photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, November 2, 2012

Because Having to Go to the Cancer Hospital Isn't Stressful Enough

I'm going to step out of character for just a bit here, and take a moment to rant.

*stop laughing*

Ward needs some pretty extensive dental work done and because of his many issues and the graft that we do NOT want to endanger by poking around and yanking shit out right there, his reconstructive surgeon and ourselves decided that the best place to have the surgery done was back at MD Anderson.

On accounta those guys in the dental department deal with nothing but "cancer teeth" all day long- and Ward's teeth are literally breaking off from the radiation they did 6 years ago. The radiation that did nothing to stop his cancer from growing back.

So our surgeon in the reconstructive surgery department called in a referral to dental for a consultation right away, and we waited.

Over a week later, I called to see what was up.

After the scheduler in reconstructive didn't get an answer from dental, she bounced the request back to the doctor, and he personally walked into the office of the head of the dental department and explained why Ward needed to be

So we went in for our consultation and they gave Ward "homework" of a prescription mouthwash and toothpaste for 3 weeks then return to see what his mouth looks like in its healthiest state.

He still needs 6 extractions in the regular operating room under general anesthesia.

The head of the dental department (who will be doing the surgery) said he'd have them schedule the IMPAC (pre-surgical appointment with the internist) for later that week or the next week at the latest. Later that week was last week and this week we're ending now is next week- the 'at the latest' part. They can't reserve the OR till after IMPAC. And he needs this done ASAP because
a) He's in constant pain
b) His teeth continue to break off
c) He can't eat well, nor does he want to because of his teeth

I thought it odd when the doctor said, "If you don't hear back with an appointment date in like 3 days, call and start bugging them".

I waited the 3 days.

Then I called and started bugging them.

I was told that "the order hasn't been placed for an IMPAC appointment".

I was told that "we haven't heard back from IMPAC".

I was told that "IMPAC can't schedule because there's an insurance issue".

See how that works? Everyone passes it along to someone else after the patient sits on hold and gets transferred over and over and over again while listening to the 'on hold' nauseatingly endless loop of

"Here at MD Anderson, we've put patient care as our first priority for over 60 years"

After 3 days, I made it to the final person in the Line of Blame- the lady in the business office in charge of insurance. I asked her what the problem was since he's had the same insurance for his last 2 surgeries and she sounded mildly surprised.

"There's no problem- they have it marked 'medical necessity' and insurance will take it automatically- all they need to do is get it scheduled".

So I worked my way back to the physician's assistant who told me she'd get right on it.

Several DAYS later, I called her again and was told that all the appointments would be made for this upcoming Friday and I said FABULOUS! There's a speaker Ward wants to see in Houston Friday night- we can drive down Thursday, do the hospital thing Friday, see AMY GOODMAN Friday night and drive home Saturday. Easy.

I asked her again- was she SURE about when the appointments would be? Because I had to make hotel reservations and work arrangements and all, plus order our non-refundable tickets.

She said, "Absolutely".

So I did.

I started watching for those appointments to show up on the handy MyMDAnderson website.


I waited a day.


I called again.

I was told, "Mr. Dixon doesn't have any appointments till February for his regularly scheduled cancer scans".

I made my way through the transfer/on hold gauntlet to be told, "They just haven't made it into the computer yet- should be today".

Yesterday (Wednesday) I started checking the website every 30 minutes or so.

FINALLY an appointment with the internist (but no lab-work) showed up...

...For Monday.

Troubled, I called again.

And was only able to make it through to voice mail.

I called the hotel and explained that we might NOT need to check in on Thursday after all, but that I would call for sure by the 24 hour in advance time limit to cancel. We love our hotel. We love the owners. Unfortunately, English is NOT their first language and he had a dickens of a time understanding what I was trying to say. When we completed the conversation I knew only that he had us down to check in Thursday, Friday, or not at all.

I waited.

Finally, the appointment with the oral surgeon showed up...

...For Tuesday.

VERY troubled now, I called again.

I left a message on voice mail stating my displeasure on now having to either choose NOT to attend our non-refundable event Friday night or to spend double the nights we'd been planning on in Houston, and missing double the time at work I'd been planning on.

