I missed a week of blogging due to the difficulty I’ve been having with my Dysautonomia and my ASD (Aspergers) and the effects of the trauma from what has happened at Emory. I’ve experienced several full-on meltdowns due to all the stress and the barriers I’m encountering in trying to get my healthcare back on track.
I’ve been having fitful sleep interrupted by nightmares which are clearly due to the bullying I’ve suffered. The theme is always some sort of sabotage. In the nightmares I’m trying to achieve some goal and somebody comes along and destroys whatever I’m doing and I end up in some sort of danger as a result.
In one such bad dream I had lit a match in order to relight the pilot light on a stove and someone came up behind me and knocked the match out of my hand.
Closeup of a business man with his hands behind his back and fingers crossed. Torso and hands only, man is unrecognizable.
It fell from my hand and behind a dresser. I tried pushing the dresser aside but it was too heavy. Meanwhile the room quickly burst into flames as the fire spread from the carpet to the drapes and soon everything was engulfed. I then found that I couldn’t move to escape it no matter what I did. Just as I was about to be burned alive I woke up in a panic. It took quite awhile before I could fully come out of it and realize it wasn’t really happening.
In another dream I was getting ready to mail a very important letter and I was in some sort of cabin in the wilderness that was at the edge of a steep canyon. In order to mail the letter I had to climb down somehow on the edge. There was a crack in the wall handmade from plywood overlooking the drop below and the letter got stuck in that crevice. I tried to pull it out and was relieved when I could do it, but as soon as I did, along came somebody from behind me who swiftly pulled it from my grasp and shoved it through the crack in the wooden wall. The letter fell and was gone hundreds of feet below, never to be retrieved again.
Alot of times the sabouteur comes from behind me and I don’t see their face. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman because they never say anything and I wake up before I can turn around and look.
In addition to the element of danger in these dreams there is alot of uncertainty.
All this got me thinking about just how crucial it is to build a plan for safety. People with Autism and other hidden or misunderstood conditions are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect in a number of settings; for instance, police officers often mistake people with epilepsy for being publicly intoxicated,
and many people with such conditions as Autism, Dystonia, and Dysautonomia as well as other poorly publicised conditions are mistreated in healthcare settings just as I was.
This is something that is not spoken about nearly enough in the news or in other public forums but doing so may very well save lives.
Here are some things you can do to help prevent falling victim to those who might abuse, neglect, or exploit you thinking you’re an easy target because you’re in a wheelchair, you’re frail, have communication or cognitive difficulties, or have other disadvantages which may leave you in a compromising position.
1) Wear a medical alert bracelet;
Try to get as much pertinent information on it as possible that people would need to know in an emergency and/or if you are misinterpreted in the workplace, school, by medical personnel, or law enforcement, or in any other public place.
If you can, list a contact person you know who is willing to be contacted and can advocate for you to explain your needs. Nowadays there are many types of bracelets on the market that you can buy. Some of them are even nice looking! See some medical alert bracelets on Etsy .
2) Carry a medical alert card at all times;
You may be able to fit even more information on the card than you can the bracelet but you should try to have both since somebody may not think yo look in your wallet if you are unable to tell them to do so. This organization came up with some Autism Alert Cards you can customize. This company located in the UK sells bracelets that include cards with them.
3) Carry an official diagnosis document at all times;
this can be any official letter you have which proves your diagnosis (if you have this documentation). If not, you should speak with someone about obtaining one. This can be a testing report, a letter from a doctor or therapist written to whom it may concern, or if neither are available, something from your medical record with your official diagnosis on it.
Ideally you should have something not only listing your diagnosis but specifying what your limitations and special needs are, any medications or treatments which need to be given, etc. If you have a supportive doctor or other medical professional, his/her name and contact number should be on this paperwork if at all possible.
4) Bring a buddy with you to the hospital;
If you have some advance notice that you’re going to the ER or checking into the hospital on direct-admission try to arrange for somebody to come with you.
It should be someone whom you have spoken with in advance about your needs and limitations; preferably somebody assertive who will not have a problem speaking up to authority figures in your defense while still remaining calm and rational.
This person can keep an eye out for you and can also act as a witness in case anything goes wrong. If they have a cellphone they can also videotape if somebody is mistreating you.
