Tag Archives: doctors

when to go to the doctor

Recent events as well as my foray into the world of doctors has got me to thinking about how we rely on the medical establishment to fix us and what it means to actually be broken. Over the past several decades, most people in this country have come to rely on doctors more often and for more and more problems. I don’t want to get into the politics of this here. For now it’s enough to say that our current ideas of what is healthy and what isn’t has turned health care in this country into a massive industry with the power to control much of our lives from cradle to coffin.

and i don’t like it

Doctoring, as with most things in the 21st century, is highly impersonal and disconnected from nature and the natural order of things. Our society has little tolerance for illness of any sort and if there’s so much of a hint that an illness is rooted in or even influenced by emotion, you might as well just give up the idea that you have a say in how you will be treated. No, no “options” for you. You will be analyzed, medicated and if you don’t do as your told, institutionalized for your own good. Check your freedom at the clinic door.

When a child is born in today’s modern world, before she is suckled she is tested and given a score. Apgar scores are happily announced along with sex and weight as if this were a grand accomplishment. She will be tested, scored and ranked through every stage of growth. Throughout her life she will be dictated to by doctors, schools and government programs forcing vaccinations, drugs to control acne, weight, behavior and mood. She will have her teeth straightened, hormones adjusted, wrinkles erased, and tummy and titties tucked and tweaked. And when she’s ready to die, she will be denied dignity and her body embalmed and vaulted against decay.

We need to come to grips with this incredible mass denial of our nature. We will not live better through chemistry and if we hope to truly understand what is normal we need to get back to the true nature of things. To nature itself. One way to do this is to redefine our relationship with the health care industry, taking back our power, and maybe even work on our personal and collective definition of what is normal and healthy.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer my personal quick guide to when it is necessary to enlist the aid of a doctor or other health care services, because, they do have their place and when restricted to the things they do well, we all benefit greatly. Mainstream medicine is really really good at dealing with things that are broken. Doctors and hospitals are at their best when dealing with emergency situations and acute conditions. They suck at chronic ailments, non-life threatening conditions and any sort of long-term health care.

So here is my general guide on when to see a doctor.

* Emergencies such as: heart attack, stroke, shock, anaphylaxis or other uncontrollable allergic reactions.
* Accidents which result in trauma such as head trauma, broken bones, gaping wounds, massive bleeding, etc.
* Animal or human bites, mauling.
* Fevers over 104 degrees.

When to see a psychologist/psychiatrist:
* suicidal without good reason (i.e., when it is not a quality of life situation resulting from terminal illness).

Minor or common non-life threatening illnesses are best left to the wisdom of our own bodies to heal. We can help ourselves and others with comfort care–teas, soups, soft blankets, kind words, kisses on the forehead. Minor accidents can be taken care of by cleaning the wound, applying heat or cold, healing salves (best if made by you or an herbalist or wise woman).

Chronic conditions are best left to common sense, herbalists, wise women, body workers (massage therapists, reiki practitioners, acupuncture/acupressure, etc.). If all this fails to help and drastic measures are needed (i.e., drugs, surgery) then by all means, avail yourself of what is out there in mainstream medicine, but this should be your last resort, not your first.

There’s one thing I have not address and that is cancer. There is so much mythology, fear and loathing that comes with cancer that it is important for each of us faced with this particular dance to make her/his own decision as how to approach treatment. There is a wealth of information out there but very little of it not under the control of the AMA and pharmaceutical companies, but there are alternative approaches that can be used along with or instead of chemo, radiation and surgery. You just have to decide for yourself what is best for you.

But then, that is true of all things. What we need to be reminding ourselves of is that there are different approaches and we don’t have to give up our rights and our power to deal with our ills.

One last thing…

It is NORMAL to feel sick, unhappy, unloved, grief-stricken, or downright miserable for no fuckin reason at times. I don’t know where the notion came from that we must always be happy and satisfied, but it’s a really dumb thing to think. Our society does not want us to feel bad (emotionally or physically) and when we do feel bad, we are supposed to get over it within a few days or maybe a week or two, but then that’s it. Back to happy. Well, it ain’t so and it is disastrous to deny our sadness, anger or grief. There’s a reason people suffer anxiety attacks and depression–it’s time to slow down or stop everything we’re doing so that we can heal. We need to not fear the shadow side of things. We need to move through it just like we need to move through the stages of a common cold.

2 entries for the price of 1 -or- “it’s alive!”

i started this on the 9th….then had to wait and see. it’s taken awhile to admit what’s happening. i didn’t want to type out loud that the pain is back, but there’s no denying it now.

august 9
A week and a half, and the pain is back. It started yesterday around my hip and today it settled into the groin, hip and is pressing down my left leg.
I wonder, if I close my eyes and feel my way back to before yesterday, can I somehow live there? The day before yesterday is still so close I can almost taste it with the tip of my tongue.

