. Such letters are very unwise. The thing is, they will not hold up under federal non-discrimination laws and patients will prevail. Any legal department will clearly see that and advise the corporation to retract such actions.
It’s always a wiser tactic to do the right thing when you realized you’ve F’ed up a patient’s care and do something to correct it and satisfy them from that point forward than to follow one bad decision with another, follow one lie with a bigger lie. In the end no amount of money or image is worth covering up wrongdoing and throwing the patient under the bus. This is the care of human lives we’re dealing with here, not inanimate objects. Earn that image and you’ll have no problems.
There really is something to be said for going that extra mile for the patient rather than doing the least you can do or standing in their way. In healthcare even more than other businesses, true customer satisfaction is very important.
I sincerely hope that Dr. V. will come through when all is said and done and that she will have safe passage to help me maximally, unfettered by competing interests and unbeholden to her employer. As I said earlier; the doctor/patient relationship is paramount. I want to trust that in the end she will put my best interest first no matter what comes. I cannot be let down by one more neurologist.
I found out that mercifully Dr. V had written the order for the IV Saline and faxed it over to my new primary care physician (outside of Emory), but apparently the new PCP needed her to do a physical examination. We’d had so much piled up from Dr. V’s 3 months away that there wouldn’t have been time for that even if we’d known it were needed, but I had no idea. It wasn’t until a nurse responded to me on the Patient Portal that I knew there was any hold-up.
On Thursday, June 16th I attempted to set up my next follow-up appointment, and was thwarted from doing so because of the block Emory’s Chief Medical Officer had placed on my account. Yesterday (Friday) I tried again after leaving a verbal message of Patient Relations’ voicemail that Emory was violating Federal Civil Rights Non-descrimination laws, and that they need to remove the block on my account immediately. I received no response Thursday, nor Friday, and on Friday when I again attempted to schedule an appointment with Dr. V for sometime in the last two weeks of June or for once I’d have returned home from Cleveland Clinic and UF from the two specialists in mid to late July, I found that the block was still in place. Today I decided to submit a cease and desist letter via Emory Healthcare’s Patient Relations Department on Emory’s website. Here it is below;
Letter to Patient Relations Sent Saturday, June 18th Via Emory’s Web-form
I called Patient Relations and got only a voicemail at your phone number (I believe it was on June 16th around noon) at (404) 778-3539. I left a message regarding the fact that Administration, (specifically P. Z. C., MD) has issued a block on my ability to schedule future appointments with any of my doctors at Emory. A licensed physician who does such a thing, superseding and thwarting care by a patients’ own physicians is violating the Hippocratic Oath by maliciously standing in the way and creating barriers to access when the patient is in need of medical care.
Because of her actions I was denied care for a severe urinary tract infection at Emory Gynecology when I attempted to set up an appointment with my established doctor there. A nurse by the name of M. (at Emory St. Joseph’s Clinic which had the earliest available Gynecology clinic appointment) called me back to inform me I had been “dismissed from the clinic” and rudely talked over me, stating I’d have to go someplace else. When I informed her that refusing care by a non-profit organization is a violation of federal law she yelled into the phone that I’d have to go somewhere else, and then hung up on me.
I believe this is the same M. that is a nurse of my former primary care physician at Emory St. Joseph’s Clinic, but in Primary Care. The Clinic I was trying to get an appointment with was Gynecology so I do not know why a nurse from Primary Care was calling me.
Gynecology could not call in the needed antibiotics without seeing me first, so I had to make cold calls to outside physicians on the spur of the moment in order to catch it in time and even then it took all of 14 days to clear it up. I have chronic susceptibility to e-coli infections of the urinary tract. If a mobile physician group had not stepped in to write the prescription for Cipro ASAP I would most likely have had to go to the ER because it was already beginning to affect me systemically. Being an OBGYN herself I am sure Dr. C. is aware of the effect untreated e-coli has on the human body.
I informed Patient Relations that this is against federal law and that therefore this block must be removed immediately or the corporation risks federal discrimination charges. My call was not returned by the end of business that day nor the next full day (Friday, June 17th). On the 17th I again attempted to schedule my follow-up with my neurologist at the Executive Park location who fully intends to help me and wants to see me on an ongoing basis. She has been away on maternity leave and there was alot that was backed up needing to catch up on when I saw her last on June 3rd and she needs to examine me to start certain services I need. Although I am scheduled to see some out of town sub-specialists I still want and need to keep her as my local neurologist.
