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 hasto! I don’t think I can wait another 3,6, or 12 months to reschedule and arrange this over again.
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.
“Please accept this letter as a formal notification to you that all the physicians at Emory Clinic are formally withdrawing from your care. We wish to terminate the physician/patient relationship that has been established because we are unable to meet your expectations.”
As I awaited Dr. V’s return from maternity leave it seemed like an eternity. The Dysautonomia continued to spiral out of control and still no treatment for it seemed forthcoming. My digestive tract took turns with my blood pressure and heart rate wreaking havoc on my body. The weight-loss continued, and my hair began falling out. I found it in my bedsheets, on my clothes, on the floor, in the bathtub and it even fell into my food during those periods when I could eat. The Patient Portal had grown eerily silent, and though I occasionally left symptom updates for Dr. V’s Nurse Practitioner it seemed almost as though the conversation had gone cold and for a time I wondered whether anyone was reading (except for Administration whose new pastime seemed to be keeping tabs on me). It became evident that nobody was going to fill in for Dr. V to write orders in her absence and to this day I don’t know why, nor could I get a straight answer to this question when I directly asked staff. I figured why waste all this time for the 3 months she was away when we could be actively working on the problem.
The Nurse Practitioner eventually told me she was forwarding my correspondence to Dr. V at home and that was some consolation. It turned out Dr. V was in agreement with my getting back on IV saline given the fact that there was not a whole lot else to be done about it other than to load me up on beta blockers which neither she nor I wanted. Even so, she held off on writing the order herself while she was home and nobody else wrote it either.
The Gastroenterologist, Dr. J.M. was reluctant to venture into that territory, viewing it as the job of Neurology, and though she was cordial enough she seemed to be very traditional and more in favor of treating the GI symptoms individually with a pill for each one. She did do a couple tests though, so it was a start. Other than the waxing and waning of my symptoms punctuated by several acute crises of near syncope, nausea, headache, and vomiting, everything else for awhile anyway was uneventful and I was grateful for that.
I thought maybe finally Administration had turned their attention to other matters, but no such luck. Just when I thought it might be safe to go on with my life and my medical care and that maybe things would eventually iron themselves out I received a certified letter, then soon after, another copy of the same one in my mailbox with the dreaded logo on the left-hand corner in that severe, bold font in dark denim blue. I wondered what fresh hell they were cooking up this time and all the while hoped it was good news, but when I opened it, the audacity hit me full in the face like a mean left hook. It was an official letter from Emory’s Chief Medical Officer (not the male I’d been told held that position several months ago but this time, a woman whose name was unfamiliar). This was not long after I’d received the report from Patient Relations merely parroting Dr. B’s response and that of his direct supervisor who had not returned my call as she’d promised during the time before Dr. B officially bowed out. I’d called to follow up with Patient Relations and got their voicemail so I’d left a message telling them I was still sick and asked what exactly Emory was planning to do about that. For weeks I’d received no response. Although irritating I wasn’t surprised considering how useless their “investigations” had been before. It now seemed clear that the letter was meant to act as a response, but instead of offering some sort of olive branch, concession, or compromise to come to some positive resolution the content of the letter pushed further in the opposite direction upping the ante from the once rather off-hand suggestion that I could always choose to go someplace else if I was dissatisfied to now directly telling me I was being kicked out by the Royal WE which was the entirety of Emory Healthcare. This is something that they don’t legally have the right to do because they’re considered a non-profit organization and the conditions under which they receive federal funding dictate that they cannot discriminate nor refuse treatment to patients who come to them asking for an appointment. The doctors employed by Emory although technically employees are individuals, and some are better than others.
I have never maintained that every single one of them is crappy and I made that very clear to Patient Relations. I give credit where credit is due and I don’t blame those doctors who are genuinely trying to help for the shenanigans perpetrated by certain other individuals who choose to continue to exercise poor judgment or engage in malicious acts against me.
Despite the vicious nature of the corporate entity there are some good and caring doctors there and it is unfair for some corporate mouthpiece to be so presumptuous as to say she speaks for them. I’m sure that there are many doctors whom would blanch if they only knew how unethical those in the ivory tower behaved, and some might even decide they didn’t want to work for such an evil empire that so callously dismisses patients still needing care.
Hypocritically, Emory spends probably millions (possibly even billions of dollars) on patient satisfaction surveys, yet when a patient gives honest feedback that is negative about an experience there they are personally attacked. This information should be used to improve the system, not used against the patient, and nearly all federal civil rights laws have a requirement that the claimant not be retaliated against for filing a grievance, yet this is exactly what has been done to me.
If I were one of the decision-makers at Emory I would take that money currently spent on surveys that are used just to pump up their false image and all the new buildings being erected around town and put it towards hiring more doctors. More buildings will not make Emory better, that depends on the people in charge and it is incumbent upon them to earn the reputation they so badly want. More buildings cost money and it is highly likely that the care each patient receives will suffer and more rationing will result.
