Monday, May 2, 2011

My trip to the doctor's office

My hand has been hurting pretty badly for about a month now. Last Tuesday I decided it wasn't going to get better on its own so I looked up a local sports doctor and scheduled an appointment. The earliest they had was Friday morning. I had a day-long driving trip scheduled for Thursday, so this sounded like a terrible idea. Sadly, there were few other options, so I booked the appointment.

Friday morning I arrived early, figuring there would be paperwork. It was a good thing I did.

"We have no record of your appointment," said the receptionist. "Who did you schedule with?"

I did not know who I spoke to. Fortunately, they were still able to get me in. Turns out the doctor had an opening in his schedule at the same time my appointment was supposed to be. So that was convenient.

Then came the paperwork.

I walked in wearing a splint on my left hand, complaining about severe wrist pain. Then signed the check-in sheet - with my left hand, slowly and painfully - while the nurse watched. Then she asked me to complete 12 pages of forms by hand. Now, I would expect many doctor offices to have a system in place to help people that might have difficulty writing, but I understand that a sports medicine clinic might not see those kinds of injuries very often. So that was ok.  I was amused comparing the quality of my handwriting on the first page (pretty good) to the last page (loosely recognizable as English), and contrasting that to the volume and frequency of my screams.

This was followed, of course, by the waiting.



Finally, I got to go to the exam room where a very helpful nurse filled out more forms, asking me for all the same information as on the earlier forms. So it's a good thing I wrote it all out.


Then it was time for the X-rays. The tech was very helpful, and promptly tried to X-ray my knees. I mentioned that probably was not the right strategy, as it was my wrist that was hurting, and, in fact, still had the large splint on it. He consulted his notes for a moment, then stepped into the hallway for a consult. He then returned, and I, reassured by his diligent attention to detail, moved to a new position to have my wrist X-rayed.

Bones properly scanned, he helpfully said, "You're done here," and left. I then ventured forth and attempted to find my original exam room again.

Eventually I did, and was rewarded for my efforts with more waiting.

Doctor finally showed up. Strong jawed, well groomed, looking more like a heroic leading man than  a medical professional. I'm fairly certain he maintains the borderline incompetent staff to make him look even grander by comparison.

He was actually fairly helpful. Although the stereotypical surgeon who doesn't really listen to what I'm saying, or let it deter him from his pre-programed script. Eventually I realized we were having two nearly parallel conversations that would, given time, eventually intersect somewhere around my bill.

"Ok, so what you have is a condition with
a funny name called..."

"De Quervain's tendonitis?"

"...De Quervain's tendonitis. It's an inflamation of the
tendons by the thumb that..."

"Yeah, I figured; I had it a couple years ago."

"...can come up without warning.
After the first case it can reoccur..."

"Yeah, I know. I had it a few years ago. They gave me
one of those funny splints to immobilize my thumb."

"...anywhere from months to years later."

"Yeah. So I'd prefer not to have surgery
at this point, but figure a cortisone..."

"Treatment can involve surgery, but usually we just use
a cortisone shot and a special splint called a 'spica' splint
that immobilizes your thumb."

"....I'm not actually needed for this part of the process, am I?"

"I don't think you'll need surgery; we'll do a quick
ultrasound to make sure, and I'll have someone bring
you a splint. Do you need us to show you how to put
it on? It can be confusing the first time."

"...That would be very helpful, thank you."

So they did the ultrasound - no tendon damage, yay! - then pulled out Satan's own hypodermic and gave me the cortisone injection. I hate needles, so I turned away while he did it. Which meant I got to watch the process on the ultrasound monitor. It's possible that was more disturbing.

Hand's feeling better now. The shot was full of painkillers to tide me over until the cortisone kicked in, which made the rest of the day fun, and the brace did help a lot. The doctor was, overall, very friendly and helpful, so on balance it was a good experience. He even invited me to come back next week if my knees are still hurting.

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