If you don’t have anyone in your life to fulfill that role be sure to contact one or two people before leaving and let them know which hospital you’re going to (and if possible give them the phone number so they can call and check on you). Bring your laptop or some other mobile device that has internet access. That way you can give them updates.
One of the things I learned as a patient advocate years ago is that people who have someone actively checking on them are less likely to be abused or neglected because it’s more difficult for perpetrators to get away with it and the likelihood is that they’ll get caught. This is often enough of a deterrant and they won’t even attempt it. (I’m pretty sure that if I had had somebody willing to go with me or meet me at the hospital in December that my incident wouldn’t have ever happened).
Taking these steps can’t guarantee you will never be victimized but they can make it much less likely.
If you do find yourself in a situation in which you’re abused, neglected, or exploited, be sure to document as much as you can about exactly what happened. Take down names, times, dates, what they did that they shouldn’t have, and/or what they didn’t do that they should have, etc.
Then I would recommend contacting The Dept. of Health and Human Services and filing an Office of Civil Rights Complaint.
Filing with State regulatory agencies in my experience is often a complete waste of time, as usually doctors are automatically believed carte blanche by such decision-making bodies and therefore it is not a level playing field. Usually such investigations consist of review of the records to see if anything “not meeting the standard of care” is documented (and of course doctors aren’t going to rat on themselves or each other in a patient’s record), they write up the perpetrator’s side of the story, and send it to the patient.
In some of the more progressive states filing a complaint with the state medical licensing board might yield results if the malfeasance was committed by a doctor, but often doctors are reluctant to discipline their peers (the medical boards utilize doctors to investigate the claims and determine the outcome, if any). Generally they have the option of making any action taken either public or private. If they take private action they might keep that secret and not even let you know they are doing anything about it at all.
How You Can Help Now;
You can also send letters now to HHS asking that they make Institutional Bullying of medical patients/people with disabilities an added Civil Rights violation in the same way it’s interpreted in statutes for Institutional Racism. Please also ask that clear-cut consequences be specified in any new legislation and/or amendments.
Given that this is an election year this is the perfect time for you to send your letters! The more of us who write and make our voices heard the sooner we can make this type of abuse a thing of the past and prevent others from having to endure these atrocities in the future.
US Dept. of Health & Human Services
Attn: Secretary Sylvia Burwell
200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C 20201
Phone (Toll Free); 1 (877) 696-6775
Go here to file your official grievance if you have been discriminated against because of your condition and/or not given reasonable accommodations for your special needs. You can file by snail mail, email, fax, or via their online webform. (All communication options and requirements are explained on their website on the paged linked-to above).
Although this is covered under current law there are still many people who unfairly make allowances for it when this happens to people who are ill and/or disabled in a way they would not with other minority groups. There should be a zero tolerance policy for this type of discrimination and a recognition by all that this is every bit as heinous (in many instances even more so because this population is at a greater disadvantage than most other minority groups)
Good charting is a skill that can be learned, but when the basic ethical principles involved are not adhered to it can actually do patients more harmed than good. As they say “The pen is mightier than the sword” and that is so true!
Charting on a patient carries power, but with that comes responsibility to carry out this activity with grace and selflessness, never forgetting that you are commenting on aspects of that person’s life and this very act can influence how the patient is treated by others who read it. One must resist the urge to “think out loud” in a patient’s medical record where such conjecture might not be in the patient’s best interest and thus hinder their care.
Doctors, if you are using a patient’s medical record to further your personal agenda or hypothesis in conflict with the patient (or with another doctor indirectly) you are not benefitting your patient, so please stop it.
The medical record is not your personal journal, it is not the place to grandstand, to take shots at the patient, to show your ego, nor is it the place to take out your frustrations from home.
Given the fact that you assume the patient will not likely read what you’ve written it might be tempting to fill the chart with your own bullish rehetoric, but this says more about you than it does about the patient and therefore it does not belong there.
When I worked officially as a patient advocate under the federal Protection and Advocacy system devised in 1986 by legislation enacted by Congress I attended extensive training sessions on various aspects of the job and I learned alot about what a proper chart is supposed to look like.
We used to have an independent contractor evaluate all advocates’ charts on patients nationwide, and my charting was actually deemed the best in the country of all Protection and Advocacy systems.
