Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Stresses That Led to a Rare Visit to the Doctor's Office & the Stresses That Followed

Right off the bat, let me start by saying that I do not go to the doctor's office very often. It had been years since my last visit to the doctor's office, which was a couple of years ago, when I got seriously sick. Prior to that was a few years before, as well, and that was a required visit because of a job that needed me to get a physical.

For the most part, I go without seeing the doctor. When I get sick, and even when I feel pain, I just do not go to the doctor's, and generally assume that these problems will heal themselves in time. 

Probably what you are asking at this point is why? Why not go to the doctor's office when a problem arises?

That would be a legitimate question. A fair one, to be sure. And here's the reason: in this country, doctor's seem to be in it generally for the money more than anything else. Now, I am sure that there are exceptions to this rule.  Surely, there are good doctors out there who are genuinely interested in the good health of their patients.

However, it is hard for me to get past the fact that most doctors seem to view their patients as a means for profit. This is particularly true here in the United States, where we are the only industrialized nation that fails to provide a universal, affordable healthcare system for it's citizens. That is something that, to me, clearly makes the United States stand out for all of the wrong reasons. It is an issue that has been a source of shame to me as an American since I first really began to understand it, some time in the late 1980's. My father, who is European, would mention that every European nation, and indeed, every industrialized nation back then save for South Africa (which was under white minority apartheid rule at the time) had some form or other of universal healthcare except for the United States and South Africa. It was not much of a source of comfort that South Africa did not have it, since it was an officially racist country, after all. 

So what was our excuse?

Of course, apartheid ended in South Africa. One of the first things that they did once apartheid ended was institute a form of universal, affordable healthcare there, which made the United States the sole remaining industrialized power that did not have such a healthcare system in place. That was in the mid-1990's, fully two decades ago now. Among the other areas where the United States shamefully lags behind, including with the environment, as well as with salaries and benefits, including paid medical leave, childcare, and vacation, this lack of affordable healthcare for tens of millions of people has proven to be a source of shame for this country, a true stain and blemish, that the rest of the world judges us by. And with good reason!

For my part, that meant that I did not fully trust doctors. Fairly or unfairly, I often view them in the same manner that I view lawyers and mechanics: as people who have you by the cajones, and who will apply pressure as they see fit to get what they want out of it. They often have a preset list of preferred medications to give to their patients, and often times, they are encouraged to push these on them, whether or not they are truly what is best for the patient or not. And frankly, since we have a for profit healthcare system, the most obvious suspicion would be that doctors and others in the medical field need a continual source of income to make their healthy profit. This they have, if they can be sure that their patients remain unhealthy. 

There is good reason to believe that they will remain unhealthy, because this is America, after all. Home of the Big Mac and the Whopper, and why not supersize that? This is the land of excess, of unhealthy lifestyles, where tens of millions of people are obese. We are the fattest country on the planet, and it is not even close! When you see some of the "ingredients" in today's mass produced food, you have to wonder about it, as well. All of these pesticides in our produce, and all of these hard to pronounce chemicals in other foods. And that has not even including the topic of all the medications that Americans take, many of which had unfortunate side effects! Yet, millions of Americans take these without question! I am convinced that a large percentage of them probably never seriously gave thought or did research as to what they were putting into their bodies. Many people take numerous drugs, and who knows why kinds of side effects these combined drugs might have?

Finally, it appears that more and more people are waking up to all of this, and are growing ever more mindful of all of this nonsense. However, much of this crap food and medications continue, and the practice does not show significant signs of truly slowing down.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

Point is, I do not go to see the doctor frequently. However, about a month back, my back was giving me problems. This is a normal thing, rather routine, although this particular episode was a bit more serious. And unfortunately, for the second time in my life, that pain spread from my back and eventually to my leg, which somewhat surprisingly, seems worse than my back.

Now, I was waiting for a while for it to get better on it's own and, for a while there, that was what seemed to be happening. Late last week, the pain seemed much less than it had been, and I was feeling optimistic. Perhaps another few weeks, and this would pass. Then, I could start doing serious stretches in hopes of not only getting in shape, but of preventing this kind of thing in the future.

