Friday, November 21, 2008


Just when you think life can't possibly get more shbleepy, it proves you wrong

Last Tuesday, Veterans Day, Mrs Stevie came home with the news that a biopsy she'd had done was not, as we had first been told, clear of all nastiness and that she had in fact been diagnosed with the disease for which the cure is almost worse than the condition it addresses.

Fortunately, she had had a dental appointment a week and a half before, and the dentist had expressed some concerns. From there it was a dash to Doc rubberglove who didn't see anything to worry about but felt she should see Doc Teaspoon, my ENT specialist who not only does E's but has a passing acquaintance with N and, more relevantly in this even, T. He ordered a CAT scan and an MRI, and took a biopsy of the cheek material. He also sent her for a needle biopsy of her lymph node, swollen for some time during another illness but still big after two months and more. His initial examination of the material was optimistic and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

That Tuesday, however, the detailed lab reports came back with a very different interpretation of the facts.

Mrs Stevie has Oral Cancer.

We were scheduled in double-quick time for a visit with an Oncologist at Long Island Jewish, a hospital with a good reputation for oncological science. This is where the merely nerve-shredding business was taken to new lengths in human mental torture.

First, the appointment was moved from the afternoon to 9:30 am. Then the hospital turned out to be under renovation and the place looked like a bomb had hit it. We abandoned our car to a valet and went into the oncological building to ask for the doctor. We were, of course, in the wrong part of the bloody place, which everyone was able to tell us straight away, but no-one seemed to know where the right place was, exactly. We got directions, eventually, which led us in a great circle.

Mrs Stevie, ever the practical one, called the doctor's receptionist, who proved to have a grasp of the hospital's geography easily the equal of ours, which is to say that she knew where she was but couldn't recognize where we were. We finally got that sorted out and arrived in good time for the appointment.

Which is when we met Chauncy, who was to prove himself a complete waste of about three bux worth of chemicals and completely devoid of an I.Q.

His first act of anti-patient peace-of-mind terrorism was to produce a pad of forms containing no less than eight sheets of drivel that the doctor needed filling out, then explaining how to do that in an almost perfect imitation of Dustin Hoffman's brilliant portrayal of "Mumbles" in the movie Dick Tracy1. He must have spent ten seconds on the entire exposition. Mrs Stevie, naturally, became quite hostile that she was asked to fill in her name and nothing else on four sheets of paper, something the otherwise idle receptionist could have done while we were trying to find the bloody place. To add insult to more insult, Chauncy the Waste of Air couldn't get our surname right. A name with four letters, only three of them different, and with an obvious single syllable pronunciation I might add. Still, it would soon be over and we would know the worst.

Or not.

We were shown into an examination room at 10:30, fully one hour later than "the only time the doctor could fit us in", where we waited another half hour before the great man put in an appearance.

Understand that we sympathized with the problems that an emergency operation that afternoon had caused the staff. We just can't understand why we were completely ignored and kept in the dark as to what the fbleepck was going on and when we might actually see someone with a medical qualification.

Eventually the doctor showed up and did a couple of exploratory examinations. He then told Mrs Stevie that she was young to be getting this form of cancer, that she was extremely healthy, had none of the usual risk factors for the disease2 and that we had caught the disease early. The prognosis was therefore extremely good and the standard of care would be six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, with surgery probably not needed unless a PET scan showed otherwise. He was quite definite that he wanted the PET scan to be done "today or tomorrow"3.

We left the office and went back to reception, where we asked the receptionist to organize getting permission from the insurance company to do the test. She refused. Mrs Stevie pointed out that the doctor had been quite specific. She said that we had to get our GP to sort it out. A few minutes on the phone resolved the issue - we had spoken of setting up a "referral" when what was needed was an "approval". The receptionist got quite snippy over the fact that we had a less-than-perfect grasp of the jargon of her field of expertise - medical paper pushing. She summoned Chauncy, the Complete Waste of Skin.

Chauncy listened to about two words of the request before going through all the same strategies to avoid doing what was needed that the receptionist had used. Each one was fielded and returned by Mrs Stevie, a far more fiendish disputant than this Chauncy moron had ever met. He finally asked us to have a seat and disappeared upstairs, ostensibly to do what was required. He mispronounced our name again, just for laughs.

By now it was nearly lunchtime, and that brought on two concerns. Firstly, Mrs Stevie hadn't eaten since the day before and was getting severely squirrelly due to blood sugar levels dipping south of healthy. Then there was the certain knowledge that Chauncy Fbleepckwit was almost certainly near his own lunch-break, which would be an ideal way to bust our balls again.

