On Doctors and Veterinarians
Several months ago, my beloved cat started vomiting frequently and losing weight. I took him to our vet, who recommended a sonogram at the nearby animal hospital. I brought him there the next day and got the bad news. The sonogram showed that he had an enlarged small intestine. The most likely cause was lymphoma. Further tests revealed the bad and (relatively) good news. It was lymphoma, but it was the least virulent form and should respond well to treatment.
The first step was surgery to remove the tumorous mass centered on the lymph nodes in his small intestine. That was done the next day. Unfortunately, complications ensued and a second surgery was required three days later. Our cat is 12 years old, and the two surgeries back-to-back on his intestinal tract nearly killed him. His entire digestive tract shut down and it was touch and go whether he would make it. All told, he spent 13 days in the hospital.
Today our cat is doing fine. He is gaining weight, his old adorable behaviors have returned, and he looks cute as hell wearing little red sweaters that my girlfriend made for him from old T-shirts to hold his feeding tube in place. (He'll have that tube for a while longer to easily administer medicines, even though he is getting all his food by mouth now.) He now sees the hospital's oncologist every three weeks, and those visits should stretch out further if he continues to respond well to chemotherapy, as he is doing now.
We are hopeful that our cat will be with us for several more years. If he had not gotten treatment, the prognosis for survival was a few weeks.
I am very thankful to our veterinarians, and tell them that frequently. Our cat not only got top-flight care every step of the way from them, but also from all the hospital nurses who drew his blood, administered medicines, cleaned and petted our cat, and gave him toys and treats during his stay in the hospital. Even the receptionists were kind and thoughtful, hustling to bring our cat his special fuzzy bed that we brought him when he was in the hospital. On two occasions, our veterinarians gave us their personal cell numbers to call them if we needed help with the cat's care after he came back home.
We are so thankful to our vets and gladly paid their bill. We wanted to send them a thank you and acknowledge everyone who cared for our cat, and asked for a list of everyone who worked on our cat in some capacity. Over 50 people were on the list.
Contrast this with my visits to my personal physician. I have a great personal doctor. He is always on time, and demands that his patients show up on time. His father was a doctor. As an avid runner, he is in excellent physical shape himself. He is serious, extremely knowledgeable, thoroughly competent.
His practice is closed. No one who is not already a patient can get in to see him. It has been closed for some years. I have been seeing him for ten years.
When I see him, I pay a $10 or $20 copay (I can't remember which). It is chump change compared with the value of the services he provides. After all, it is my life.
When I see him for my annual exam, I get about ten minutes of his time. He has a pleasant office where he will briefly consult with me after he briefly gives me my examination. I am thankful for those ten minutes.
One time, my insurer screwed up its payments to him. My doctor blamed me, and I caught myself blaming the insurance company. Later, even though it was clear that the insurance company was at fault, I apologized for the mix-up. After all, I am the one responsible for paying my doctor's bills. Am I not?
I have a great doctor. I feel lucky. I value his ten minutes. Out of pocket, he is a hell of a lot cheaper than my veterinarian. He is a bargain, isn't he?
Come to think of it, he has never given me his cell number.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
On Doctors and Veterinarians