There are certain principles that exemplify skillful charting on a patient.
1) Charting must be accurate and precise
2) It must be relevant
3) It must be written to benefit the patient
Accuracy and Precision
This is pretty self-explanatory but there is often confusion as to how to interpret what is “accurate” and what is “precise.”
Let me start by saying that you are only resonsible for charting what you know to be a fact. This does not mean that what you don’t know is not a fact; one to be disputed in the chart. For example; upon receiving my doctors’ notes last week, I discovered that my pulmonologist had written some things attempting to question my diagnosis of Sarcoidosis. Why he would do this when Emory has already confirmed the diagnosis seems suspect in and of itself and smacks of personal agenda.
My diagnosis was obtained by objective tests 13 years ago.
I had a Gallium scan and other test results such as labs which showed idiosycratic markers for the disease. That is a fact.
There is no disputing that, yet the doctor did. It is true that a follow-up gallium scan this year indicated it was probably not actively in flair now, but that does not invalidate the diagnosis itself. It only means it’s not in flair at this point in time and indicates that my current symptoms are coming from something else. It has not magically disappeared as it’s a chronic and incurable disease. It’s possible that this pulmonologist may be using outdated understanding of the disease (long ago it was believed to spontaneously “go away”), but this has been disproven with the advent of more understanding of the physiological workings of the disease.
Sarcoidisis was once thought only to be a lung disease (hence why it’s often treated by Pulmonologists), but now it is known to be a multi-system disease that can and does affect every part of the human body. It was once thought to be only characteristed by non-caseating granulomas, but has since been shown to be much more complex than that and its inflammation manifests in many more ways than once believed.
It is now undrstood by the top experts in the field to be associated and most likely caused by intracellular pathogens. It is not merely an autoimmune response after an offending pathogen has been cleared from the body, but instead the resulting inflammation is a response of the body detecting a pathogen it just can’t locate and effectively kill.
My Pulmonologist, Dr. H perpetuated further inaccuracies when he charted that my Dysautonomia was “self-diagnosed” and and in his insistance on continuing this assertion in the medical record pretty much accused me of lying given the fact that I’ve told him that this came from a doctor who treated me with IV Saline at Piedmont hospital; not from me.
It is a fact that I knew nothing about Saline as a treatment modality for Dysautonomia before the doctor ar Piedmont did a blinded experiment (unknown to me at the time) by putting me on Saline infusion, then taking me off for 24 hours or so to see what happened symptom-wise.
The doctor who tried this did not explain any of this until after he trialed this method on me. This prevents any bias I could have had and thus rules out placebo effect. The factthat I responded positively when treatment was given and negatively when it was withdrawn indicates that reduced blood volume is a factor in my Dysautonomia.
Dr. H glossed over this in his charting, disregarding what I’d told him. He made no attempt and showed no interest in verifying what I had told him, merely assuming it wasn’t true. Why? The answer to that lies in an area of his mind only Dr. H can answer, but one thing is clear; that the subtext in his charting conveys that he does not believe me.
How does this serve the patient? Answer: it doesn’t. It only serves to undermine the patient. He went on to state in the record that I was “suspicious” and “defensive at having my opinion challenged.” Hmmm. Sounds like projection.
During our last appointment he got very huffy and puffy that I wouldn’t just accept as fact his theory that my problem was psychiatric in nature and wanted to end the appointment because I wasn’t buying it. He said ” Do you really think Neurlogy is helping you?” Then was very offended when I told him I wanted to give Dr. V a chance, and his statement was “OK, I’ll take a back seat to Neurology” as he rolled his eyes and heaved a huge sigh with matching dramatic shoulders shrugged up, then down.
His charting reflects that he was agreeing to that course of action, yet he contradicts that with a lengthy monologue which tries a bit too hard to invalidate my seeking expert assessment out of state (which Neurology supports my obtaining).
He says that going for these assessments is “premature” yet he suggests I go to a psychiatrist” (which should be the last resort after everything else is ruled out, and it hasn’t been). There are alot more tests that have not yet been performed before throwing me in that dustbin. For all his talk about lack of “proof” and “evidence” he has not one shred of proof that this condition is in any way psychological. Besides, psychiatrists are generally in the business of prescribing medication (indicating a physiological cause for which medication is assumed to have a beneficial effect on a patient).