Those too few days of freedom were so very sweet.

august 17
i tried to rub the pain away, i tried to stretch it away, walk it away, but it came back just the same. it’s almost as bad as before the epidural.

the doctors have this little chart-like form for you to fill out everytime you go into the office. there’s a little person on it that is supposed to represent you…one drawing is facing front and one facing back. then you have symbols to choose from to draw on top of the little person’s front and back aspects. these symbols show the doctor what kind of pain you have. 000 = achy, /// = stabbing, +++ = numb. these are the only choices. then you rate the pain on a scale of 0-10. then you rate the percentage of change since your last visit. if there’s no change, it doesn’t matter, you have to deface the little person who represents you and choose the same numbers, etc.

i don’t think the doctors even look at the picture because they ask you the questions that it’s supposed to answer anyway. i think they make you do this to keep you quiet while you wait far too long for the doctor to see you. last time it was 45 minutes after my scheduled appointment time. given that i’m in pain and sitting really really exacerbates the pain, by the time the doctor poked his head out the door and called my name, I was in utter agony.

i asked if i could change my drawing.
he looked confused.

now, i want to know what these doctors are thinking. they specialize in a patient base that is experiencing unrelenting, excruciating pain. It’s hard to describe the level of “ouch” that the spine and nerves can cause, but because of it, you spend your days choking back the shouts that rise up your throat each time you take a step, try to sit or simply shift your weight. and these guys just let you sit there for 45 minutes? how does that in any way translate to reasonable patient-care?

so, anyway, the pain is back. the day i got the epidural i rated my pain an 8. right after the epidural it shot up to 10. the next day i would say it was a 6; the day after that a 4 and i was almost pain-free until day 8. i would think by the time i go back for the second epidural, i’ll probably be back up to 8. but only on the left side. i guess that’s something.

i now think of the pain as an entity, separate and distinct from me. i think it has something to do with the little person that represents the front and back of me. putting the pain there has somehow given the pain an identity — a thing-ness that is fighting for its own existence. it is a parasite and it doesn’t want to let go–to die. so, this is a different kind of battle at this point. i must have let my guard down on the eighth day and the pain managed to slip back in. it bit down on the disk, wound around my groin and is pushing it’s tendrils down the nerves of my left leg and is stinging top of my toes with poison.

this isn’t just low back pain. this is an invasion and i’m fresh out of percocet.


those who know me well know i don’t do doctors. they are, for me, the last resort when all other avenues to health have been exhausted. so it was not an easy decision to submit to the ministrations of a surgeon. but there were no more options left to me. i’d tried everything to deal with the pain to no avail.

so yesterday was the day. i’ll tell you, when you spend so much time dealing with things on your own and then walk back into the medical break and enter arena, it’s shocking. i must say, first off, that the doctor and nurses were all extremely careful, caring and *interested* in the welfare of the patients there…that was the nice part. the surgeon spent time with me before the procedure to actually get to know me. he was easy to talk to and not at all taken with himself. a real, genuine, nice guy. i decided to trust him. the nurses all seemed happy and upbeat–always a good sign as they are the ones who really know what the deal is about patient care.

having a needle inserted up through the sacrum and into the spinal canal is freaky. of course, they gave me a local anesthetic, so i didn’t feel the puncture, but i could feel the thing travel inside me. it felt like pressure for the most part, but an odd, scary kind of pressure. first, they inject dye so the doctor can “see” where he’s going. once everything is in place, he injects lidocane and cortisone to sort of “bathe” the area. the lidocane of course is a fast acting anesthetic to numb you out for less than an hour. the cortisone acts for the long-term to bring down inflammation of the nerves, which hopefully reduces pain so that a decent quality of life can be restored.

to say that the procedure was uncomfortable doesn’t describe it–in fact, it hardly expresses what the experience was like. it was strange and scary but i can’t really find words that work (and maybe i don’t want to?). injecting the meds is done in stages so as not to overwhelm — inject, wait, inject, wait, inject, wait — but oh, that last one was a doozy! i felt pressure at the site, then oppressive pressure out my hips and down both my legs. and then it was over. took probably 10-15 minutes from puncture to bandage.

throughout the whole thing the doctor kept saying, are you ok? are you ok? yes, i’m fine. but damn, i felt like saying, please shut up so i can concentrate on my breathing. but i remembered my manners and was good. which really wasn’t so hard since, like, ya don’t wanna get the guy with the needle up your spine pissed off.

afterwards, they walked me out to sit in a chair and gave me juice and crackers and called brni to come sit with me. poor brni came round the curtain with such a look of concern and worry in his eyes, i would have had him sit in the recovery chair, if i had been in any shape to get up. i began telling him the interesting parts of the procedure when i started feeling funny. my lips got cold and numb. a sensation of cold fumes rose up my throat, and i started feeling lightheaded–high, and then i began to move inside. i do that when things go wrong–move inside to some private cocoon where the outside world sort of fuzzes out and i don’t feel anything.

brni went and got a nurse and then all hell broke loose. they reclined my chair, put a cold, wet rag on my forehead, shoved oxygen up my nose while another nurse (there were 3 nurses and the doctor all fussing about) readied my arm to insert an IV so they could push fluids.

that’s when i said, NO! WAIT! i’m feeling much better–please stop.
they all stopped and said, are you sure?
yes, i’m sure.
are you just saying that so we won’t shove the IV up your arm?
well, that’s part of it, but i am feeling better.

i think they shocked me out of shock.


anyway, i finally convinced them i was ok.
and guess what?
i get to do it all again in three weeks.

meanwhile, i’m to take it easy. ice for 20 minutes every hour for 3 days, no lifting or pushing or straining or vacuuming!! (i like that one) i should know in 2-14 days how effective the epidural was. what we’re looking for is a reduction in inflammation and pain. if that happens, then i can go back to physical therapy and yoga to try to stabilize the lower back.

and maybe i can even go for a walk again. what a thrill that will be.

but, i should be careful what i say (or type) outloud.
i don’t want to jinx it.

%d bloggers like this: