Dr. No-love, or how I learned to stop worrying and fire a surgeon
Today was one of those days where, if we weren’t leaving tomorrow morning for a short vacation, I probably would’ve just had to say “check please!” and exit stage right. And the main reason was the most evil person I’ve ever met in my life.
Since Stellan’s g-tube surgery was done in San Diego, we had to find a surgeon here in NYC to follow him, just in case anything happens. When we got back to NYC in January, we had a follow-up with Stellan’s GI doctor, who suggested a surgeon in the same hospital. So I brought Stellan to meet him a few weeks later. He was lovely. Spent a solid 45 minutes with us, showed me how to remove and reinsert the g-tube (at the rate I’m going, I’ll have an honorary nursing degree by the time Stellan is 3), and was just a generally kind, caring person. He is also pretty easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt. He mentioned that the g-tube would probably due to be changed for a new one at the six month point, which would be June.
In early May, I spent what felt like half a day scheduling all of Stellan’s upcoming doctor’s visits, including a follow-up with this surgeon. Because not only would the tube need to be changed, but of course three days after we first saw him, Stellan’s surgical scar started looking infected and it felt like a suture was going to break through his skin any day. The last thing I really need in my life right now is a scene out of Alien starring Stellan. So I figured I’d have him take a look at the scar to be sure nothing needed to be done, and we’d switch tubes at the same time.
Much to my dismay, when I called to make an appointment, I learned that he is leaving the practice to head up another one outside of the city. They suggested we see the other pediatric surgeon in the practice (who, it turns out, is the ONLY other pediatric surgeon for the whole hospital) and that she would be Stellan’s new surgeon.
So the day came, which happened to be Stellan’s 15 month birthday, May 22. This surgeon only sees patients in the office from 12-2pm on Wednesdays. So I raced up there from downtown (this hospital is a serious pain to get to) in the middle of my work day and made it just on time, at 12:30. When I got there, Molly told me the surgeon had already come out and said to her flatly, “I don’t change g-tubes.” Great start.
A nurse led us to a room and the surgeon wasn’t even fully through the door when she said, arms crossed over her chest, “Yeah I don’t change g-tubes.” I started to explain that the other doctors had suggested…. Nope, she didn’t want to hear it. Each time a syllable came out of my mouth, she cut me off, telling me at least three times that she doesn’t change g-tubes unless they fall out. I finally said, “OK. I understand. You don’t change g-tubes. You made that very clear the first three times you said it.”
Then I mentioned Stellan’s infected scar, and she didn’t even want to look at it. He was lying on the table, fully clothed, and she was standing across the room, still in the doorway (which was wide open), arms crossed, trying to get out of doing anything at all. So finally I lifted his shirt and asked if she’d just LOOK AT IT. With clean hands I touched his belly, near his scar (which also happens to be right next to his g-tube, something I am required to touch at least 10 times per day to clean it and feed him) and she yelled at me – actually yelled – “DON’T TOUCH IT! If it’s going to get infected THAT is how it’s going to happen! FROM YOU TOUCHING IT!”
At which point, I decided that I never wanted to set eyes on this woman ever again. The whole thing was over in about 5 minutes, probably less. She told me to leave the scar alone and that maybe a suture would pop through the skin at some point and not to worry about it (???!!!) and turned and left.
The nurse, who had the most horrified look on her face and had clearly seen this happen before, mouthed “I’m sorry” and my eyes overflowed. I couldn’t help myself. I’d never, ever been treated like that in my life, and I’ve worked with and for some pretty intense people. I said to the nurse, “I never want to see that woman again. She’s supposed to be my son’s doctor and she wouldn’t even look at him. I need to file a complaint.” To which she responded “thank you” and went to find the practice manager. The poor people who work with her clearly had to go through this day in and day out.
So while I really did not have the time to sit around and wait, I couldn’t possibly leave there without speaking my mind and finding another surgeon for Stellan. I needed to make sure that my feedback was given to the hospital. The nurse and the receptionist tracked down the practice manager, during which time Molly urged me to ask for my copay back. Good point. I wasn’t about to pay for – or charge to my insurance – an appointment where literally nothing happened. Well aside from a woman treating me like dirt and acting as if my time is of no value. In which case, they should actually pay me.
I told the practice manager I was officially firing the surgeon. I asked that she remove his records from her name and vice versa. She mentioned that the original surgeon was still around that week, in another building, closing up shop, and asked him to come see Stellan, which he did, dropping what he was working on at the time. And while he gave me basically the same information as the other woman did (yes, a suture may pop out), he also told me how to handle it when it happens (put some iodine on it, keep it clean, that’s it), and most importantly – actually examined Stellan and answered my questions, and did so with respect. Which, quite frankly, is his job. He told me that he’d be more than happy to see Stellan at his new practice, but if the Upper East Side is hard to get to, Westchester is ten times more complicated unfortunately.
This week I also received a letter saying that Stellan’s GI is leaving the hospital by the end of June. So I’m strongly considering moving all of his care to another hospital altogether. The only good thing that came of today’s appointment is that while I was angry about the “care” and the way we were treated, I acted on it and it reminded me that I’m the customer here. Well Stellan, Quentin and I are. And I feel empowered to make sure he gets the best possible care, not just medically but also emotionally. Because when you’re on the kind of ride we are on, you need to surround yourself with people who are going to be supportive and cut out anyone who is detrimental or negative.
So today I fired a surgeon. And it felt awesome.