So which is it, Dr. H? Let’s stick to the facts.Let’s be accurate and precise rather than subjective and vague.
1) I have dysregulated blood pressure,
2) chronic constipation,
3) near syncopal episodes,
4) Muscle weakness and spasticity, and severe fatigue
5) Etreme thirst and need ice water by the bed at all times
6) GI upset; nausea, lower GI spasticity, inability to eat solid food for weeks at a time
7) I’ve been hospitalized and treated for such problems, and said treatment improved the symptoms without my knowledge of Dysautonomia at the time (I did not read up on it until after it worked).
8) Dysregulated sleep/wake cycle (evidenced by 3 sleep studies that he ordered and interpreted)
9) I have Central Apnea and Biot’s Respiration; both indicative of a “central process”. Patients don’t develop these for no reason. Idiopathic does not equal psychological or psychiatric. It just means the cause has not been found yet and it requires further investigation.
All the wild speculation about my condition possibly being in my head is a distraction from the task at hand and has derailed any unbiased investigation. Dr. H went way off-course with only the lack of an explanation for all my symptoms as his reasoning for wanting to send me to a psychiatrist. I don’t see how this is at all relevant, and seeing as he figured I wouldn’t see what he’d written, the intent could only be as a coded alert to other doctors who might be looking at my records to view me as less than credible. None of my sleep problems were addressed in that last appointment with him although I’d told him that the sleep attacks had returned. He was only interested in invalidating me along with all my symptoms and even my established diagnoses, as though in one fell swoop he’d completely come to revile my very core essence and viewed me as suddenly unworthy of even the most basic dignity afforded to patients because they are human beings who deserve compassion and empathy.
It was this “othering” that is unmistakably present in the room, that visceral feeling that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you encounter it.
Written To Benefit The Patient
Charting on a patient must be written with the intent to do something useful for the patient.
What do you intend to accomplish?
What is your game plan?
How are you going to go about helping the patient?
These interventions should be developed in partnership with the patient, as the patient is the one who must be happy or at least content with their healthcare outcome since the patient is the one who must live inside their own body.
You, the doctor can go home and forget about the patients’ pain, fatigue, GI symptoms, movement symptoms, syncope, or other medical problems. The patient, however does not have that luxury.
Dr. H. stated in my record that he was going to go along with Neurology, but Neurology (Dr. V. to be specific) had changed course and was now on my side and no longer doubting that I have Dysautonomia. Dr. V had a very succinct plan which partnered with me to obtain the full assessment for my Dysautonomia, laid out in bullet points.
She did put the Aspergers assessment on my chart as a goal (which although I asked her at the time to keep this off the record she did not), but be that as it may, this was neuropsych; not psych as Dr. H was so blithely wanting to push.
Did he read her notes? I wonder. Perhaps he assumed that she would go in the direction he was heading and when she didn’t he lashed out using his charting as a weapon to defend his wounded ego.
Since I believe they can edit records later I have no way of knowing when Dr. H entered the voluminous material pushing the psych agenda. It may have been soon after I left his office or it may have been later once he’d seen that Dr. V. was not thinking that my problem was in my head.
Dr. V. commented on June 3rd at my last appointment that she had noticed my blood pressure had been running low. Although she did not know the underlying cause of the Dysautonomia she did not dispute it in any way, and was welcoming my going to these consults out of town, admitting that Emory does not have the facilities nor expertise to do full autonomic testing here.
Unlike Dr. H., her notes this time were constructive, laying out a plan that I was in agreement with, a list of numbered goals, (and sticking to the overall goal which was to find the underlying cause of my Dysautonomia and ultimately treating it). That is more like it.
To this day I believe that Dr. V. in her heart is sorry for how she misjudged me on our first meeting and truly wanted to make up for the scathing rush-to-judgement that is forever branded on my medical record.
I don’t know why she did not edit it when she returned from maternity leave, but maybe the reason was to show that sometimes doctors can be wrong and that they can also admit that they were wrong and can change later. It takes a bigger man or woman to admit when you made a bad judgment call and correct it than to stick to your story even once you realize your first impression was incorrect.
