April 5th, 2005



I’m sitting in the waiting room at the endocrinology center at UofP Hospital. My mom is test-driving a new doctor, and needed a ride so she could find the place. She’s not real good at negotiating the city. For the last hour or so I’ve been listening to her various doctor woes. There was the doctor who, on her fourth visit, suggested that she get her thyroid checked (when said thyroid had been removed 5 years earlier, and the reason she was seeing him was to help her tweak her Synthroid prescription) – the guy had never even looked at her chart, or why she was there – just collected the $95 per visit and recommended some bloodwork. More recently she saw a guy for sleep apnea. He sent her off for two nights of monitored sleeping and all kinds of stuff, and then on her next visit, they’d lost the contents of her file. They had the file, but it was empty. “If I choke to death in my sleep,” she told me, “I want you to send the bill for the funeral to Dr. Stoeker.” She means it.

Chuck Mangione is playing on the piped in music. Not particularly interesting, as far as jazz goes, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the standard muzak you’d hear.

“Did I tell you about Celebrex?” she asked. No. She went to see a doctor about her arthritis. She told him that she’d quit taking her hormone supplements and he said, “That’s the best thing you could have done for yourself.” He suggested that they do herbal stuff as much as possible, but he wanted her to get some x-rays done and come back. She came back and he started writing her a prescription for Celebrex. She told him that she wasn’t taking that, and he proceeded to kick her out of his office. “I want you to leave now, and don’t come back,” he told her, “until you are ready to take Celebrex.” Since then, Celebrex has been taken off the market (along with Vioxx and other drugs in that class) because patients were dropping like flies.

My mom has a history of finding bad doctors. This is how she got into the situation she’s in. She had a hypothyroid condition. It took years to diagnose. When they did diagnose it, they decided that they needed to remove it and put her on Synthroid. They decided that it needed to be done immediately. Like, within a couple days. They actively discouraged her from getting a second opinion. I was in high school at the time, and she came to me with the sheets of papers describing the procedure, which I needed to interpret for her. The procedure is that they give you a radioactive iodine pill that slowly destroys the thyroid. Possible side effects are various cancers, leukemia, that sort of thing. I told her that she should get a second opinion, understand the risks and the benefits, see if there were alternatives. Once it was gone, after all, it’s not like they could put it back. So she called them to cancel the appointment in order to seek a second opinion. They got upset at her and tried to bully her, and when that didn’t work, they called my dad and bullied him until he pressured her to get it done.

The way they do it is they put you in a room by yourself and make you sign some papers that say that nobody at the hospital recommended this procedure, and whatever happens isn’t their fault. The doctor who did recommend the procedure doesn’t show up either, distancing himself as well. After this is done, someone comes in wearing a lead gloves, lead apron, etc., and carrying a giant lead container. “After we’ve left the room,” the patient is told, “open the container and take the pills. Do NOT open the container while anyone else is in the room.”


Eventually, she found a good Endocrinologist who finally helped her sort out the emotional and physical rollercoaster that the drugs were making of her life. He looked at the charts and was shocked and appalled that they had removed the thyroid, when she could have been treated by supplementing, rather than replacing, the thyroid.

So there’s this magazine here in the waiting room: Natural Health (“feel good / look good / do good”). Front cover has a fabulously glowing supermodel type holding a terrier and wearing a fur-lined vest. “How Animals Heal You” is the cover article. Other articles include “Do what you like,” “The #1 way to simplify your life,” and “Get Glowing (Brighten your Complexion Naturally).” This is a magazine for people who don’t want to live an artificial life naturally. For people who don’t want to question any of the basic assumptions of contemporary culture but want to appease their consciences about it.

Bandaids for the Titanic.

The Scion XB Driver's Lament

And it seems to me you drive through life
Like a shoebox in the wind
Never knowing where you’re going
Or which lane you’re in
And I would have like to race you
But who’m I trying to kid
The engine would burn out long before
I drove fast enough to skid