Robust healthful manhood

The photograph of “a healthy man” to go with my Ragtag Daily Prompt conflate post.

I LOVE the caption. “Robust healthful manhood is the source of mental and physical power.” How differently the author portrays health womanhood, as shown in the conflate post. The book is Macfadden’s Encyclopedia of Physical Culture, in three volumes, 1911. Volume I is 500 pages. It is easy to read but it’s a different style from now. Here:

As a rule, if you will simply retain the idea that food should be swallowed at all times without effort, that is, that never, by any means, wash it down with water, milk, tea or any other liquid, that you should masticate it until it seems to disappear without swallowing, you can rest assured that you are masticating sufficiently. p. 97, volume I.

I plan to read the entire set. I think I will find lots of wonderful words for the Ragtag Daily Prompt (hey, I don’t think we’ve used masticate yet!) and material to write about.

Are there still interesting medical ideas out there? Oh, yes. LOTS. Only now they use the internet. I have subscribed to some of the series of videos, telling people how bad and wrong minded allopathic doctors are. Sigh. We do our best. The scam is that they let folks watch one a day for a week, or let them watch one, and then want you to buy the series. “Only $349.99!” Nice scam that is proliferating rapidly. I have now gotten emails saying “Health coaches should make as much or more than physicians and we can teach you how to market and target people and make that money.” Ugh and ick. Really?

I have patients in clinic who present by saying, “I don’t usually go to MD doctors, I go to a naturopath, but I am here because I need an antibiotic.”

I learn to respond gently. “Oh. If you need an antibiotic, maybe you have signs of infection? What are your symptoms?” I have to get past their dislike of allopathic medicine and find out what the symptoms are. Usually if I can diffuse them by getting the story, we can work together. Once in a while it doesn’t work: I have people come in and give me orders. “Do these labs.”

“Uh. Where did this list come from?”

The answer could be a video (by a naturopath, a biochemist, a biologist, whatever. I have watched some of these series. They start by saying that doctors are wrong/stupid/stubborn/misguided/etc.) or a “cash only” doctor or a magazine.

“Why are you coming to me?”

“I want medicare/my insurance to pay for it. I have done my research.”

“Well, medicare does not work that way. I have to list a symptom or diagnosis code for every lab ordered.”

“WHAT?”

I try to be patient. “Every lab has to have an attached appropriate diagnosis code or medicare will not cover it. There is a place in town where you can order your own, but it does not take medicare. You pay for it.”

“Just order it!”

“No. I am a medicare/insurance provider, which means I have a contract with them. It would be fraud and illegal to make up codes. Does your cash only provider use diagnosis codes? Can your bring their clinic note to me?”

One person replies, “My provider doesn’t take notes.” Oh, how nice. That provider does a very expensive panel of labs three times a year that the person is paying for out of pocket. “My provider checks EVERYTHING.” Um, and makes a boatload of money off you too, I think. That patient is very angry that I won’t take her orders and switches clinics. Oddly enough, this does not break my heart.

Some days I hate Dr. Google. There are lots of websites and people on line swearing that they can improve your health. There are scientific looking papers that swear something has been tested, but read the fine print: if the sample is 8 people, how does that stack up against the Women’s Health Initiative, where one arm of the study had 27,000 people? The evidence is weighted. We get multiple articles in medical school and subsequently about how to read a paper, how to weigh the evidence, how to recognize fraud or a poorly designed study.

I do not object to people looking on the internet and I have had people who came in and said, “Is it possible that I have THIS?” and who are correct. However, I see more fraud, always.


failure of the medical non-system

One thing that makes me gloomy, as a Family Practice Physician: the only person who has read my medical notes from the multiple specialists is ME.

Since March 2021, I have seen Family Practice, Cardiology, Pulmonology, Infectious Disease, Immunology and Psychiatry. I am in a rural area, so this involves three different hospital systems. They all use the EPIC electronic medical record, but they won’t release information to each other. I have gotten two of them hooked together under ONE of my names and passwords but guess what: my primary care physicain can’t see the notes from the other sites. Only I can. “Proprietary infromation.” Hey, you stupid medical non-systems, this is MY healthcare, MY notes, and YOU SUCK.

