Caduceus Hair

A physician says to me, “You might have had more friends and been more successful in your career if you had been put on medication a long time ago.”

I think, “You f—ing bitch.” Nothing shows on my face. The doctor face is pleasant on the surface and the stone face that guards my feelings is deeper. I could show you the snakes and you would turn to stone but I would go to jail.

Your words don’t go away. They fester, a deep deep wound. I ask my other doctor, “If my only symptom of pneumonia is my mood, no white count, no fever, how would I know if I had pneumonia if I were medicated?”

I think back. Age twenty five with belly pain, emergency room, CT scan and then a sigmoidoscopy. I couldn’t eat, it hurt so bad. The emergency room offers me valium. “No,” I say, “my father is an alcoholic. I won’t take that.” I am sent to counseling. The counselor, smug, blonde, polished, wants to send me to her husband, a psychiatrist, for drugs. “No,” I say, “my father is an alcoholic. I want talk therapy not drugs.” I am very very afraid.

Things get better.  I tell the counselor thank you. “You can’t stop now,” she says, “You must continue the counseling. Or you will have problems later on.” I go once more. She says I must keep coming. I speak to a family friend, a PhD psychologist, who encourages me to say no. I cancel. No regrets.

I am not an alcoholic. I don’t smoke. I don’t use pot nor CBD. I never tried cocaine or meth or opioids or crack. I can tell an addict by their charm: the sick people are not charming nor the people in for maintenance. The moment a person tries to charm me I wonder what they want.

The physician is wrong and cruel besides. Valium is addictive and is still overused. I could have taken the path of psychiatric medicine but I chose not to.

I will find another doctor who is less stupid and cruel. They do exist. I know, because I am one.

____________________________

how to use a specialist

I am a rural Family Medicine doctor, board certified and board eligible. I have used the Telemedicine groups in the nearest big University Hospital since 2010.

Initially I started with the Addiction Telemedicine. I accidentally became the only physician in my county prescribing buprenorphine for opioid overuse in 2010. I panicked when I started getting calls. Dr. Merrill from UW had taught the course and gave me his pager number. I acquired 30 patients in three weeks, because the only other provider was suddenly unavailable. Dr. Merrill talked me through that 21 day trial by fire.

I think that I presented at least 20 patients to telemedicine the first year. The telemedicine took an hour and a half. First was a continuing medical education talk on some aspect of “overuse”, aka addiction, and then different doctors would present cases. We had to fill out a form and send it in. It had the gender and year of birth, but was not otherwise supposed to identify the person. TeleAddiction had a panel, consisting of Dr. Merrill (addiction), a psychiatrist, the moderator/pain doctor, and a physiatrist. Physiatrists are the doctor version of a physical therapist. They are the experts in trying to get people the best equipment and function after being blown up in the military or after a terrible car wreck or with multiple sclerosis. There would usually be a fifth guest specialist, often the presenter.

After a while, TeleAddiction got rolled into Telepain and changed days. They added other groups: one for psychiatry, one for HIV and one for hepatitis C. These can all overlap. I mostly attend TelePain and TelePsychiatry.

After a while, I pretty much know what the Telepain specialists are going to advise. So why would I present a patient at that point? Ah, good question. I use Telepain for the weight of authority. I would present a patient when the patient was refusing to follow my recommendations. I would present to Telepain, usually with a very good idea of what the recommendations would be. The team would each speak and fax me a hard copy. I would present this to the patient. Not one physician, and a rural primary care doctor, but five: I was backed up by four specialists. My patients still have a choice. They can negotiate and they always have the right to switch to another doctor. Some do, some don’t.

I am a specialist too. Family Practice is a specialty requiring a three year residency. The general practitioners used to go into practice after one year of internship. My residency was at OHSU in Portland, with rotations through multiple other specialties. We rotated through the high risk obstetrics group, alternating call with the obstetrics residents, which gave me excellent training for doing rural obstetrics and knowing when to call the high risk perinatologist. In my first job I was four hours by fixed wing from the nearest more comprehensive obstetrics, so we really had to think ahead. No helicopter, the distance was too far and over a 9000 foot pass, in all four directions. That was rather exciting as well.

