Second Opinions: They Can Save Your Life

Doctor gifLast year I wrote Why You Should Always Get Copies of Lab Reports and talked about several things that happened to me with doctors doing/saying the opposite of what was on my lab reports. I talked about what happened with my foot in that article and I have also mentioned it several other times. Back when I was dealing with the infection in my foot, I had a culture and an MRI that both stated I still had an infection in my foot. The doctor treating me proceeded to tell me that the infection was gone and placed a wound vac on my foot that should not have been placed there with the infection. My bone turned to mush. Had I not decided to get another opinion and gone to Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t have my leg today. If I had requested copies of the culture and MRI when they are done instead of waiting until I decided to change doctors, I would have questioned what was being done (or not being done in the case of not receiving antibiotics for an infection) and I would still have the bone in my heel today.

I had an appointment to get my hair cut last week. I was originally scheduled for the week before, but the woman that cuts my hair called me about a week and a half before the original appointment and said she needed to reschedule it. She said that her father was in the hospital and they needed to do some tests. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen so was trying to clear her schedule for awhile.

I went in and sat down and I could hear H in the back talking to someone. Her mother helps her in the shop and she did not seem to be around – I took that as a sign that her father was still sick. While I was waiting, a woman came in and kind of stuck her head to look in the back and was pacing the waiting area. H came out to talk to the woman; she was apparently a friend. She told the woman that they took his kidney and he started dialysis.

After the woman left, H went in the back again for a few minutes before coming back to the waiting area. She sat down to talk to me. She started the conversation, “I guess you heard.” I don’t know what all is wrong with her father. I knew he had some health issues but he is not diabetic. I asked her if he had an infection or something that he would lose his kidney. She told me that he had kidney cancer 8 years ago and they removed one kidney then but he had been doing fine since then. She said that he got sick and they took him to the ER. That was when they discovered a huge mass on his remaining kidney. They decided to transfer him to a hospital in Pittsburgh.

She told me that all the doctors are being very closed lip about what happened. She got his records to take to Pittsburgh, but she also sent them to John Hopkins to get a second opinion and see if they would be able to help her father. A doctor at John Hopkins emailed her and said that he knew the doctor in Pittsburgh and felt that her father would be in very good hands there. H said the doctor from John Hopkins also dropped a bomb shell at the end of his email. The doctor said that if they had done surgery when the mass first appeared in 2009 on her father’s cat scan, they would have been able to save his kidney.

When H first started telling me what happened, she said, “you aren’t going to believe this.” I have experienced my own horror stories with doctors and heard about countless others. I really didn’t think I would have trouble believing what happened to her father. A similar thing actually happened to my Aunt Ruth. She broke her leg and had a rod in. During a follow-up visit with her doctor, a spot appeared on her leg in an x-ray and her doctor dismissed it. That spot turned out to be cancer and she died because of that cancer. There is no guarantee that early treatment would have saved her life, but it certainly would have given her better odds.

One time last year, I was talking to one of my doctors. I first met him when I did HBO back in 2006. Besides being a really good doctor, he is someone you can talk to. If you are upset with another doctor, you can talk to him about it. I told him that I felt like because I have health problems, doctors seem to think that it is OK to just let me die. He told me that he actually hears that about 3 or 4 times a week. I don’t know if that is what happened with H’s father or if it was just incompetence by the doctor.

If it is incompetence, why do other doctors cover that up? I don’t believe that most of us are out to sue doctors. I would have had a very good case against the doctor that screwed up my foot, but I don’t believe in suing. H and her family don’t want to sue anyone either. They just want answers about what happened.

I know that we are supposed to trust our doctors, but we also need to question things. It is important to get copies of every lab and every report from every test that we have done. It is our body and we have a right to know. Not knowing can literally cost us our lives.
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2 thoughts on “Second Opinions: They Can Save Your Life

  1. Take into consideration what doctor you are speaking with also. I asked a specific question to a doctor who deals most often with general screening for breast cancer. My answer was my situation was uncommon. Asked the same question to the doctor who did my MRI. His answer was he sees it often. Asked again to the surgical oncologist – his answer was again uncommon and suggested a radical proceedure (I do not have cancer btw). Depending upon what they see coming in their door makes a huge difference on what answer you get.

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