But somehow, it started hurting a bit more during my work shifts last weekend, and it probably did not get better when I decided to be active last weekend. As you might recall from a post about last weekend, I went hiking. The weather was so beautiful, and not only do I like to go hiking, but I want to encourage my son to do some hiking and get some fresh air, as well. So, we went.

By the time the weekend ended, my leg was starting to seriously hurt, and it reached a point where I actually had to hobble a bit when walking. It is strange, because the pain kind of comes and goes. There are times when it does not hurt at all. Certain positions while sitting or lying down, and sometimes even while on my feet or walking.

In other words, it got bad enough that it was unavoidable. Like it or not, I had to make a doctor's appointment, the first in years.

I opted for Thursday, which is my normal day off after working the night before. I figured that the doctor would give me advice and some meds to ease the pain, and I was hoping it was obviously not more serious than that. Also, Thursday night would be a night off, the first in ten nights or so, as I worked some overtime last weekend, and definitely needed the rest!

For the most part, the visit went as expected. He told me it was sciatica, which I pretty much figured anyway, and that he could not do much about it, which also came as no real surprise. He would give me muscle relaxants to help ease the pain, and told me to stop hiking, and not to lift anything heavy or do anything to crazy on it for at least one month.


But when I went to pick up the muscle relaxants at the pharmacy, they were not ready. Waited for a little while longer, but still nothing. So, I took my son to eat dinner, and then we came back.


By then, of course, the doctor's office was closed, so there was nothing that I could do. Had to wait until morning, and call then. Which I did, to find out that doctor's office was closed on this Friday.

And the pain was definitely not getting any better, although the night off, and some adequate rest, did make me feel better.

Still, the pain in my leg was real, and it was certainly limiting what I could do, and how well I could feel. I woke up a couple of times in tremendous pain, perhaps moving the wrong way while unconscious. Who knows, maybe that was what woke me up?

I finally did get the medicine on Saturday evening, although even here, there were problems. Despite an email message and voice message to the doctor explaining that it would be way more convenient for me to pick the medicine up in Hillsborough, rather than nearby his office by William Paterson University in Wayne (more than an hour's drive away!), he sent it to that one, and left me a message. I was able to get the medicine transferred to the much closer CVS, but then I had to have the prescription number. Since the doctor had sent everything electronically, this was something that I did not have, and they were not letting me have that without it.

In my mind, a familiar question was rising: who the hell else has these kinds of problems? Does anyone have to deal with this level of confusion for things that should, on the surface, seem simple and straightforward?

They "offered" to call that other CVS and see if they could get the number, and within a few minutes, indeed, they had gotten it. Finally, the medicine was in my hand - Diclofenac Sod EC.

Went back home after that, and ate, because my girlfriend insisted that this stuff could not be taken on an empty stomach. So, I ate, even though there was no real hunger or anything. Then, the medicine.

At first, it worked remarkably well. Ten or fifteen minutes after taking the medicine, there was no pain. I could walk normally and comfortably, instead of half limping or hobbling around.

"Wow! This stuff is amazing!" I said to my girlfriend, looking at the tiny little bottle.

But before the hour was out, the pain started coming back. By maybe four hours afterwards, it was almost like I had not taken anything to begin with, and I was only supposed to take 1 tablet twice a day at most.

Suddenly, it was not looking like the miracle drug, and my girlfriend was saying that this was not doing anything, and was hardly worth the ordeal.

As of right now, that is where I am at. Sitting here in front of the computer, kind of leaning forward and trying not to think too much about the pain in my leg. Trying to be positive and to assume that everything will indeed get better soon.

The doctor did mention that it will likely take a month or two before everything is better, and that sure feels like a long time, does it not? There is little to nothing that they can do for issues with the sciatic nerve, though, and I knew that coming in. Having dealt with it years ago, I remember how it felt like it was taking forever, and how there were points where it was hard to believe that it ever really would even get better.

Of course, I hope that it will. It hurts right now, and I have to be prepared for it to hurt for several months to come now. Not much that I can do about it.

However, my focus has not been overly strong with a lot of things just lately, and that includes the writing. These past weeks, there has been a lot to write about, yet that pain sometimes makes me feel a lot less energetic and focused. So, I just wanted to be honest about that and address it here, to kind of explain why this has been so.

Thank you on your end for your patience and understanding!

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