Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paging Dr. Smith

If you are as old as dirt, like me, you might remember this guy. This is Johnathan Harris, who played the infamous Dr. Zachary Smith in the TV series "Lost in Space" which aired in the early 1970's.

In the series, Dr. Smith was always devious and unreliable. You never could count on him. He would put on a brave face, but at the last minute, he would chicken out.

I ran into a Dr. Smith of my own during my October 12-14, 2007 hospital stay.

I had been admitted to the hospital with acute diverticulitis, combined with an abscess on my bowel that was pressing down on my bladder. After they discovered my situation following a CT scan, they asked me who my surgeon was.

What? I didn't have a surgeon! I didn't know I needed one until now! So the hospital contacted the surgeon on call, which turned out to be my Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith seemed nice enough. He explained what was happening with me. He even drew a picture of my bowel, bladder, and where the abscess was that was causing all the trouble. He said that I would need surgery to remove the part of my bowel that contains the diverticular pockets.

When I was discharged from the hospital, on a Sunday night, he told me to contact his office the next day (Monday) to schedule an appointment, where we would further discuss the surgery. We had arranged for me to be on oral antibiotics (Augmentin) and then have a follow-up CT scan in two weeks.

The next day, I dutifully called Dr. Smith's office, and arranged for an appointment with him on the following Friday.

The IV antibiotics in the hospital had worked well. I had received some relief from the intense pain I had experienced the week before.

In fact, the next day, Monday, I returned again to work again, as if nothing had happened. (I was somewhat weakened, and I still had some pain.) It was dawning on me that I was going to need surgery, and I felt myself resigned to that fact. I confided in a couple of my co-workers and my boss that I had spent my weekend in the hospital. However, most people didn't know that I had even been in the hospital again.

Things progressed along nicely through the week, until Thursday, when I got a call from Dr. Smith's office. I was informed that Dr. Smith was retiring, and that he was no longer taking new patients. My Friday appointment was canceled out from under me, and I was summarily dumped! My Dr. Smith was as unreliable as the one on the old TV show!

I was dumbfounded! What was I to do now? I decided to call my internist. But they were really hesitant to even schedule and appointment for me. They told me to contact a surgeon. However, I needed some recommendations for a good surgeon -- and that was part of what I wanted to discuss with my internist, who after all, is supposed to be my primary care physician.

Reluctantly, my internist agreed to meet with me the next day, on Friday. When I got there, it was like I was radioactive. She didn't want to touch me with a 10-foot pole. She didn't want to counsel with me, or have much at all to do with me.

My wife came with me to that appointment, and we were appalled at her attitude, and her unwillingness to be of much help. Finally, I got a list of recommended surgeons from her, and we left.

We haven't been back ever since, either.

I have one doctor, my rheumatologist, who is my most trusted doctor. I called his office, and asked him to give me a call, with some recommendations for a colon surgeon.

My rheumatologist called me back, and we discussed several doctors, and he told me which one he go to if he were having similar trouble. This doctor is the go-to doctor for complicated bowel surgeries. The doctor he recommended is often times consulted by other doctors when they have difficult cases.

I decided to go with the surgeon recommended by my rheumatologist. He also happened to be on the list that I wrenched away from my internist. This turned out to be a very good decision.

In the long run, I feel grateful that I had the surgeon I ended up with. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Dr. Smith wimped out on me, after all.


barbl said...

You're back! Yay!

Bill said...

I found some information about diverticulitis. Check it out!