sciatica

Gnomes have dermatomes
call me on their cell phones
inflammed neurons fire moans
after lifting heavy stones

gnomes with grumpy dermatomes
stop riding on your spotted roans
ice your backs, lie down at home
gnomes complain and curse and moan

gnomes with calming dermatomes
glad they iced them there at home
families help, they’re not alone
healing gnomes pained dermatomes


For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: dermatome.

don’t kill your clients

I wrote this in 2016, when at least nine people died of overdoses in Vancouver, BC at Christmas, from fentanyl. I knew fentanyl was hitting my corner of the Washington State too. Warning, this contains a lot of swearing (edited so this does not become a “mature” site). I was in a very bad mood when I wrote it. It is meant to be black humor, to help me deal with grief.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fentanyl-crisis-up-to-9-drug-overdose-deaths-in-vancouver-last-night-1.3900437

But the news today is STILL talking about fentanyl and overdose: https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/12/us/west-point-cadets-overdose-fentanyl/index.html. When will we ever learn? And also, drug dealers are not actually trustworthy…. your cocaine might contain fentanyl. Don’t do it.

don’t kill your clients

oh, you think I’m talking to physicians….

….no, I’m talking to my fellow dealers.

See, heroin is rather labor intensive to produce, being from the opium poppy and all that. (When people say “I only take natural supplements.” I want to say, “You mean like opium and heroin? You know, plant based.”) Also, Afganistan, those fungkers shoot you as soon as look at you. It turns out that fentanyl is cheaper to make and you can source the ingredients from China.

And then, you can make fake oxycodone tabs and fake hydrocondone pills and sell them for bitcoin on the silk road. But you know, ya gotta mix the sheet right. If you mix it wrong and a buncha people overdose and die, there are complaints. Ya might get some scared clients, like, junkie friends of junkies. And then there are also those chronic pain people who aren’t junkies but been forced onto the streets to treat they habit, I mean, pain. We got a good thing going, the pill thing, because the junkies think that pills is safer than heroin. You might scare the fungkers and then how the fungk will I be able to buy that island with my bitcoin?

So dealers, ya’ll fungkheads, ya messing it up if you don’t get the goddarn mix right. See, fentanyl is not routinely tested for on the blood and urine drug screens. So the person gets labelled as an oxycodone overdose and no one knows that it’s fake pills. But when there are too many deaths, the goddarn feds and doctors get suspicious and start testing the pills.

Same with heroin. Cheapens things to cut it with fentenyl. But you gotta calculate right, because if you kill a whole bunch of clients at once, 1. you cut into profits 2. you make the cops and docs suspicious. You gonna ruin it for everyone, you goddarn morons.

And now I hear we got a new mix. Carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer. Read the recipes carefully, morons, it’s 10,000 times as strong as morphine, you gotta dilute the sheet 10,000 times. Don’t you know math? Take a goddarn chemistry course.

Don’t fungk things up for the responsible drug dealers. A live client keeps on paying.

Be careful out there.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/dec/11/pills-that-kill-why-are-thousands-dying-from-fentanyl-abuse-http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/health/elephant-tranquilizer-carfentanil-heroin/

Connections between Pain, Opioid use, Suicide and Opioid Use Disorder.

Excellent blog by Janaburson: https://janaburson.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/complex-connections-pain-opioid-use-suicide-and-opioid-use-disorder/

The picture is the tree with berries that the robins are eating, outside my clinic window. They clear it from the top down. Deer come too and stand on their back legs to reach up for berries.

Vital signs II

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: vital. For me, vital brings up vital signs. I wrote this poem in 2006. Pain was made the fifth vital sign in 1996. I have written about it here. In June of 2016, the American Medical Association recommended dropping pain as a vital sign. The idea that we should be “free” of pain has not died yet and the latest CDC report says that the overdose death rate for women has risen a horrifying 240% from 1999 to 2017. That report is here: Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Aged 30–64 Years — United States, 1999–2017. My poem is still relevant and we still have to change our ideas about pain.

Vital signs II

Pain
Is now a vital sign
On a scale of 1:10
What is your pain?
The nurses document
Every shift

Why isn’t joy
a vital sign?