Such decisions should be between me and my doctor and therefore Administration needs to stay the hell out of my confidential relationship with my doctor. I do not know this corporate executive Chief Medical Officer and although she might be a physician she does not have the standing to make medical decisions above the heads of me and the doctors that I choose to enter into a doctor/patient relationship with. This is a malicious and retaliatory act on the part of Administration to prevent me from proving my condition and setting the record straight. Their actions show clear-cut manipulation of my care and an attempt to prevent my obtaining the true diagnosis of my disease-process.
Retaliation for filing a grievance is an added violation under federal law from which no Emory regulation will provide them immunity. The further they push this agenda the more violations they’ll accrue.
I don’t know if certain petty individuals consider this their idea of fun or what, but it is a very dangerous game they’re playing, I do not find it amusing and I intend to defend my civil rights to the fullest extent of the law, as a patient with several already established serious autoimmune diseases, I consider their acts of obstruction, patient-dumping, and medical neglect as a corporation a threat upon my life.
In addition to having the ban lifted, I would like to know exactly who initiated it, why, and how this top executive was brought in.
This harassment of me has gone on since December when I was abused in the Emergency room and reported it, and it is very clear now that the corporation is attempting to dispense with me as a way to further cover it up.
Obviously, the corporation is corrupt all the way to the top brass and uses strong-arm tactics to silence those who speak honestly about incidents such as what happened to me (and it is a matter of public record that they’ve resorted to dirty tricks against their own former employees whom have had the courage to stand up and become whistleblowers to report corporate corruption when they saw it at Emory).
When sending a man to scare and beat me into submission didn’t shut me up, they decided to resort to kicking me out.
Clearly they underestimate a woman fighting for her life. Given my advocacy background it would be in their best interest for them to cease and desist any further interference with my medical testing and treatment, get out of the way and allow me to pursue my medical care in peace with those doctors with whom I have a good rapport; with those whom genuinely want to help me, whose motives are pure and are in the field of medicine for compassionate reasons.
I do not bother anybody who doesn’t attack me first, and I am only interested in justice, maintaining my freedom to choose my medical relationships, to obtain my care in a timely, respectful, and compassionate manner, to be allowed to give honest feedback without fear of reprisal, and to be afforded my civil rights to healthcare without interference and impedance, my care plan determined jointly between me and the doctors of my choosing without any sort of conflict-of-interest, pressure or duress from “above”.
There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about that “expectation” and nothing that justifies my being blocked from scheduling appointments at Emory Healthcare nor anyplace else.
I am writing you on Saturday, June 18th and I look forward to hearing from you on Monday, June 20th that the block has been lifted and that I can resume scheduling appointments with doctors I wish to continue working with.
The letter was submitted at 6: 55 PM, Saturday, June 18th, 2016. I hope this will get through to them that I am serious and that they need to stop these vicious and irresponsible games. What I’ve been subjected to over the past 7 months is institutional bullying and I don’t take that sort of cruelty lying down. If this corporation intends to kill me either actively or passively it will continue to be documented in as close to real time as possible and sooner or later they will be caught and the full weight of the law will come down on them.
Just as Administration is watching this blog, so are others whose job it is to protect patients like me, and I’m sure that I’m not the only patient this type of thing has happened to at Emory. It may be that I’m the first patient to make it public, but a good background search will reveal that Emory has a long and sordid pattern of vicious and underhanded attacks against dissenters, and of discriminatory practices (mostly on the University side), but there have been documented incidents of corruption starting with antisemitism, and others ranging from research study manipulation and NIH funding fraud to Medicare/Medicaid billing fraud some of which included double-dipping; billing Medicare and Medicaid for services which had already been paid for with research funding.
In each of these cases the entity sought to discredit the whistleblower who had exposed the particular malfeasance by exploiting whatever vulnerability in that individual they could, be it their work reputation, going after their medical license with lies about them, assassinating the person’s character, and/or painting them as mentally ill.
Dr.Charles Nemeroff, a psychopharmacologist and former head of Emory’s Dept. of Psychiatry who is mentioned in numerous reliable media source’s articles and investigative reports as having committed research and medical journal publishing fraud and that he was in bed with major pharmaceutical companies and getting promotional funding from them while employed by (and with the blessing of) Emory. He also falsified safety claims on Abilify stating it was safe when in fact it was causing Tardive Dyskinesia.
Nemeroff himself conducted some of those psychiatric evaluations on whistleblowers, (proving my point that Emory does have unofficial hatchet-men to do their dirty work for them in order to cover up their corrupt practices).
After leaving Emory and Georgia in disgrace, Dr. Nemeroff went on to become employed at University of Miami and officials there seemed strangely unconcerned about hiring somebody who had committed illegal and unethical acts in the process of his career activities.
