The Saga Continues…
February 27, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Unfortunately this situation got far, far worse. I'm exploring ideas about how to respond. Extremely long but worthwhile, likely the most shocking thing you've heard a "doctor" do.

This still feels a little surreal to me, though this is probably a sign of my prior naivete. Okay, here goes.

The surgeon's office refused to budge and let me see the other surgeon. My stitches were two days overdue to come out and I had an appt. with my family physician anyway. I told him what had happened and he made jokes about the arrogance of surgeons. I told him of the insult. As he removed the stitches from the problem area it began to bleed and come apart. He had to use three "steri-strips" to keep the skin together. I asked for his opinion of the wound and he said that the problem area would scar as I had anticipated. He looked at my sore arm and diagnosed severe tendonitis. He was very concerned about the wound, asked me to return if the strips didn't hold. This concern fueled my efforts the following morning to be seen by a pro, who might better align the skin and keep it together, who knows what they could do? I tried the other plastic surgery office in town and got an appointment for mid-march. No amount of pleading with explanation worked to get something sooner. I then called the bad surgeon's office one last time, asked for the office manager, who was not in that week. The receptionist, "N," had been very sympathetic in two previous conversations. She listened carefully and even offered, "I'm so sorry," several times. It was she who said she would try to work something out, so I—perhaps mis-guidedly—assumed she was an ally. I told her what had happened when the sutures came out, that I would not see "E," after he called two mornings prior and insulted me. She said nothing. I told her that my call is a sign of my desperation, that I'd tried the other office first. When it seemed clear that she wouldn’t be advocating for me I said that I was already leaving negative reviews of the surgeon proper, would leave more for the office itself, which has a reponsibility to all patients, not just E’s. I told her that I was upset enough to go to the state licensing board Then her tone changed (DH thinks she may not have been alone). I mentioned again about the bad surgeon's insult and she said, "He was right here when he made that call (in all our time at the office we never once saw any surgeon in the reception area, and she hadn’t offered this info. previously). I said, “the call during which I hung up on him?" She said nothing for a moment, then repeated, exactly, what she'd said before. Realizing her lie, I told N what came to my mind, the old adage that all evil needs to prevail is for one good person to do nothing. She said that she is not evil. I said, "no, not at all, you're the good person, then she hung up.

Several hours later my family physician called, the one I’d seen the day before who had joked about the bad surgeon. I thought he’d called to make sure the strips were holding. I was wrong. E's office had called him and he laid something on me that I still can hardly believe. He said, “While I’ve never seen anything like it, Dr. E’s office, thinks you might be someone who could go there and hurt someone.” I went into a kind of shock, dropped the phone in my lap. DH had been on the other line and heard the last part. He hung up, too, to come and console me. After a little while DH called doctor at home (he’d lefft the office) and left voicemail about how appalled he is that doctor could say or even think such a thing, that in thirty years of marriage he’s never seen me so upset. I rarely cry, but that night I was inconsolable. Next day doctor called and spoke with DH, apologizing profusely, DH says very sincerely. He said emphatically that he'd never believed that, just had a rough day (!?) and sort of fell under bad surgeon's power of suggestion. He’s known us for over six years, knows I’m a student of Deep Pacifism. He saw my affect about the wound AS the stitches were coming off. I have a torn meniscus and severe tendonitis. I use oxygen at night. I’m not driving. He though DH would drive me to a terrorist attack and hold my oxygen!? It helped a lot that he called. He said E had been rattled by the reviews, my only leverage and power to get treated. Doctor invited me to express myself via email and boy did I. If he answers my questions we’ll perhaps be on our way toward healing.

What to do about E? I cannot and will not trust him. He was willing to throw me under the bus to discredit me in the even that I report him. He was afraid of reviews then? He should see them now. What else can I do? Are there agencies apart from the state licensing board? I did speak with an attorney and he tells me that, while this is terrible, unprofessional behavior and actionable, It's unlikely to go anywhere in MI of legislation and because attorneys must be certain of a huge payout before they'll take a case. Another doctor in the area, an MD from Case Western, was very reassuring today. He said that E’s office behaved like a machine turning out a product. When the product was unsatisfactory they tried to discard me rather than respond to my concerns. He said, "A good surgeon stands behind his work." All this helps so much. Still, I feel I should do more about “doctor” E. Also, can he do anything more to hurt me?
posted by R2WeTwo to Law & Government (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Get another surgeon to fix the wound. Report the bad one. Ultimately that will be the best outcome for you; and for hid future patients.
posted by fshgrl at 5:07 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I forgot something, the reason I went into such detail about the conversation with "N." When my doctor called Friday evening I thought he was referring to that conversation, to "N" reporting that I had used the word, "evil." I told him that when she hung up I hurt less for the impending scar than for the pain of having trust shattered. He heard this, then shattered my trust. This is why his call felt so devastating.
posted by R2WeTwo at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2012

Agree with fhsgrl. Priority one, get the care you need ASAP from another provider, and a copy of your complete medical records from this one. Priority two, get yourself to a lawyer specializing in personal injury and medical malpractice* and, if your lawyer advises, file a formal complaint with your state medical board.