In the hospital
we do see joy

and pain

I want feeling cared for
to be a vital sign

My initial thought
is that it isn’t
because we can’t treat it

But that isn’t true

I have been brainwashed

We can’t treat it
with drugs

We measure pain
and are told to treat it
helpful pamphlets
sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies
have articles
from experts

Pain is under treated
by primary care
in the hospital
and there are all
these helpful medicines

I find
in my practice
that much of the pain
I see
cannot be treated
with narcotics
and responds better
to my ear

To have someone
really listen
and be curious
and be present
when the person
speaks

If feeling cared for
were a vital sign
imagine

Some people
I think
have almost never felt cared for
in their lives

They might say
I feel cared for 2 on a scale of 10

And what could the nurses do?

No pills to fix the problem

But perhaps
if that question
were followed by another

Is there anything we can do
to make you feel more cared for?

I wonder
if asking the question
is all we need

I took the photograph yesterday with my cell phone. It was so gloriously sunny that the water really was turquoise and I did no photoshop changes.

And she’s walking as if her feet hurt

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: crepitus.

I wrote this poem thinking about my sister in 2009. I was writing on everything2.com and they had a “masked poetry ball”. We put up a second identity and part of the contest was guessing who was who. My brother in law and my sister had been on the site for far longer than me. While I was masked, my brother in law sent me a message that the poem reminded him of his wife. Yes, I thought, that poem worked, because I wrote it about her.

And she’s walking as if her feet hurt

And she’s walking as if her feet hurt
Each first metatarsal hits the dirt
Each joint feels like it’s full of grit
Bone on bone and all that shit

And she’s walking as if her feet hurt
Each first metatarsal hits the dirt
It’s no surprise, in fact it grates
To know she carries all those weights

Please rest your feet sometimes my dears
Those silly joints must last for years
One of the many dark deep fears
To walk in pain for years and years

And she’s walking as if her feet hurt
Each first metatarsal hits the dirt
I wish that she could go on home
And put her feet up all alone

I took the picture, of my sister and my son, in 1993 in Portland, Oregon. My sister injured her knee fighting fires when she was 22. Her knee worked after the surgery, but with crepitus within ten years. And her feet started to hurt.

crossroads

Regardless of how the vote goes, I will keep speaking up.

It is so painful to have woman after woman saying, “I have stories too.”

And to the “nice” men who say, “I can’t believe that sort of thing. I can’t read about it. It hurts too much.” YOU are silencing too. YOU are part of the problem. As long as YOU refuse to listen, refuse to speak up, refuse to read about it: YOU PRETEND TO YOURSELF THAT IT IS NOT HAPPENING TO YOUR WIFE, YOUR SISTER, YOUR MOTHER, YOUR DAUGHTER. YOU PRETEND THAT IT ONLY HAPPENS TO “THOSE” WOMEN, THAT THEY ARE FEW, THAT IF THEY HAD TAKEN PRECAUTIONS IT WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED, THAT YOU ARE PROTECTING “YOUR” WOMEN.

Speak up, “nice” men. Are you ASKING the women in your life? Or are you silencing them?

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Joanne Little.

 

from the mist

For the Daily Prompt: forest.

My town is a forest at sunrise and sunset. The trees take over, dark against the sky. And look,  something is rising from the mist.

Medicine is like that too. Did the epidemic of unintentional overdose deaths catch you by surprise? People, including doctors, thought opioids were safe, if taken correctly. And that we should increase them if the person still had chronic pain. But the information is still changing and taking shape from the fog.

I have worked with the University of Washington Telepain service since 2011. I can’t attend every week, but many weeks I spend Wednesday lunch in front of the computer, logged on to hear a thirty minute lecture from UW and then to hear cases presented from all over the state.

I want to sing the praises of the doctors on Telepain and the Washington State Legislature for having this program. Here is a link to a five minute King5  news program about UW Telepain.

https://www.king5.com/video/news/local/fighting-opioid-epidemic-via-video/281-8115411

Forty two different sites were logged on. There are also UW Telemedicine programs for hepatitis C and for patients with addiction and psychiatric problems. The advantage is that all of we rural doctors learn from one doctor presenting a patient and the panel discussing it and making recommendations. We have Dr. Tauben, head of the pain clinic, a psychiatrist, a physiatrist, a family doctor who treats opioid addiction, a psychologist and a social worker. And often a guest speaker! We have a standard form to fill out, with no names: year of birth and male or female. It is a team that can help us to care for our patients.

New information in healthcare rises out of the mist….