Night and Day: Emergency Room Regrets Part II (originally posted 2.17.17)

Night and Day: Emergency Room Regrets Part II (originally posted 2.17.17)


For everything that was degrading, dehumanizing and downright awful with my visit to the Emergency Room this past Monday, it did have one unintended positive: providing a stark contrast to yesterday’s new patient intake at the Stanford Pain Management Center.

Part of me wanted skip the appointment altogether. It’s a bit of a trek into the heart of Silicon Valley where the clinic is located, and I was doubtful that it was worth the expenditure of spoons it would take to bring a whole new group of physicians up to speed on my case. But the tiny sliver deep inside of me that always plays the part of the eternal optimist won out and so we set out across the Dumbarton Bridge to continue our search for answers.

And it was a long visit. Five hours roundtrip is a lot for me and by the end, my cheek was burning bright red and I was thoroughly exhausted. But as my mother said to me on the drive home: “wow. that was the first appointment in a long time that didn’t leave me wanting to cry as we walked out.” I laughed at that, at how impossibly low the bar had dropped and agreed. The week that had begun with tears and despair, ended with a restoration of hope.

The set-up at Stanford is definitely of a teaching hospital. I’ve been to quite a few of these but (including different branches within this hospital system for endocrinological care) Stanford has got it down pat, and so far I have never felt that my care is lacking as I have been treated by fellows or interns.

From the administrative staff to the kindness shown to us by the nurses, everyone was helpful and open and, unlike my terrible experience at the ER, I didn’t feel like a burden—like the people treating me had labeled me when I walked in and rolled their eyes as I walked out.

The fellow (let’s refer to him as Dr. F*) we met with was very familiar with my case and shortly after I began recounting my history, he paused and said: “you have been through a lot. you don’t need to convince me of your pain. I’m looking at the list of things you have tried and I know that you would not have put yourself through all of that if you weren’t in a lot of pain.”

Wow. Talk about a difference in philosophies. I was now back in the hands of people who cared, and who wanted to work with me to make my life better. To improve different areas of my life incrementally in a way that when combined with my day-to-day living.   

Look, I understand the roles of these two organizations are completely different. One is there to triage not to set out a long-term plan and work with you to implement it. But both can be done with kindness and compassion. Two things that we all could use more of.

According to the Pain Center website:

“Pain is a complex medical problem that can have profound effects on your physical and mental well-being. Our goal is to help you decrease your level of pain and suffering, to return you to your maximum level of functioning and independence, and to help you restore your quality of life.   

Hmm, let me think…yes please!

Dr. F explained each area of focus and how he thought we could tweak things as we move forward, he then left to brief one of the attending doctors (I’ll call him Dr. P*) who then came back with him and went over everything.

Dr. P went over areas of my history, asked questions and explained the process in more detail. I would see doctors in different areas and then they would conference on my case and together come up with a treatment plan. This idea fascinates me as a person with multiple chronic illnesses and diseases that cross over into completely different disciplines. I’ve often found that doctors who are laser focused on their discipline miss things that would be found while viewing the patient as whole.

I’ve never been so eager to have people discuss me behind my back!

The process before we have a concrete plan will take a few months to get going, but like I said, I am feeling optimistic again. And I am going to hold onto that hope as long as I can.

*(Dr. F-for fellow; Dr. P–for pain)