Apparently the reason for this nonchalance according to the Chronical for Higher Learning was that NIMH Director Thomas Insel owed Nemeroff for a favor he’d done for him when he’d lost his position and put in a word for him with Pascal Goldschmidt, MD, UM’s Medical School Dean, convincing him that the benefits in the man’s skill at fundraising outweighed the risk he carried. Meanwhile Insel quietly revised the NIMH conflict-of-interest regulations, and Nemeroff sits on two advisory boards that decide or influence which scientists get research funding.
Nemeroff’s current department is back in the Medicaid business overseeing a multi-million dollar contract which oversees 900 providers 30 hospitals, and 100 CMHCs (Community Mental Health Centers) trusting him with state funding again even after his HHS/CMS violations here in Georgia. While Nemeroff sits on easy street the whistleblower has spent years of his life fending off numerous frivolous legal challenges thrown at him by a judge who was in Emory’s pocket, unfairly placing a gag order on him while not evenly applying the same constraints on Emory whose various officials have given a number of media interviews about theirs and Nemeroff’s side of the story.
Emory holds a tremendous amount of power in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia so it’s no wonder that its top-level executives feel they’re above the law. It’s bad enough that they feel free to tamper with research and NIH/NIMH funding and go after people to cover up the skeletons in their closet, but the epitome of low-down and dirty that they’d resort to such tactics against patients! To attack a patient may prove to be their undoing. That is a bridge too far. Here’s one porcupine they’d best leave alone. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Being chronically ill there are times we need help with certain aspects of everyday life. If you’re lucky enough to have a good support system of people living with you and/or coming to your home to help with things like grocery shopping, cooking, bathing, house cleaning, running to the pharmacy then this might not pose a difficulty for you (other than the initial embarrassment of having to ask for the help you need, or worrying about whether the people in your life will feel imposed upon).
If you have nobody to help with such activities because either nobody you know commits to help out or those people in your life are limited because of work obligations during a large part of the week, you may need to look into hiring a professional service.
At the outset this can seem a monumental task especially when you’re fatigued or brain-fogged, but it is often essential.
To many homebound/bed-ridden people this can make the difference between having quality of life or not, and sometimes it can even be a matter of survival if for instance you run out of food and are unable to go to the store yourself and get what you need to eat, or you run out of medication or need a new medication urgently for an acute medical problem and have no way to get it yourself.
The idea of having a total stranger coming into your home to help with activities of daily living can be a little unnerving but there are steps you can take to make it less scary and more safe. There are a whole array of agencies and individuals who provide home-based care and their fees vary depending upon the level of skill they have, their education and licensing, and often the length of time they have experience in the field.
One can find relatively basic care-givers who have informal experience taking care of a loved-one, all the way up to people who are licensed to provide skilled nursing duties, and everything in-between. The majority of this work, though, is performed by CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants).
You will want to ask agencies whether they’ve done background checks on those they employ and what those checks consist of, whether they do a drug-screen, check references, etc. If you are able you might also want to do your own once you have picked out or are assigned a specific care-giver. You might even want to place a “nanny-cam” in your home as a safety measure. While in-home abuse or neglect by professional assistants is relatively rare statistically (especially when you obtain someone from an agency), it does happen, so although you might never run into such an incident, having daily activities on videotape is a good idea if you have the means to do so. This also verifies that activities performed in other parts of the house not in your presence are being completed, as agreed.
Once you meet the person you should also ask them what kind of experience they’ve had with your type of illness, assess how much they know about it, how willing they are to learn about it, and tell them your needs. You will get a sense of how they are from their response. If they sound confident and receptive to what you need them to do then they are likely a good fit.
If on the other-hand they are resistant to providing this or that, or they sound oppositional, ill-equipped either experience-wise or emotionally this is a red flag and you should ask for somebody else. Even on Medicaid you have the right to request a different assistant if you do not feel comfortable with the one assigned. If you are paying privately you will have the opportunity to interview a variety of people at the outset and choose one.
You can find personal assistants on sites such as Care.com and Angie’s list, as well as through senior and disabilities organizations, the United Way helpline, and on the internet.
These agencies and individuals generally fall into two categories; private pay, and Medicaid. (Generally Medicare does not cover these services and neither does private health insurance). Occasionally a long-term care insurance policy might cover this type of help but not all of these services accept it as payment, so you might have to do alot more calling around to find one that does.
If you’re on Medicaid (either as your primary or secondary insurance) and you are having significant problems doing things such as cooking and cleaning, bathing, or getting out of the house to buy things you need you will likely qualify for one of Medicaid’s Waiver programs.