My primary care physician COULD request the notes from my pulmonologist but she hasn’t. I find this incomprehensible. I have been on oxygen for over a year. I guess my doctor frankly doesn’t care. Has she farmed my lungs out to pulmonology and doesn’t have to pay attention any more? My goal in practice was to have all of the specialists’ notes. If that was five different specialists, I requested them. Ok, it is next to impossible to get psychiatry notes. I keep wondering if psychiatrists really write notes. The patients never seem to know what diagnosis the psychiatrist is using. One hundred percent of the people that I have seen put on an (addictive) benzodiazepine say that it is for sleep. Meanwhile, at the conferences, the psychiatrists say that primary care should not give the patients benzodiazepines for sleep. I raise my hand: “Even when you psychiatrists have started them? The patients all say it’s for sleep. We don’t know WHAT you have them on it for.” When I try to stop the benzo, the patient has a fit and says that psychiatry said they have to have it. And the psychiatrist has retired or left or changed the phone number and there are no notes ever.

Anyhow, I am counting up specialists. I had really bad strep A pneumonia in 2012 and 2014. Since 2012 I have seen 20 specialists. That is counting the three Family Practitioners, because Family Practice is a specialty too. I thought it was about taking care of the whole person, which to me means reading all the specialists notes, but not one of the ones I have been to has done that.

So the medical system is an abject failure. I blame the US citizens. We choose the system with our votes. We need medicare for all, single payer healthcare, and one electronic medical record for all of the United States. Right now, there is a push to privatize medicare and turn it over to For Profit. We need to fight this and we need to demand better healthcare. Hospital organizations should not be refusing to send my clinic note to my primary care doctor. It is stupid and bad care.

https://pnhp.org/ Physicians for a National Healthcare Program for more information.


from blue to breathe

I attended a medical conference on line yesterday and today and it made me very blue. At first it just frustrated me, because it is about increasing behavioral health access. Isn’t that a good thing? Yes, but they completely missed the biggest barrier for primary care: TIME.

With the current US medical corporate money extracting insurance non-caring system, primary care is increasingly forced into 20 or 15 or 10 minute visits. I fought my hospital district when they said “See patients for one thing only.” I replied “That is unethical and dangerous: if it is a diabetic with an infected toe, I HAVE to check their kidney function, because antibiotic dose must be adjusted if their kidney function is reduced.” And there are at least two and maybe three problems there: infection, and if the diabetes is out of control that worsens the infection, and then kidney function. And actually I have to be sure anyone going on antibiotics has good kidney function or adjust my dose. I am very very good at this, but it takes time. I can work with complex patients, with veterans, with opiate overuse, with depression: but none of this is a simple template slam dunk. A study more than a decade ago says that the “average” primary care patient had 5 chronic illnesses. My patients don’t want to come in for each one separately and anyhow, if they have kidney problems I have to pay attention when I pick medicines for their high blood pressure. None of it can be separated out. That is why medicine is complicated.

Someone asked why can’t I just post the price of a “simple” visit for a sore throat. But a sore throat can be viral, can be strep A, can be a paralyzed vocal cord, can be a throat abscess, can be vocal cord cancer. I can’t tell ahead of time. I can’t. Early on during covid, a patient called and wanted a Zoom visit for abdominal pain that he said was constipation. I said “No, I can’t do abdominal pain over Zoom safely.” I can’t ASSUME it is constipation. It was appendicitis and he had his appendix out that evening. He called from his hospital bed the next day to thank me for making him come in.

The conference made me blue because they ignored my questions about why they were not advocating for primary care to have more time with patients. They claim to be all about change, but changing the US medical system? Nope. Do not want to talk about that. But I do want to talk about it. You can help by letting Congress know: single payer or medicare for all. That insurance company gets 20 cents of every dollar to profit and wastes tons of money forcing doctors’ offices to call for prior authorization. And if we have single payer, think of all the small businesses that will start because the terror about health insurance will disappear! I think it would reduce everyone’s stress, except the insurance CEOs. And they have earned more than enough, goodbye greed.

I am also tired of specialists telling me that primary care needs to do MORE. When I get told that I am not doing enough about hypertension, bladder leakage, depression and stopping smoking, and then 20 other specialists lecture me. Ok, so one minute per topic to fulfill what all of them think I should do? I want a primary care conference where primary care doctors are celebrated: cases are presented where the specialist says what a brilliant job the primary care doctor did.

I received a consult letter from a cancer doctor a few years ago. He wrote that I had diagnosed the earliest case of chronic leukemia that he had ever seen and that he was impressed and the patient would do fine. That’s the conference that I want to go to: where primary care and specialists talk about that and we inspire more doctors to do primary care.