Not long after I had my colonoscopy I developed a horrible urinary tract infection and needed to call the Gynecology clinic to make an appointment since it had been awhile since the doctor there T.M. had seen me in the office, so although it was obviously e-coli she could not just call in a prescription before seeing me to culture it and make sure she was giving the right antibiotic. As it turned out, she had no openings for about 2 weeks and this thing was growing like a weed by the day, so it needed to be taken care of within the next day or two or I was going to end up back in the emergency room. That was how serious an infection I had! The weekend was quickly approaching and I wasn’t looking forward to being stuck with it until the following Monday. The call center informed me that they did have an opening at Emory St. Joseph’s location, but when the representative attempted to schedule me she kept on running into a wall.
“This thing won’t let me advance to the next screen,” she said. “I’m getting a full stop!” I asked if the system were down and she said no, but she wasn’t sure why it wasn’t working now but thought it was a temporary malfunction. I told her in the meantime to have a nurse call me.
Not long afterwards I received a phone call from a nurse, M. whom it didn’t dawn on me until halfway through the conversation was Dr. B’s nurse. I wondered why his nurse in Primary Care would be calling when I had been trying to get an appointment with Gynecology, not her clinic. She told me “You’ve been dismissed from the clinic.” I calmly told her that they could not legally deny me treatment, that it was against Federal law, to which she got very nasty. This was odd that she would seem to have a dog in the fight, but then it suddenly occurred to me that most likely it had been she who had initiated the ban in the first place as revenge for my clearing the air with Dr. B. on the Patient Portal. Obviously there was gossip taking place behind the scenes (more unprofessional behavior than I’d known). Dr. B. was a big boy and it was petty that this woman was fighting his battles for him. She raised her voice, talking over me rudely, telling me I’d have to go somewhere else.
“Where exactly do you suggest I go on a Thursday afternoon?” I asked.
“I don’t know, you’ll just have to go somewhere else.”
” That is illegal” I reiterated. “Emory Clinics get federal funding so you have to accept patients who wish to make an appointment. You cannot discriminate or cherry-pick. I’m an established patient with this doctor and have been for several years”.
“Go someplace else!” She yelled into the phone and hung up. I called the call center immediately and reported what had just happened. A young woman in the call center apologized and said that I shouldn’t have been treated that way and gave me the name of a man who was the supervisor there and said she’d leave a message for him to call me, but he never did.
By the skin of my teeth I was able to get help from a mobile primary care service. Initially they were going to try to get home healthcare out here to get a urine sample to culture but that fell through and we found out that they didn’t do that kind of thing, so a Nurse Practitioner from the mobile service took mercy on me as she too was concerned about my having to wait through the weekend because of the severity of the infection. She called in a prescription for 14 days of Cipro. It turned out I needed all 14 days because the infection was pretty entrenched! Clearly my immune system is compromised, as it seemed to have sprung up overnight and became full-blown faster than normal and was affecting me systemically by the time Friday rolled around. Once I got the antibiotic it took awhile before I noticed feeling any better although slowly but surely the infection started to abate.
I looked up information on this Chief Medical Officer and discovered ironically that she’s an OBGYN herself! Surely she knows what untreated e-coli infection does to the human body, especially to someone chronically ill who is immune compromised. She should be ashamed of herself! What doctor with any sense of ethics does that! She needs to remove the block from my account immediately!
Then a few weeks later I began feeling severely faint and nauseated and ended up in the ER again. The ER doctor at St. Joseph’s wanted me to follow up with my Cardiologist in just a few days but he had no openings until July, so I searched out a Primary Care doctor and luckily was able to get an appointment sooner. She seems very nice and was open to my starting back on IV Saline infusion and was willing to order it but wanted my neurologist to fax her something saying she was OK with it first. She also thought I should see an endocrinologist as she said that there are certain endocrine problems that can cause Dysautonomia.
Dr. V. returned to work and I saw her on June 3rd. We had a long conversation and I told her everything that has happened and she was very understanding. I detected none of the pushiness I’d seen in the first appointment. I thought maybe she was feeling under pressure knowing she’d be giving birth any time, so maybe what I saw the first time wasn’t her usual personality. During this second appointment she seemed very warm and caring and I could tell she really felt for what I’ve been going through and wanted to set the record straight. She is in total support of my having these out of town evaluations and said that Emory is woefully lacking in the right equipment to do this type of autonomic testing. She told me she wanted to know how the two upcoming appointments with the specialists go. Then she ordered a number of blood tests related to various endocrine things to give the endocrinologist a head-start and one or two tests that could be done at their lab on mold. I left there feeling a sense of renewed hope, but then I got home and found that I couldn’t set up the next follow-up appointment with her. I finally have a neurologist who is invested in me and I want to continue seeing her, and make no mistake about it I intend to fight to do so.