It did hurt to know that what she’d written the first time was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in both my GP and Pulmonologist’s diverging from me and the impetus for the dissolution of those doctor/patient relationships, but she is not solely responsible. They have a part in it too, and it’s disturbing that either of them would so quickly dash my credibility on the rocks because of some other doctor’s opinion who had just met me. Those two had known me as a credible person; one for about 1 year, and the other for 13 years.
They should have known not to be swayed from my side based on some opinion espoused by a doctor that had no chance to know me as they had and had only a limited snapshot of the circumstances under which I came to the clinic.
In the final analysis Emory’s Administration didn’t allow things to work themselves out and to set the record straight once more data could be obtained. They were too invested in making sure it never would be worked out, too invested in keeping the record toxic and defamatory so that I could not obtain care in or out of Emory.
In their fervor to interfere between doctor and patient we may never know if all this might have ultimately been put in the past and whether the relationships that still existed would have become stronger once more facts were elicidated upon further testing.
Perhaps this could have been a model, a learning experience for other doctors to see how things can evolve over time and how things can be put back together after such a fire-storm of controversy sets the record on fire.
Maybe behind the scenes Administration thought such a mess had been made by their various employees that it was irreparable, but the most unfortunate thing of all was that by the time they started blocking people from working with me things had died down considerably, those who had openly turned against me were gone, and when Dr. V. returned it looked as though things might have a happy ending afterall.
Just as my care made a constructive turn, I encountered a brick wall; the corporation added insult to injury, swooped in, and never allowed the answers to play out.
Instead of becoming a teachable moment for other physicians watching it this case became a prime example ofhow not to do conflict resolution when you discover that agents of your company have engaged in unethical charting on a patient.
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.
If you have been discriminated against in your healthcare at Emory I would be very interested to hear your story, especially if you have had a bad experience in the ER there.
There is a particular practice referred to as “gaslighting” or “psych-shaming”; in effect calling you crazy and undermining your credibility which is particularly damaging to one’s reputation and it can have the effect of slowing down or stopping your testing and/or treatment for your very real medical condition! When this is entered in your chart (even if it is not an official diagnosis but implied) it can cast a shadow of doubt like a black cloud above your head anytime a doctor in or out of that system requests your records.
To those of you just tuning into this blog I’ll recap briefly; this happened to me at Emory’s main Campus’s ER on Clifton Rd. on December 3, 2015.
I was medically neglected for most of 9 hours while in the ER, then abused physically and psychologically by an on-call neurologist,Dr. P. R. M., and then defamatory verbiage was charted implying that I had some sort of mental illness and/or was “feigning” my condition. His resident a few minutes after leaving the room came back and plopped her butt down on my weaker left foot. (See my archived post The Dark Man to read the whole story).
This atrocity was a malicious form of organized bullying and exploitation and I strongly believe violates Federal anti-discrimination laws; Federal Hate Crime statutes, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and The Protection & Advocacy Act of 1986.
Just yesterday the “patient advocate”T. J.” who actually is internal (employed and paid by Emory) made a harassing call to my home in an attempt to shut me up. She informed me repeatedly that “no one will be calling you back” and implied during the call that she has been tampering and interfering with my right to seek redress from her superiors and others within administration to get the complaint properly resolved.
This too is a violation of Federal law. Retaliation and intimidation against a patient for filing a complaint is strictly prohibited and is an added violation. If she were a true advocate she would know that.
I was instrumental in writing the 5-organization contract in Georgia when the P&A Act was first passed and have had extensive training in both individual and systems advocacy, have worked alongside attorneys, and used to be paid to investigate abuse and neglect complaints from patients in a whole range of facilities.
My agency Alternative/Atlanta; Center for Patient Advocacy covered the metro-Atlanta area. Due to funding cuts the original contract was taken over entirely by the organization whose job it was to manage the funding and disburse it to the 5 organizations.
Advocacy is not like it used to be anymore, and sadly patients have suffered because the demand far exceeds the supply of good advocates. This was my line of work before I became too ill to do it fulltime and before Georgia lost most of its funding.
When I did this officially I advocated for my clients as though they were family. I worked late to make sure they got what they needed, was on call nights and weekends, and it was not uncommon to see me show up at a hospital to meet a patient who had been placed in restraints or who had been physically, emotionally, or even sometimes sexually abused by staff.