I waited 40 minutes more before I called my insurance company and began asking them if the forms required had been received (they hadn't4) and how I could get the process moving from my end. I did this at the top of my voice in the (vain) hope that one of the stupid cows sitting behind the reception desk would get a clue and intervene. I should add that for the last hour we had been the only other people in the place. Naturally, neither one did intervene, but between me and Mrs Stevie we did get the insurance company to fax the forms required to Chauncy Lackabrain's office. They also said that the whole process should have taken no more than 15 minutes, which we kinda knew since Mrs Stevie had had a number of tests organized that week by someone getting on a computer and spending time being helpful instead of being a complete twbleept. Within five minutes, Chauncy Fbleepace had reappeared waving the form in question, mispronouncing our surname yet again, claiming it was all sorted out, and so we left that benighted hole.

Mrs Stevie was fit to spit nails, and said that she had little faith that an operation that couldn't organize a trivial paperwork exchange or muster staff who could pronounce her name would be competent to cure the condition she had. I had to agreee with her. Since she was feeling down I decided to take her to the California Pizza Kitchen for lunch.

On the way there, she called the insurance company and discovered that despite us having done everything but fill in the forms ourselves, and despite the doctor ordering the PET scan be performed "today or tomorrow5" Chauncy Fbleepckhead hadn't actually faxed through the paperwork. Mrs Stevie called him, and in a conversation that escalated until she was literally screaming down the phone at this waste of skin she argued that yes, since it was her life they were discussing in fact he did have time to walk across the bloody office, write one six digit number on the paper he swore blind he had faxed and resend it.

Chauncy Lackabraincell opined that he didn't have to be spoken to in that fashion and threatened to get Deirdre, his supervisor, involved. I was astounded this poor excuse for a human being would be so stupid as to provide such a useful opening in a day in which he had so far done a grand total of nothing to help us out, and Mrs Stevie, of course, yelled that she would love to speak to his supervisor and that she not only welcomed the opportunity to speak to her, she demanded it. Chauncy Fbleepckbrain madly backpedaled and announced she wasn't there, but that on reflection he did have time to deal with this issue himself and would do so, now.

We ate a splendid meal6 and returned home. On the way, I suggested Mrs Stevie re-check the situation vis-à-vis the paperwork since I had no faith in the Idiot Chauncy.

As you might predict, the now fed and therefore calmer Mrs Stevie discovered that the paperwork had not arrived, at least, not as it had been specified and was either never received or sent with inadequate identification. Mrs Stevie went white with rage and began dialing. I spoke up:

"Don't bother calling Chauncy. He is just getting some sort of odd twisted pleasure from making you twist in the wind. Ask for Deer-dree" I said.

And that's what she did. She explained what had happened, pontificated on the smarts of a staff that claimed to be able to marshal the state of the art in medical help yet couldn't get one four letter, single syllable name right, and said outright that she had never been so shabbily treated in her life and had no confidence in the Doctor or his support team as a result.

For the first time that day, people from that hospital began reacting to her with some shred of human decency, and she was apologized to and assured that the problems were not typical and would be dealt with.

Mrs Stevie hung up and announced that the woman's name was, in fact, Deer-druh, not Deer-dree. I replied that since they hadn't got our name right I wasn't too bothered about a regional pronunciation difference in one of theirs.

The doctor's personal assistant then rang us back and said that he would now be dealing with Mrs Stevie personally. He had sorted out the paperwork and faxed it to the insurance company in the way that they asked him to, and as a result, no sooner was he off the line than the insurance company called with the news that the test was approved.

I was glad that someone had finally decided that just because it was Friday it was no reason to make the life of a patient any more miserable than the discovery of the potentially lethal condition that made them come to the hospital had. I do however have one remaining puzzle arising from this horseshirt that I cannot for the life of me reason out:

What in Azathoth's name did Chauncy the Fbleepckwit think he could possibly gain by his behavior?

Try as I might I cannot fathom a way in which he could come out of a day like that thinking he was somehow ahead, so why did he do it?

  1. Bear in mind we were in an ear, nose and throat specialty clinic, and people might reasonably be expected to have problems hearing anyone trying to be understood and you'll begin to appreciate the brilliance of this dirkhead's behavior
  2. Smoking, he meant. Neither of us has in over a decade and a half
  3. It remains a source of puzzlement to me that so many doctors have no idea how the world they work in actually works - no insurance company will pay for an expensive medical scan on a patient's say-so
  4. Big surprise
  5. Impractical. It took three days to get her body ready for the scans
  6. Although I nearly blew it by ordering some sort of spring roll as an appetizer that appeared to be vegetables packaged in a condom


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, Stevie, our commiserations and best wishes to Mrs S.


Anonymous said...

Yes, best wishes to Mrs S.


Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear the news. All the best to Mrs S.


Anonymous said...

hope all goes well with treatments. Merlyn