One of the best things I like about the surgeon who will do my hip replacement is that he recognized my need for a specialized rehabilitation and that area was not his area of expertise. When I had my consult/meet & greet/ audition in my first appointment with him, I made it very clear that the recovery part of this whole thing was my biggest concern.
My surgeon told me to make an appointment with a doctor specializing in Physical Rehabilitation and who might be the one or one of the ones to recommend me for inpatient rehab post-surgery. Considering my physical condition and a few other factors, I think any physical therapist seeing me would immediately recognize the need of a tailored program for me but as the wheels of medicine like to take the beaten path and only rarely deviate from a set pattern, I know it is not a given. So I took the surgeons advice.
I called the number of the department of Physical Rehab his physician’s assistant gave me, waiting a couple days so the always-needed referral could get to them.
OK, I have to step away a sec and bitch about referrals. Gone are the days when you called the family doctor and if he couldn’t take care of your problem, he’d give you the name of someone who could. It was no big deal. You called the new doc, got an appointment, usually pretty quickly, and it was done.
Now? Now, it almost take a damn act of congress to get in to see the appropriate doctor. I don’t get it. Who in their right mind would make an appointment with anyone just for fun? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if you make an appointment with say a dermatologist, you have a problem with your skin, or an oral surgeon you have a major tooth problem? Does anybody really make an appointment with a proctologist to talk about ingrown toenails?…. “What do you mean strip and bend over, I have a pimple on my toe!” NO, the God-almighty referral has to be made for the patient to the second doctor by the first doctor. With lots of lost time in between. Seriously?
OK, back to the rehab stuff.
This particular department is quasi connected to the inpatient facility in that they are the ones to evaluate a patient while in the hospital and recommended post-surgery treatment. It’s also the place I really, REALLY want to get into after surgery so I dutifully made the call.
It went something like this:
“Hi. My name is Judith and my surgeon here at the University is going to do hip replacement surgery, October 5th. Since I am a double amputee and will have a difficult recovery, he thought I’d be a very good candidate to be an in-patient at your facility after the surgery. He told me to call and make an appointment to be seen by your rehab team.”
“You have to have a referral. Our facility is super hard to get in to. How long ago did you have the surgery? We don’t take everybody. You have to qualify. Your doctor can’t just decide that.”
“Yes. I know that. His office called for me and faxed over my file so I could speak with the rehab team and address my issues. I haven’t had the surgery. It’s scheduled for October 5th.”
“No, Flickinger. With an F.”
“Can you spell that?”
At which point I always want to say, yup I can. Can you? But instead I recite my stock answer.
“F as in Frank. L i c k…i n…g e r. Flickinger”
“Oh, FLICK- and ger.”
Close enough…“Yes ma’am.”
“Ok, Judy. And you think his office called when?”
“Last week after I saw him. And it’s Judith, not Judy.” My biggest pet peeve in all the world is being called “judy” by someone who does not know me and presumes I like to be called the nickname that in my home town only country singers have. I HATE it.
“Yes, I got it. But you aren’t in the system. I don’t see a referral. I can’t make an appointment without a referral. Our facility is selective and you have to meet certain rules and criteria to be admitted. Without a referral, I can’t do anything. We don’t have any openings now, anyway.”
Obviously, the same criteria, rules and selectiveness did not apply to those that worked there. Nevertheless, I remained civil.
“Could you please check and see if maybe someone else picked up the fax? I’m sure his assistant sent it. She gave me your number to follow up and told me to call.”
“As I told you, Judy, our facility is really hard to get into. Who’s your doctor? Is he your family physician?
”No. He’s a surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon. And my name is JUDITH.”
“Now, what kind of doctor is he? Family doctor…A podiatrist? Is he here in Columbus? He may not know what our admitting requirements or policies are.”
“A podia….??? Ma’am. He’s the Chair of Orthopedic and Adult Reconstructive Surgery here at the university and HE felt I would be an excellent candidate for your facility’s rehabilitation expertise. HE told me to get in touch with your rehab team.”
“Oh,” Silence…. Then…”Hang on a minute.”
There are few things in this world worse that canned phone/elevator/hold/circa80’s/clarinet music that is so full of static it’s barely audible, unrecognizable and totally atonal. My sincere hope is that the very same music is playing on a never ending loop in that special place in Hell reserved for rude receptionists and telemarketers.
“Ms. Flickinger? The team will see you next week.”
I have to admit, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when whoever it was she finally spoke with recognized just whose patient I was and/or found the referral.
The appointment with the rehab team went well and while they still could not give me assurance I would get a place in the facility both the doctor and I wanted, the head of the team agreed with my doctor about my need of a tailored program and thought I certainly fit the bill under their stringent qualifying medical issues. He even went so far as to tell me to make sure who ever evaluated me knew I had been to see his team and he would try to help it along.
And, yes….I did say something to the team’s intake nurse about the less than helpful young woman I first spoke with. The nurse was mortified and offered her heartfelt apologies.
The lesson here….don’t take shit from anyone when it comes to your health and if you got a name to drop… by all means…..drop it! Loud and Proud!