I understood that in order to properly advocate for a patient one has to look deeper than “he said, she said” and deciding whom to believe. There was never any question as to whose side I was on; the patients’! There were no divided loyalties or conflicts-of-interest and I pursued the course of action and outcome the patient wanted.
I also participated in annual reviews of all advocates nationwide by an independent evaluating agency, and my charting was deemed best in the country of all advocates employed by this Federal Protection and Advocacy system.
I had hoped to one day make a good living at it, as it has always been my passion to help those who need someone to stand up for them to level the playing field. I have a saying;
Old Advocates Never Die;
They Just Lose Their Funding!
Since my funding was cut I have continued to advocate wherever I saw a need, lending my skills on a volunteer basis to a variety of worthy causes. I believe I have been called to do this and that my life experience is in a sense a test-case which has led me to understand many different populations and their needs.
There is nothing more devastating than fighting for ones’ rights alone, but every cause worth fighting for has its true allies. One just needs to find where they are. I believe that very rarely is anything just an “isolated incident”. Most incidents are a microcosm dictated by pattern, and if you look beneath the surface you find what the pattern is and usually the motive as well.
For every complaint you officially get there are likely many more that never reached the official grievance stage for one reason or another. Patients are often too ill or too busy, or they are too upset by what has happened to them to go through all that’s involved in filing an official complaint, compiling the evidence, and following up (sometimes numerous times) to obtain the outcome. If the complaint is denied, then they are required to complete numerous other formal procedures, fill out forms, call and leave messages, and keep documentation of names, dates, places, and other events relevant to their grievance.
This is precisely why good advocates are needed, especially in instances in which the victim/survivor’s credibility is under attack.
All the self-advocacy in the world will not save you if at the very core those you go to for help do not believe you.
When authorities see one patient with a complaint they might not take it as seriously as when there are 5, 10, 50 or 100 such incidents because now we are talking about a pattern of conduct that raises the antennae of state and federal regulators on multiple levels.
Remember that even when things feel hopeless and you feel like the only one, most likely it’s not and you aren’t. There are people floating around, maybe closer than you realize who have been through something very similar. You just need to locate them, come together, and organize to affect social change!
Maybe you have had an experience at Emory in which you have been discriminated against in your healthcare because someone didn’t believe your symptoms were real, you may have been accused of “feigning” or making them up, “exaggerating”, being “dramatic”, being a “hypochondriac”.
A doctor may have called your condition “functional”,“psychogenic”, “emotional”, “psychological”, “psychiatric”, or “Hysterical Conversion”, “Factitious Disorder”, “Somatoform Disorder” (see my earlier post The Dark Man).
Then you noticed a lack of concern from your treating professionals, their treating you as if you were a minor child and not respecting your boundaries or wishes (seeBull in a China Shop General Neurologist), irritation directed at you, your symptoms ignored or directly disregarded, and ultimately a slowdown or stoppage of care. (For examples of this see my blog post Not Being Believed).
The above terms are buzzwords that are designed with maximum shock value to sabotage a patient’s credibility and an implicit warning to doctors to steer clear.
Let’s just be honest; there is nothing helpful in charting such things about a patient and this can only indicate malicious intent. It is fear-mongering of the highest order and one of the most vindictive acts a doctor can level against a patient because its effects follow the patient long after the doctor is gone. Any seasoned investigator will recognize this immediately and people who work in the ER (if they are honest with you will know the subtext they imply).
If any of this sounds familiar to you please get in touch with me by posting on this blog in the comment box below and I will give you some ways that you can submit a signed statement to me about your experience. If you can also get the statement notarized then that’s even better than just your signature alone.
I’ve included some links to articles written in peer reviewed medical journals that suggest that patients given this label even when it is given as an official diagnosis do in fact have a real neurological problem.
These citations will help you make your case should you decide to take legal action or even if all you want to do is to get your doctor to stop viewing you and treating you in this stigmatizing way. The post A Few Lateral Moves, but an Ace In The Hole provides you several avenues by which you can file external grievances such as with the Office of Civil Rightsand Health And Human Services’ Secretary Silvia Burwell. These are the branches of government most powerful in righting these types of wrongs committed in healthcare settings.