*(I am not a lawyer.)
posted by anonnymoose at 5:21 PM on February 27, 2012

Why are you not talking to a lawyer about this?
posted by OmieWise at 6:22 PM on February 27, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, I left that out in editing. I did, today. He said that because of our state legislature it's very hard to run with cases that used to be slam dunks. There have to be serious damages to interest the big firms, the only ones with the resources to take on the insurance company lawyers. If I die, or suffer permanent impairment. He did refer me to an attorney who will be interested in some of it. The payout will likely not be big enough for his firm, though, with its huge over head.
posted by R2WeTwo at 6:42 PM on February 27, 2012

I think you should see another surgeon before you go much further. From what you've written here, your reactions do seem to me potentially rather over the top. Parts of the narrative don't make sense. You seem far more focused on hurting this surgeon than you do on fixing your medical problems. If you do try to pursue this issue with any official body, the appearance that you are bent on revenge will not lend an air of legitimacy to anything you say.
posted by jon1270 at 6:57 PM on February 27, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

Find another doctor to address this. Your first priority must be your health. You're never going to get this jerk to be on your side. The best chance you have is to get another doctor to evaluate and treat you. Continuing to contact this doctor will only weaken any case that you have--he's already claiming that you're threatening him, and any contact after this point will only reinforce that. A second opinion will probably strengthen your case (and get you on the road to recovery sooner).
posted by elizeh at 7:49 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cut your losses and find a surgeon in another town. Before you talk to another surgeon, I suggest you try to calm down a bit and write a short script, no longer than three sentences long, which you'll use to explain your situation. Something like, I was recently treated for X due to Y, and I would like to hear a second opinion about complications A, B, and C. Do not mention lawyers, do not mention your first surgeon's name, do not sound angry, emotional, or vengeful. They're not obligated to help you; don't give them a reason to decline.
posted by acidic at 7:49 PM on February 27, 2012 [21 favorites]

You've got a wound and no doctor you trust to care for it. Go to urgent care and get a referral from the emergency doctor on staff. If you live in a tiny town, go to the nearest urban area. Stop communicating with the staff of the doctor you don't like. Stop writing reviews. Get your face fixed. That is all that matters right now.

You seem really emotional, understandably. Can't your spouse take the lead on getting you seen and treated by a competent plastic surgeon?
posted by Scram at 7:51 PM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

I realize this is extremely emotional for you, however you have to put the emotions aside for the moment until you get your physical wounds healed and have a little bit of distance from the surgery.

Doctors sometimes have really abysmal bedside manners and frankly, a doctor that is at the bottom of his class is still a doctor. In my experience (as a nurse in a hospital with occasional OR rotations), surgeons seem to have the worst bedside manner. They're not hand holding, touchy feely people by nature. They are the guys who get in and get out-they leave opening and closing to associates, which would be most likely nurses in the office. They (again, I'm generalizing here) really aren't going to respond well to threats of any kind. Almost all post op appts I've had the nurse took the dressing off, cleaned the wound, then the surgeon came in and checked it out and let the nurse redress it. I think it's just been once that the surgeon did it all and that was when I had a serious complication.

I'm not making light of your feelings about this, truly I'm not. I just think you need to focus on finding someone to take over your care (and acidic has very good advice about this) right now rather than punishing this surgeon who's being a dick. There's not a lot you can actually do more than filing a complaint with the state board-but do that later, just get the physical problems healed first.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:23 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need to stop communicating with E's office. I can understand you are hurt and confused, but the worst thing you could have done was threaten E's professional reputation and use the kind of aggressive language you did with N. Suggesting to N that she is allowing evil to occur is way over the top in my opinion. Chances are E terrorizes her the way he has you. You made yourself sound like a crazy person out for revenge and have possibly damaged your credibility by leaving bad reviews in place of first seeking sound legal advice. You need to remove yourself from the situation because it doesn't sound like you can handle it in a way that doesn't endanger the case you may have.

