Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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.


Burgess Laughlin said...

Galileo, I think -- all in good humor -- that you should delete your post. Horrible consequences might result if the wrong people read it:

1. National governments will require all doctors, in "private" practice, to give one-hour appointments and charge for 10 minutes. Likewise, all doctors in private practice will be required to give their cell phone number to every patient.

2. National governments will require everyone to buy medical insurance for their pets. (Do you realize that millions of pets in the U. S. have no medical insurance to cover them?)

I hope you have prepared strong arguments against these moves. President Hillary Clinton will surely demand these two measures be put into law. Perhaps we shouldn't worry. Republicans will resist -- for at least three weeks.

Burgess Laughlin

P. S. -- I am glad your cat is mending, apparently quite well.

Galileo Blogs said...

Thank you, Burgess, the cat is doing very well.

I also have to thank the fact that veterinary medicine is a cash business. I could afford to pay for the best care money could buy, and chose to do so. I didn't have to gain approval from a commissar who says that it is unfair that I pay for 50+ people to care for my cat while others can barely afford a can of tuna for theirs.

Unfortunately for the two legged animal of genus "homo," in the name of making sure everyone has equal access to their hoped-for *two* cans of tuna, no one will be permitted the same kind of care my cats received.

People like my doctor, who is one of the best in the human medical system, instead of being happy and dedicated professionals who willingly hand out their cell numbers to their best clients, become disgruntled cogs in a cruel machine. That machine grinds up the spirits and wallets of the good doctors, until none are left.

Socialized medicine is not just deadly to all concerned, but it is mean-spirited and brings out the worst in men.


As for President Hillary Clinton, I am not too worried that she will call for socialized veterinary care in order to "help" cats. I just can't picture her as a cat person.

Anonymous said...

It's been over a year since this entry was posted, but I found this blog after reading your article in TOS and I had to comment about some an experience of my own. Basically, almost two years ago, one of my cats ate several yards of thread on the sly and wound up requiring visits to multiple vets to diagnose and treat the problem, including an emergency clinic that performed surgery at 10:00 on a Saturday night to remove the thread. She's doing fine now and it occured to me that there are a lot of people in countries in socialized medicine who would very much like to be able to go to my vet(s) to get that kind of service. I also thought that it was a measure of how far medicine has come in such a short time--in the 40s, my grandparents had a child who died in early infancy because he was born with a blockage in his intestine that at the time was inoperable (he would have been my uncle had he lived). Fast-forward sixty years and now not only is the necessary surgery available, not only is it routine, but it's routine on a _cat_. :-)

Just thought I'd share.

You may not remember me, but we met at the ending dinner at OCON this year. It's a pleasure to read your work in TOS and this blog.

sarah (dot) gelberg (at) att (dot) net