If you are a news reporter and are interested in doing a print of TV story on this or an expose on a longer show, feel free to get in touch with me. I am ready and willing to do interviews and as time goes on there most likely will be others who would speak publicly about their similar experiences.
As Emory has been consistently refusing to take responsibility and to correct this problem I feel it’s imperative now to use all available platforms to exert pressure on the corporation to ensure that they put the best interest of patients first and to stop these unprofessional and corrupt practices. I will be drafting a press release shortly.
–>You can make a statement to The Powers That Be now <—to have legislation drafted that would stop and prevent this from happening to patients on a national level! Several of us organized and have created a petition which will address Institutional Bullying in Healthcare Settings as a unique and enforceable unlawful act treated as particularly heinous because of the extreme power differential between medical professionals and patients and the inherent vulnerability of those of us chronically ill/disabled.
We must rely on doctors to look out for our best interest when we’re ill at a time when we’re at our most vulnerable, and when they don’t they must be held accountable.
It’s only fair, so please sign the petition and add your personal account detailing what abusive/neglectful/reckless, or malicious behavior healthcare professionals and/or healthcare administrators have done to you where it says “Reasons for signing” below the body of the petition on Change.org, and be as precise as possible. Each signature and letter will be auto-forwarded by the site to Secretary Burwell for consideration by her committee and Congress as a whole.
Don’t let these unscrupulous people get away with this type of cruelty any longer! It’s time for the patients to rise up and insist that we be treated as valued customers with the authority to choose what happens to our own bodies, not treated as minor children, the “village idiot”, trouble-makers, nor common criminals for exercising that right!
Last week I saw my Pulmonologist. Although I was nervous after recent events that he would have doubts about me I was pleasantly surprised to find him just as warm as ever and I think in fact that his learning of the ER debacle only cemented our bond further. Much as these cliquish people would like to see all my doctor/patient relationships destroyed they are not getting their wish. My pulmonologist was hoping I would have already gotten in to Dr. G’s clinic by now, and was appalled at what had happened to me at the ER in December.
This is the one doctor who the evil Dr. M. and his group of bullies cannot screw around, intimidate, nor manipulate, as he is very meticulous about his documentation and he backs up his diagnoses with good, hard data. He is not arrogant (which is nice), but he has the courage of his convictions and is genuinely a good guy who really wants to help his patients. I told him I figure my chances now of ever getting into Dr. G’s clinic are most likely blown due to the actions of those ER doctors and their libelous statements. He said he was not so sure about that. Seriously, I could just hug him right now!
He is the one doctor whom none of the 4 person wrecking crew tried to attack; they knew that if they dared try challenge his work that he would mop the floor with them, as his positions are backed up by 3 sleep studies and he’s pretty iron-clad.
What they didn’t realize is that Dr. T., who is a perfectly good neurologist (but works in the Sleep Lab) looked at those sleep study tapes in order to diagnose my Myoclonus. She, unlike Dr. M., does have a background in Movement Disorders and it was not hard for her to diagnose by seeing the movements in action. Dr. M. and Dr. T.T.J. (neither of which have published in medical journals had arrogantly decided to disregard Dr. T’s diagnosis based on the gross tests done at Piedmont Hospital. I guess they underestimated her. She has published on sleep disorders as early indicators of neurological disease, by the way.
Nice try, dufuses, but it’s not always due to a structural lesion. It can be neurochemical or electrical in origin and still be very real.
Sometimes doctors in the ER really make fools of themselves when they think they know everything.
My Myoclonus continues to this day (and not only upon falling asleep, although mostly. It also manifests in my shoulders when I get too cold), and it has responded to Keppra at 1000 Mgs./day, reducing the severity and how long it goes on quite a bit. It was Dr. T. who put me on it, and Dr. W. (the admitting neurologist at Piedmont) who increased the dosage to an optimum level. Although it’s not a cure, the fact that it vastly reduces it tells us that the drug is acting on some pathway in the brain. It is highly unlikely to be placebo effect or chances are by now I would be back to being kept awake until 7 AM each night. Thankfully I am not.