Medicaid is state-funded, so the programs in your area will vary based on what your individual state offers, but most states have some help of this type available. Generally you would call your local Medicaid office to find out what the process is and they will send you forms to fill out about your needs.
If you live in a country other than the US it is likely your country offers something similar. I know that the UK has a very good government funded system of professional care-givers (which makes ours pale in comparison and is generally free), and Australia has one as well.
Each Medicaid Waiver category has slightly different criteria and there may be several offered, so you may want to ask them to send you a booklet on all the ones in your area to decide which one best fits your needs and situation. There are usually waivers for adults and ones for children. Since there are a large number of applicants needing help and funding in this day and age is limited there is likely to be a waiting list even after you’re approved, so it is best to apply as early as possible so you’ll be less likely to end up in a bind.
Still sometimes applying promptly doesn’t guarantee that services will come through in time and when that happens getting the help you need may be costly or downright inaccessible.
I recently ran into a situation in which I had to have a colonoscopy and Emory was going to cancel it if I didn’t have somebody with me. I’d already drunk the prep and gone through considerable upheaval by the time they told me my having nobody to come with me couldn’t be accommodated, so I had to pay about 1/4 of my monthly Disability check to hire someone for the day. Had it fallen in the middle or end of the month I literally wouldn’t have had the money to do it, and even now I cannot pay other bills because I’m out the money that ordinarily would have been used to pay my monthly living expenses.
I called the same agency I’d applied for the Medicaid waiver through (ironically just a week or two later Medicaid approved me for the program). They emailed me a contract to sign and added a credit/debit card on file for them to charge once services were rendered. My experience overall was good and it gave me a chance to test-drive the service and get a feel for what it was like.
A woman arrived at my house on time the day of my procedure. She was personable and I filled her in on the situation and we talked while we waited for transportation to show up. She loved dogs which is a plus, since not all of them do, and went to speak with Carmella who was whimpering in the kitchen wanting some attention. She told me she had done this type of work for many years and told me about some of the clients she’d worked for.
Things went smoothly. The only thing I would change is I could have used somebody a little more assertive, as there were a few times when people at the outpatient center were not listening to me and taking my special needs into account where I needed her to step in and back me up. She was rather flabbergasted at these incidents though and noticed that some people were not respecting my dignity and were treating me like a number. She noticed, for instance, that after her colonoscopy they had her in recovery for about 5 hours while they rushed me out after only about 15 minutes and that they tried to unhook the IV before all the fluids had finished.
On Friday a woman from the agency came out to my house to complete a nursing assessment once they’d determined that I’m eligible through Medicaid. She asked me what my needs were and my limitations. (I believe the nurse comes out once every 90 days).
I was approved for an assistant 6 hours per day/5 days a week (which isn’t bad for the type of waiver I applied for). This is a huge relief, as so much has had to go by the wayside because I just can’t do all these things myself anymore. Just going to a doctor’s appointment and being out of bed that long is extremely taxing for me, and vacuuming the floor is now pretty much impossible. I have no way (nor the physical strength or stamina) to lug a load of groceries on my wheelchair from the grocery store, so having somebody who has their own car is crucial. Next month I am going to need to replenish alot of food and supplies, as things have run out and I’ve been unable to go to the store myself. Now that my stomach is so unpredictable I will need to have a large, ready supply of things like chicken broth and the weight of just 4 of those boxes of broth weighs quite a bit. Carmella’s dog food is more than I can lift these days too.
Apparently Medicaid doesn’t pay for mileage for an assistant to drive their own car to go to the store, pharmacy, etc, so that is charged .70 per mile private pay. I may need this once to about 4 times per month and the distance to most of the stores and pharmacy isn’t far, so I don’t think that will be too much of a problem.
I made a list of things that I need for the assistant to do. Most agencies will give you a ring binder with timesheets and other information in it. You should add your list to it so that whatever caregiver you get can easily refer back to it. Explain to them verbally (and if possible in writing as well) how and when things need to be done, whether you’re on any special diet, whether you have any food allergies, food brand preferences, what you generally eat for meals, and any other special needs you have that they should be aware of.
Make sure to ask the agency what their back-up plan is in case the assigned care-giver is out sick or has a family emergency and how quickly they can get a replacement.
With concise organization and clear communication your assistant will make your life easier and less stressful so that you can focus on things other than logistics. This is invaluable and can save you alot of frustration and prevent you from over-extending and over-tiring.
(I’m now participating in the Chronic Friday Link-Up with BeingFibroMom).