Finally at 5:30 I called the hotel back to firm up our reservation- we're checking in tomorrow (Friday) and out on Tuesday.

When I got home, I told Ward the absolute clusterfuck of events and said, "There's no way they could've screwed this up more than they did- lookit this" and I pulled up the schedule on my computer.

Wait. I was wrong.

They COULD fuck it up worse.

There, brand new since 5:30pm, was a new appointment, not for lab-work, but with the oral surgeon AGAIN...


No shit.

12 hour notice. For a patient they know is 5 hours away.

At that point my head completely exploded.

I pressed the little "reschedule" button next to this morning's appointment and typed in-

What the hell?
Kimberly assured me yesterday that all Ward's appointments were being made for Friday- so I made hotel reservations accordingly and we paid for non-refundable tickets for something in Houston Friday night.
When I checked the schedule AFTER 5PM today there were only the Monday and Tuesday appointments (?), so I called the hotel and told them we'd be in Friday, not tomorrow, and we'd have to check out Tuesday, not Monday.
Now there's one for 8:30 TOMORROW MORNING???
We live 5 hours away and I HAVE to do payroll at work tomorrow. Even if I didn't, there's NO WAY you can schedule an appointment for someone who lives out of town with TWELVE HOURS NOTICE.
You are the 8th department we've had dealings with at MDA over the last 5 years, Ward hasn't even had surgery yet with ya'll, and this is by far the most messed up anything's ever been.
AND there's no lab work scheduled at all, which I'm assuming the internist will need BEFORE seeing Ward.
Here's what I need- I need ALL internist appointments on Monday. Leave Dr. Chambers on Tuesday.
Someone CALL ME tomorrow with our FIXED schedule- Ward's already stressed about this, we do NOT have money growing on a dang tree for extra nights away from home, I now need to tell my JOB that I'll be gone almost a week.
Seriously. I've never encountered quite this level of unprofessionalism. Ever.
The internist appointment was supposed to be scheduled for LAST week per Dr. Chamber's instructions and I called multiple times since I need to arrange so much here at home to be out of town and need LEAD TIME, was transferred innumerable times being told that it was "pending insurance" and when I finally got to Ms. Glover in the business office she told me that everything was fine- there were no insurance issues.
So this has been a frustration from day one.
It's very discouraging to have to deal with this sort of incompetency when my husband is in constant daily pain.
To be told over and over again how important my call and my husband are to MD Anderson while on hold really does nothing to help when being given the run-around.
Sheri Dixon

This morning *I* called THEM.

The scheduler had no idea how the 2nd appointment with the surgeon got there- claims she didn't do it since she'd been at home for several hours when that popped up.

She said she was very sorry about the whole Friday thing, but she had to work around the internist's schedule. I told her I understand that, but then the physician's assistant never should've told me EVERYTHING'S FINE FOR FRIDAY since now we're going to be out about $150 in extra hotel nights plus food.

I mentioned that I'd think the internist would want little things like BLOOD WORK and X RAYS before seeing Ward and she said, "Wow- you're right- good catch".

Here's what's so damn frustrating. This is not some little clinic- it's goddamn MD Anderson- one of the top 2 cancer hospitals in the WORLD. People come there from everywhere- most everyone there is NOT local- why the hell do they think they can give NO notice for appointments or change shit up without consideration of what that does to people's lives, work schedules, hotel reservations?

They've got an entire department of translators for every language from Spanish to Croatian for cryin' out loud- EVERYONE'S from out of town.

And it's not like this chick's got a million things to do- she's a scheduler. That's all she does. For like 2 doctors. Gimme a break.

When I'd finally picked up the pieces of my exploded head, I thought, "Fine. We haven't been to Galveston since before the last hurricane- we'll go there either Saturday or Sunday and there's always festivals and shit going on in Houston- we'll find stuff that's outside and free or mostly free to do on Saturday and Sunday.

I felt better.

Then I checked the weather forecast.

The only days there's a chance of rain in the next 14 days are...Saturday and Sunday.


1 comment:

  1. fab-u-lous...If you ever get there I hope that Wards surgery goes well and he can finally get some relief...tooth pain just sucks.


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