in commentary, general, health

Ortho Roulette

For about a week, I’ve been suffering from an affliction. The ring finger of my write right hand has been hurting since Monday or Tuesday of last week. On Wednesday last, the pain became so much that I shuffled off to an Urgent Care center nearby to ask them to look at it. Before I did that though, I had to call to confirm that they have an X-ray machine. No point going to any kind of hospital facility if they just punt me to another location to get the definitive test to tell me if I’d fractured my finger. I also had to confirm that they’re in-network for my health insurance.

After the nurse had asked me a bunch of intake questions and the doctor had looked at it and ordered the X-ray, I was taken to a long, dark room with a focused X-ray machine aimed at where I would place the palm of my hand. The technician was Indian-origin and curious as to where in India I’m from. The doctor gave me a preliminary report that it doesn’t seem to be a fracture. He asked a nurse to set me up with a splint and send me off. I had a nice discussion where I learnt that instead of calling it crepe bandage, which is what it is, people in the US health industry refer to it by the brand name 3M gave to their product – Coban.

The doctor came back and prescribed a strong painkiller, to be taken thrice daily for five days. (Spoiler Alert – I didn’t take it thrice daily. I’m not that mad.) He also said that after a discussion with a radiologist, he’ll inform me if there’s something that’s concerning, but in the meanwhile he also gave me a referral to an Orthopedic Surgeon at the other end of the world (downtown Redmond) “in case the pain gets unbearable”.

Over the weekend, my parents insisted that I find the X-ray report and send it to them for analysis in India. I discovered that the X-ray slides themselves had not been uploaded (because, who actually needs patients to have the freedom to get a second opinion, right?) but a report had been uploaded that said that I have a “possible avulsed fracture” in the offended finger.

I started looking up Orthopedic doctors. One large facility in the area, which is apparently accepting new patients, told me that in truth they’re booked out till the end of February but will look to see if they can accommodate me. The other, a one-doctor outfit, told me on Monday to come over on Wednesday.

Today, in fear and anticipation, I landed at the Indian doctor’s offices (no, they were rented offices, one of three he operates out of. That business seems to be booming!) and was left waiting in the patient room (consultation room?) for a good fifteen minutes after the initial nurse intake. When the doctor came in, he tested my finger physically, then looked me in the eyes and said it’s a sprain.

I asked, “are you sure?”

He replied, his deadpan eyes not giving even a glimmer of doubt, “we looked at the X-ray for a good ten minutes before we came in. There’s nothing in there to suggest that it’s a fracture. You don’t have a magical painless fracture. The fact that your pain is reduced and there’s no swelling around it… Use your common sense.”

I… don’t want to use my common sense. That’s why I’m visiting a specialist. Whatever.

It’s not a fracture!

But I have a six week recovery ahead of me. I’ve been told to buddy tape my ring finger with my middle finger if I can’t be careful in not further hurting the point which I’ve sprained. I also have been downgraded from heavy painkillers to the Over the Counter stuff and “only if you need it”.

When I sat in the Lyft on the way back, I breathed a sigh of relief. The driver, in turn, told me that he’d just been to Hyderabad for two months for medical tourism for his father. He commented, “the people are so nice there! No one lies to you. They give you all your records in a nice file and let you know exactly what tests they performed and what the results are, in very simple language. I loved it there!”

Yeah. All common sense things to do in a good medical system.

What do you think?


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