It’s been more than disappointing; the non-advocacy provided by Emory’s “Patient Advocate”, T. J., who showed her obvious bias after only our second phone conversation, and still has not answered my questions entirely regarding whom she asked what during her mickey mouse investigation, but I believe that eventually I will be vindicated and those who sought to discredit me and sabotage my healthcare will suffer the consequences of their malicious actions, and so will she for being so dismissive of my very legitimate grievance.
I have had shortness of breath on and off throughout the appearance of these neuromuscular symptoms which seems to come in clusters and then I don’t have it for a few weeks or months, but then it comes back. I’ve had it several times over the past few weeks, and again tonight while sitting upright.
Tomorrow morning I go for some pulmonary function tests which will likely add some more data which will help flesh out my condition further. Dr. M. and his bunch of groupies are probably not capable of understanding the significance this has in neurological disease or at best have a very basic understanding of it, but I’m pretty certain it will completely escape them as it applies to a condition as complex as mine. If they are reading this post I will leave them to vex over it all night.
On Friday I will go into the Lion’s Den (the dreaded Emory General Neurology Department) where I have an appointment with one of their neurologists I’ve never met. I was going to cancel it, as this woman has no reviews online (good or bad), and I don’t like going in blind after what happened, but on second thought figured even though it could be a trap given Macdonald’s connection with the department head, there are ways in which it could actually end up being helpful. (I won’t elaborate on that just now as I don’t want to show my hand to certain people who may not have the best of intentions). I will see what this woman is about and go from there. I just hope she’s not sneaky like Dr. H. and hope she’s not rude or a cold fish. My trust has been violated so I will not be so quick to believe her words and intentions as I might have been before the traumatic event happened. She will no doubt have to earn my trust. First hint of deceptiveness or working against me and she’s history.
Mayo Clinic is a no-go. After my initial inquiry at the particular location I checked on it turns out that they have nothing available until next January and so any patients with conditions of a neurological nature are not being booked at all right now.
My GP is finally coming to terms with my Dysautonomia after he received the erratic BP readings from my Piedmont records (which weren’t initially included, but housed in another department), and realizes that I am probably not going to feel any better until it is treated with IV saline infusion. Home healthcare is willing to send a nurse out to do the infusions but in order to prevent infection on an outpatient basis a port (central line) will need to be put in my chest; a minor surgical procedure. Although this is not a cure it should help me feel better and get my autonomic nervous system to work more efficiently, as it did in the hospital.
Right now I have no energy, my pain has gotten more frequent and intense, I’ve felt faint more often lately, my constipation is still an ongoing problem despite being put on Linzess, it’s a struggle to hold myself up against gravity, and I feel as though I need to sleep 15 hours for every 1 hour of being up even to go to a doctor’s appointment. I just feel crappy all the way around. Increasing my salt intake and drinking ice water constantly has not been cutting it and each morning I wake up feeling so dehydrated I can hardly tolerate it. Ravenously thirsty, and as if my kidneys are toxic; head-achy and back and core achy.
As of yet the order has not been written, but he has agreed to it, so I think now it’s just a matter of when it will be written, as he knows I can’t go on like this forever. It is taking alot out of me just sitting up long enough to write this post. If it’s the wrecking crew he’s afraid of then screw them in the bootie, I say! The treatment options I pursue are my choice. Every patient should have the ultimate say as to what is and isn’t done with their own body.
There really needs to be a new Patients’ Bill of Rights drafted to address these types of issues. I’m sure there are many others who are going through similar struggles as I am. I’m going to be voting for Bernie Sanders in the upcoming Presidential election as I believe he most closely exemplifies the principles I stand for surrounding healthcare. I have written the Dept. of Health and Human Services periodically to bring some of these issues to their attention as they impact patient self-determination in ones healthcare.
To give input on healthcare topics important to you, write or call them toll free;
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20201 Toll Free Call Center: 1-877-696-6775
The current Secretary is Silvia Mathews Burwell
If your healthcare rights have been violated, in addition to filing internal grievances with the facility, state facility regulatory agencies, and if the offender was a doctor, the state Composite Medical Board (as I did), you can file a Federal grievance through the Office for Civil Rights . I may consider doing this if the hospital continues to leave the libelous charting up on their electronic records system posing as “professional opinion”.
There are several online forms broken down by type of complaint such as HIPPA, Patient Safety/Confidentiality, and Assurance of Compliance