So, now what?
It’s been a month since I’d lost Rick to the unexpected heart attack on Christmas morning. I ask myself every day, how did that happen? We had changed doctors when our primary care physician retired unannounced, and then changed again when the doctor to whom he had bequeathed us as patients ordered a plethora of tests and his office staff could not keep up with the coding, resulting in our being billed repeatedly for things that ought to have been covered by our health insurance.
The new doctor that we chose operated via a network of nurse practitioners, all of whom focused on comprehensive referrals to many specialists. Rick and I had, as i said in my previous posts, more referrals that we had ever had to deal with, and this in the face of feeling pretty well despite our existing conditions.
When Rick sought relief for the pains in his shoulder, he was diagnosed via a painful MRI attempt followed by a new generation ultrasound. The rotator cuff tear was substantial, and surgery was scheduled. He was advised that he needed to have a full pre-op eval before hand. Included in that pre-op was a referral to a cardiologist’s practice, for a stress test. The results of the testing was negative (which is good in medical terms.) No evidence of any heart issues.
A week later, he had the surgery. Two weeks later the surgeon examined the site and declared it well maintained and okayed the beginning of physical therapy. As the end of the year was just a few weeks away, and the surgeon wanted the PT to be conservative, he and we agreed that waiting until the new year was acceptable, as our insurance would be changing with new cards, numbers, and different co-pays, etc.
But Christmas morning happened, and Rick died despite the efforts of the paramedics that responded to our call. What could we have done differently? Why did this happen to someone who had taken all the medical advice and followed all of the prescriptions for after care? I don’t have answers to those questions, and perhaps never will.
But what do I do now? I wrote to all eight of his doctors and referred specialists who had pending appointments scheduled for Rick in the new year; I let them all know that he had passed away, of a heart attack, and that I was lost without him. It was simpler to put it all in a letter and send it, with his obituary online, to his doctors through the postal mail. Talking one by one with each office on the telephone was unthinkable to me at that time … it would be impossible to remain composed, heard and understood, and so I sent the letter to each medical office, with the doctor’s name on the envelope.
For weeks I heard nothing in return. Then one day, nearly a month after his death, one of the specialists’ secretaries called and asked for Rick. I said I was his wife and could I help her? She said no, she had to speak with him to find out why his name was no longer in her database. I told her that I had sent a letter to all of his doctors about his death, and asked her to confirm that her office had received such. She checked ‘under a different category’ on her computer and said yes, they had received a letter which had prompted the removal of his name from their database. She also expressed her condolences.
I could not continue the conversation as my emotions spilled tears and my voice was quelled by the heaving in my lungs as I tried to control the crying. I said goodbye, and hung up.
That was two weeks ago. I have yet to hear from any other of the eight doctors’ offices I notified. I have not and will not call them to ask if they received my letter, for if one did, then they all did. I cannot see myself returning to that practice for my own general medical care. I have a neurologist, a dermatologist, a skin surgeon and a psychiatrist all in the Boston area; they are a tricky commute away, but I have no faith left in the local medical community after this past year of changes, referrals, new faces, endless appointments, tests, and then Rick’s death.
Ironically, my new insurance no longer requires a primary care physician to write referrals for me to see those specialists in the city … and I have no desire to continue with routine assessments for other health issues. My life partner is gone; truly half of me is gone; I will continue to face the cognitive challenges of ‘benign RRMS’, of recurring skin cancers, of likely skin surgeries, and of depression and anxiety that requires ongoing medication and consultation. I’m not looking to add any more diagnoses to my chart.
Will I bother to find another GP? Will I continue to travel into the city for my current specialists whom I trust and with whom I am doing well? For what purpose would I want to seek a GP’s help? I can get a flu shot at CVS. I can call a pharmacist to ask for advice with over the counter medications. I can ask my neurologist for help with MS relapses. What would I want another doctor to do for me?
I don’t have answers to those questions yet, either. I’m not in the right place right now to be making such decisions. I will wait until I am, I guess.
I so miss Rick. I so miss our future together. What will be ahead now?