You can learn more and how to talk to your congressperson here: HealthCare Now: https://www.healthcare-now.org/

or at Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org

And put your vote and your money towards healthcare, not health insurance.

Patient Satisfaction Score

The latest issue of Family Practice Medicine has an article on patient satisfaction scores.

I remember my first patient satisfaction score VIVIDLY.

I am in my first family medicine job in Alamosa, Colorado. I receive a 21 page handout with multiple graphs about my patient satisfaction scores. I am horrified because I score 30% overall. I am more horrified by the score than the information that I will not receive the bonus.

I go to my PA (physician’s assistant). He too has scored 30%. We are clearly complete failures as medical providers.

Then I go to my partner who has been there for over 20 years.

She snorts. “Look at the number of patients.”

“What?” I say. I look.

My score is based on interviews with three patients. Yes, you read that correctly. THREE PEOPLE.

And I have 21 pages of graphs in color based on three people.

I am annoyed and creative. I talk to the Physicians Assistant and we plan. I call the CFO.

“My PA and I think we should resign.”

“What? Why?”

“We scored 30% on the patient satisfaction. We have never scored that low on anything in our lives before. We are failures as medical people. We are going to go work for the post office.”

“NO! It’s not that important! It is only three patients! You are not failures!”

“Three patients?” I ask.

“Yes, just three.”

“And you based a bonus on three patients? And sent me 21 pages of colored graphs based on three patients?”

“Um…”

“I think we should discuss the bonus further….”

I did not get the bonus. It was a total set up and I am not sure that ANYONE got that bonus. Much of the maximum “earning potential” advertised was impossible for any one person to get. You would have to work around the clock. They got out of paying us by having multiple bonuses that each required a lot of extra work…. They were experts in cheating the employed physicians. That became pretty clear and I was 5th senior physician out of 15 in two years, because ten physicians got right out of there. I lasted three years, barely. I knew I would not last when an excellent partner refused her second year of $50,000 in federal rural underserved loan repayment to quit AND stayed in the Valley working in the emergency room. I called the CEO: “Doesn’t this get your attention?”

“She just didn’t fit in.”

“Yes, well, I don’t think anyone will.” I asked my senior partner how she stayed. “You pick your turf and you guard it!” said my partner. I thought, you know, I hope that medicine is not that grim everywhere.

Unfortunately I think that it IS that grim and getting grimmer. Remember that in the end, it is we the people who vote who control the US medical system. If we vote to privatize Medicare, we will destroy it. Right now 1 in 5 doctors and 1 in 4 nurses want to leave medicine. Covid-19 has accelerated the destruction of the US medical non-system, as my fellow Mad as Hell Doctor calls it. We need Medicare for all, a shut down of US health insurance companies, and to have money going to healthcare rather than to paying employees $100,000 or more per year to try to get prior authorizations from over 500 different insurance companies all with different rules, multiple insurance plans and different computer websites. Right now I have specialists in four different local systems. The only person who has read everyone’s clinic notes is ME because it is nearly impossible to get them to communicate with each other. Two of them use the EPIC electronic medical record but consider the patient information “proprietary” and I have to call to get them to release the notes to each other. Is this something that we think helps people’s health? I don’t think so. I have trouble with the system in spite of being a physician and I HATE going to my local healthcare organization. Vote the system down and tell your congresspeople that you too want Medicare For All and single payer.

Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org/

Healthcare Now: https://www.healthcare-now.org/

I have had people say, but think of all the people out of work when we shut down insurance companies. Yes AND think of the freedom to start small businesses if we no longer have to fear the huge cost of insurance: Medicare for all!

The AntiDating Patch II

Gosh, again? Once again I am giving up on dating, because, well…. I just cannot even IMAGINE beginning to share my past life. Heh. I suppose I could do one of those “We never talk about the past” relationships, but BLEAGH. Sorry, boring.

So, I quit. As I wrote in The AntiDating Patch, people are contrary beasts and nothing makes them more interested then being engaged/and/or/quitting dating. How do I get around this? Wearing the PATCH(Tm) is not enough. (I chose itsy bitsy country of origin of my choice, just FYI, not the boxers and ick, not the speedo).

Quitting won’t work. I will be hounded. My microbiome will start howling and send out pheromones to the other microbiomes and people will gather round. No! I say, No!