But most importantly what is the status of your wound? Treating and documenting any complications from E's sloppy job should take precedent right now.
posted by OsoMeaty at 8:24 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I couldn't include all the efforts to get help, would have been far too long. Studies sho that we get sick when we suffer injustice. Things must be squared or we are out of balance. Justice is part of my recovery. Do others want more details of my efforts to be seen? Did you read the previous post?
posted by R2WeTwo at 8:25 PM on February 27, 2012

Response by poster: Everyone tells me that nothing can be done for 6 months to a year! It has to settle before it can be refinished.
posted by R2WeTwo at 8:26 PM on February 27, 2012

Justice is part of my recovery.

A nagging desire for vengeance/justice isn't. Complain to the state board, get different people to fix you up.
posted by holgate at 8:28 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

See a different doctor and get on with your life.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2012

Justice is part of my recovery

It's fine if it's a part, but you must not let it distract you for even a moment from the urgent issue - your body's health.

If you want to pursue justice after your body is taken care of, that is fine. But your first priority is to find a doctor who can take care of you.
posted by zippy at 9:19 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're certain that your scarring can only be addressed after six months, then great. Time to relax and focus on addressing your other health problems. It's unreasonable for you to seek "justice" or revenge so soon after the alleged malpractice, given that the matter in question is a wound/scar that will certainly improve over time. A lot of doctors, lawyers etc will not take you seriously because a lot of people look awful for quite some time post-surgery.

I think you should take a breather for some amount of time-- maybe a month or two-- allowing both parties a chance to cool down, and your appearance to improve. Not to mention, you won't know the true extent of the negligence and consequent damage until you heal quite a bit more. Feel free to document any progress with pictures.

Studies sho that we get sick when we suffer injustice. Things must be squared or we are out of balance. Justice is part of my recovery.
Even if that's true, regaining justice will not make you healthy. In fact, it will cause more stress, which will truly damage your health.
posted by acidic at 10:15 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm confused about what your actual medical issue is? Carcinoma between your eyes? Meniscus (knee) tear? Tendonitis of the arm?

Studies sho that we get sick when we suffer injustice.

Hmm, I'd be interested in more details about those studies so I can read more about them.
posted by parrot_person at 1:38 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I couldn't include all the efforts to get help, would have been far too long. Studies sho that we get sick when we suffer injustice. Things must be squared or we are out of balance. Justice is part of my recovery. Do others want more details of my efforts to be seen?

These are really, really unusual phrasings to use for these thoughts. Part of why people might have felt threatened or put off is because almost nobody would articulate these ideas in these words, and it makes you sound extreme.

More to the point, it sounds as if you think punishing this dictor's reputation (even deservedly) will have more impact than treating the physical effects of your injury, which also could seem unreasonable.
posted by anildash at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2012 [11 favorites]

I used to work as an interpreter at peace talks at the United Nations and one of the rules of diplomacy that I learnt was that you should strive always to give the other party an option for a dignified exit. You can reasonably expect them to cooperate only if they can maintain face.

Your big mistake was to write the negative reviews without first notifying the surgeon's office you would do this unless he corrected his error. And his original error was not a malicious one: you were the last patient at the end of a long and clearly stressful day (he was running two hours behind!), he may well have had more complex cases that yours to work on prior to seeing you, he thought he could finish the simple job quickly, took you on even though it was late and he was exhausted, and unfortunately the fatigue and the rush took their toll: he messed up.

It's quite possible that other doctors in the area will not want to treat you if word gets around that you are a problem patient. Since you've declared war by writing the bad reviews it is now in the surgeon's interest to make a personal effort to discredit you, as you are endeavouring to damage the reputation it took him an entire career to build.

I don't wish to discourage you, but do be aware of this perspective.

I would suggest you write to the surgeon's office apologizing and letting him know you were wrong to write the reviews without giving him a chance to make good, say you were emotional and frightened for your health as well as the aesthetic consequences on your face, say you have taken the reviews down, reiterate that you reached out to him in the first place because of his outstanding reputation which is surely deserved, and say you would like him to see your scar and advise you on your options.

If you were the surgeon and you received this letter from someone you thought was about to bury you, I should think you would be relieved and grateful and want to cooperate.

If all of this is too difficult, consider letting your husband communicate from now on with the surgeon's office and all other doctors concerning this issue.
posted by Dragonness at 10:37 AM on February 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Your big mistake was to write the negative reviews without first notifying the surgeon's office you would do this unless he corrected his error

Dragoness, this is precisely what I did do, and the doctor freaked out before I even wrote a review. It was my indication that I would write a review that made him escalate his unprofessional behavior.
posted by R2WeTwo at 4:44 PM on December 9, 2012

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