“First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. then they fight you. And then you win.”
This saying has often been attributed to Ghandi but some version of it has been repeated by a number of people in activist movements the first of which is believed to have been Nicholas Klein of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union said in 1914.
It is especially fitting now for as I’d suspected the offending parties are in fact reading my blog. I got confirmation of it today in a letter dated March 21st, the envelope of which says “Administration”, and inside top left-hand corner says “Office of Quality & Risk”. Apparently T.Js Supervisor decided to write and tell me to shut up, himself. He says and I quote; “This is a response to the various concerns you have continued to raise to several individuals within the Emory system regarding your medical care and treatment at Emory University Hospital on December 3, 2015. At the outset, I emphasize that we thoroughly investigated your complaints properly considered your requests, and responded in writing to them. I direct you to the response letters from Emory regarding these matters. Further, we have performed additional reviews after learning you were not satisfied with our response.”
Interesting he should say they’d done “additional review” as all I was told by TJ in her nasty, unsolicited and retaliatory phone call was that she’d already finished her “investigation” and that “nobody is going to call you back”, (before talking over me and rudely hanging up). There was no chance to ask any questions or raise further concerns, and it was clear she in no way wanted to accept any more nor to help solve any. That was the last correspondence I had from anyone in that capacity.
I received no letters showing any evidence of further investigation nor were any of the gaps addressed in their investigation that I’d pointed out. Many questions remained unanswered and he never returned phone calls I’d made to him when I got the initial response showing that his subordinate had not done a fair and complete investigation. Then he goes on to say;
” While we remain apologetic that you have been dissatisfied, please know that our conclusions and decisions regarding your aforementioned complaints and requests have not changed since the time of the response letters. Please also understand that you continuing to raise the same complaints and requests to different individuals within the Emory system will not change our conclusions and decisions regarding these matters.”
So in other words he as agent for Emory will not remove the libel from the ER record, amend the record, bar the offenders from accessing my record, nor take any other actions to protect me as a patient, nor take any disciplinary action against those who participated in the abuse and neglect even if the CEO himself were to insist on it. (That was who’d I’d written by the way; the head of the corporation. I did not know at that time there were two; one for the University side and another for the medical side, so I mistakenly wrote the wrong one first and then was directed to the one for the healthcare side).
Then he goes on to say this…”If you have any new or additional complaints or requests regarding any medical care provided to you at Emory at any time, please let us know. As we have done with your complaints and requests up to this time, we will thoroughly investigate the complaints, properly consider the requests, and respond in writing to them. We have assigned Ms. T.J., Manager of Patient and Family Advocacy, as your point of contact regarding your complaints and requests. Ms. J can be reached at (phone number).”
As it will be when pigs fly before I ever enter their ER again, Ms. T.J.s “services” will not be needed. She is not allowed to tamper in other areas and if I catch her doing so it is a further violation.
He goes on to say;
“We do ask that you focus and limit your communication to Ms. J so that we can ensure none of your concerns go unnoticed and so that we can manage your communications with us in an efficient and effective manner that does not detract from our goal to provide quality medical care and services to our other patients and families.
We are aware that you have posted and discussed online at patientsrigtsadvocate.com your complaints and requests regarding your medical care and treatment at Emory. While we respect your right to express yourself, we request that you remove the specific references to Emory and our personnel. We also encourage you to direct your complaints and requests to Ms. J in lieu of posting them on your online blogs.
Moreover, as we have stated in previous correspondence to you, it is our expectation that our patients have positive experiences while under our care, and we deeply regret that we disappointed you. If you truly remain dissatisfied and feel that we at Emory have not appropriately met your expectations, please know that you can always seek out your medical care and treatment elsewhere. We do thank you for reaching out to us to express your concerns and for giving us an opportunity to look into them and to continue respond to you.” He then signs his name, LOL.
OK…Now let me get this straight…
First they neglect and abuse me in their ER, then libel me in my records, then refuse to correct their rights violation, turn my own doctors who I’ve known for years against me, play all sorts of dirty tricks to cover it up and sabotage my treatment at Emory and out and because I write about my experience in my blog he wants me to remove it? Aaaah…Nope, I don’t think so. After a full and complete investigation I find everything to be correct and complete as is.
So sorry you aren’t satisfied.
But hey, if you really did nothing wrong then what are you worried about? I stand on my principles.
One has to wonder why little old me, one patient in the entire Emory system has that much power that he implies to warrant that sort of extreme knee-jerk (sorry for the pun) reaction (just a strong reflex, I guess).
Me thinks maybe there’s something a bit deeper going on which has nothing to do with me and that even I do not know.
Oh, and the best part…I’m starting my treatment very soon! (from someplace else that is taking me seriously despite all the dirty corporate tricks and unprofessional attempts to distract, dispute, and derail me from my goal).