Better to date. Hmmm. I think I will date the birds in my yard. The male deer are a bit spiky for my taste, a little scary to get close to. I like the raccoons, they are VERY good at growling and protect their young. The coyotes are shy but I’ve seen them within a block and by my former clinic. Also one on three legs by the hospital. I wonder if he was considering the ER? I find great blue herons fascinating and wish that I could fly and land in trees. I could date a tree, right? Be anything you want to be? At one point I was so fed up with people that I decided to be a tree.

There. I will peel the AntiDating Patch off in a week and date the local flora and fauna. A week of the patch will reinforce my resolve and then I can go moon at trees, or a blue heron, or a coyote.

Phew, problem solved and plan laid. I won’t have to explain my life at all, at least not in English. I have had a blue heron circle back to land in a tree when I was trying to talk blue heron. The heron looked pretty fierce, I am afraid that what I am saying is probably an insult. It’s easy to pick up the nasty slang in another language. Maybe they will teach me if they sense my deep and positive intentions. I hope so, don’t you?

Microbiome Dating Service

You have been perfecting your health for years.

You know the antiaging regime and you follow it religiously.

You have read Jeffrey Bland. You have been tested for the mthfr mutation. You understand pandas. You have taken a functional medicine class and you’ve studied biochemistry in your local functional medicine group. You have reversed your autoimmune symptoms by a combination of the best from Dr. Ballantyne and Dr. Perlmutter. Your adrenal fatigue is gone. You have the pajamas that Dr. Oz says help most with sleep. You know your supplements backwards and forwards and have visited the clean green factories that make them.

You are healthy.

You are ready for the perfect relationship. But…. would you want to date someone who doesn’t take care of themselves? What if they don’t care? What if their bacteria invade YOU?

WELCOME TO THE MICROBIOME DATING SERVICE!

We will remove your fears and cares. All clients agree to a monthly detailed microbiome stool screen. You will date healthy people. If a screen fails, a client is notified and all dating partners are notified as well. Clients agree to EXCLUSIVE DATING with other healthy people, tested and monitored.

You are healthy. You want to stay that way. WELCOME TO THE MICROBIOME DATING SERVICE!

WE KEEP YOU SAFE.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?_r=1

phoenix rising

Written in 2009.

Set a torch to me
Why don’t you?

It’s not the tearing sound of fabric
A small rip
And now a tear
That I feel

It’s the torch

I’ve been here before
A job where the idealistic came
As moths to the flame
Self-immolation
Because they had ideals

I watched and burned and rose

It’s the torch
The flames that rise
As the witch is burned
Tilts back her head
In ecstasy and knowledge
Eager to learn what she can
From these burning brands

In the burning we learn
In pain we learn
If we can remain open
Ashes fall to the ground
Buckets of water
Wash any remains to grey mud
Gone, punished
Relief for the frightened
An example has been set

No but what stirs at night
Moon or none
What rises from the mud
The ashes
Takes form
Takes flight
Laughing

Set a torch to me
Why don’t you?
And see what is created

Adverse Childhood Experiences 12: welcome to the dark

Welcome to the dark, everyone.

When you think about it, all the children in the world are adding at least one Adverse Childhood Experience score and possibly more, because of Covid-19. Some will add more than one: domestic violence is up with stress, addiction is up, behavioral health problems are up, some parents get sick and die, and then some children are starving.

From the CDC Ace website:

“Overview:Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. However, ACEs can be prevented.”

Well, can they be prevented? Could Covid-19 be prevented? I question that one.

I have a slightly different viewpoint. I have an ACE Score of 5 and am not dead and don’t have heart disease. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about ACE scores and that it’s framed as kids’ brains are damaged.

I would argue that this is survival wiring. When I have a patient where I suspect a high ACE score, I bring it up, show them the CDC web site and say that I think of it as “crisis wiring” not “damaged”. I say, “You survived your childhood. Good job! The low ACE score people do not understand us and I may be able to help you let go of some of the automatic survival reactions and fit in with the people who had a nice childhood more easily.”

It doesn’t seem useful to me to say “We have to prevent ACE scores.” Um. Tsunamis, hurricanes, Covid-19, wars… it seems to me that the ACE score wiring is adaptive. If your country is at war and you are a kid and your family sets out to sea to escape, well, you need to survive. If that means you are guarded, untrusting, suspicious and wary of everyone, yeah, ok. You need to survive. One of my high ACE Score veterans said that the military loved him because he could go from zero to 60 in one minute. Yeah, me too. I’ve worked on my temper since I was a child. Now it appears that my initial ACE insult was my mother having tuberculosis, so in the womb. Attacked by antibodies, while the tuberculosis bacillus cannot cross the placenta, luckily for me. And luckily for me she coughed blood at 8 months pregnant and then thought she had lung cancer and was going to die at age 22. Hmmm, think of what those hormones did to my wiring.

So if we can’t prevent all ACE Scores, what do we do? We change the focus. We need to understand crisis wiring, support it and help people to let go of the hair trigger that got them through whatever horrid things they grew up with. 16% of Americans have a score of 4 or more BEFORE Covid-19. We now have a 20 or 25 year cohort that will have higher scores. Let’s not label them doomed or damaged. Let’s talk about it and help people to understand.

I read a definition of misery memoirs today. I don’t scorn them. I don’t like the fake ones. I don’t read them, though I did read Angela’s Ashes. What I thought was amazing about Angela’s Ashes is that for me he captures the child attitude of accepting what is happening: when his sibling is dying and they see a dog get killed and he associates the two. And when he writes about moving and how their father would not carry anything, because it was shameful for a man to do that. He takes it all for granted when he is little because that is what he knows. One book that I know of that makes a really difficult childhood quite amazing is Precious Bane, by Mary Webb. Here is a visible disability that marks her negatively and yet she thrives.

A friend met at a conference is working with traumatic brain injury folks. They were starting a study to measure ACE scores and watch them heal, because they were noticing the high ACE score people seem to recover faster. I can see that: I would just say, another miserable thing and how am I going to work through it. Meanwhile a friend tells me on the phone that it’s “not fair” that her son’s senior year of college is spoiled by Covid-19. I think to myself, uh, yes but he’s not in a war zone nor starving nor hit by a tsunami and everyone is affected by this and he’s been vaccinated. I think he is very lucky. What percentage of the world has gotten vaccinated? He isn’t on a ventilator. Right now, that falls under doing well and also lucky in my book. And maybe that is what the high ACE score people have to teach the low ACE score people: really, things could be a lot worse. No, I don’t trust easily and I am no longer feeling sorry about it. I have had a successful career in spite of my ACE score, I ran a clinic in the way that felt ethical to me, I have friends who stick with me even through PANDAS and my children are doing well. And I am not addicted to anything except I’d get a caffeine headache for a day if I had none.

For the people with the good childhood, the traumatic brain injury could be their first terrible experience. They go through the stages of grief. The high ACE score people do too, but we’ve done it before, we are familiar with it, it’s old territory, yeah ok jungle again, get the machete out and move on. As the world gets through Covid-19, with me still thinking that this winter looks pretty dark, maybe we can all learn about ACE scores and support each other and try to be kind, even to the scary looking veteran.

Take care.

covid 19 two

From November 20th, 2020:

My ex called Saturday. Early, which unusual. I thought he was calling to say his mother died.

Nope.

He is an RN at a nursing home. “We’ve gone from one Covid 19 patient to 55 in the nursing home in one week. And they installed a new computer program on Tuesday that makes everything take twice as long. I quit.”

Actually he gave two weeks notice.

He called our kids yesterday. He has Covid 19. However, they are so short of staff that he is working. On the Covid 19 ward of the nursing home.

____________________

In my clinic, we are struggling with watching people travel for Thanksgiving. We have decided. If someone travels or has Thanksgiving with other households, we will offer a zoom visit or a reschedule in two weeks. We do not want them to expose others in clinic. And if we get it or are exposed, we are closed for a minimum of two weeks.

____________________

He called me. Today 60 out of the 70 nursing home patients have it. All of the staff have it. The staff are working anyhow because there is no one else.

Free fall

I feel safest with the fallen

Everyone falls
No one is good

I am afraid
Of the people who
pretend to be good

the fallen
don’t pretend

We fell down down down
like an eternity
like it would never end

We were bad
depressed drunk addicted
liars cowards thieves

We held our arms out
There was nothing to stop us
Free fall

All we could do
was pray

We prayed
As best we could
With all our hearts
If we had no words

Falling angels
Caught us

Helped us
Claw our way back

Some people fall
Are still falling
Fall forever

Are they crazy
Or do they choose
To stay with the angels?

The people who say
They are good

We look at them

We know they haven’t fallen

They are lying to us
They are lying to themselves
They are lying to the Beloved
They want to be good
They want what they say to be true

But it isn’t

I meet the eyes of another fallen
Knowledge

I can see the memory
Of infinite free fall
In their eyes.