Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art


Month: November 2015

A Buggs Strife Pt.2 (Paar for the Worse)

“I guessed that he was one of those ambitious young physicians who more and more fill the profession, opportunists with a fashionable hoodlum image, openly hostile to their patients. My brief stay at the hospital had already convinced me that the medical profession was an open door to anyone nursing a grudge against the human race.” – J.G Ballard, from “Crash”

Hello Blogiteers!
Truer words in my humble opinion, have never been spoken.
As someone who’s become overly familiar with what passes for modern medicine in this country, I can totally relate to the sentiment expressed above. Humanity as a whole, is regarded as nothing more than a superfluous cash cow by an increasingly desensitized and vastly unethical cabal that takes advantage by exploiting the inherent helplessness of its chosen victims. Granted, that’s a rather harsh assessment in regards to certain members of the hypocritical Hippocratic Oath association, but my long-held conviction that the Rod of Aesculapius* and its corresponding pledge are as relevant to the medical profession today as Vanilla Ice is to Hip-Hop, has finally been verified.

 *[In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius, also known as the Staff of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius) and as the asklepian, is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care.]

 Greed and blatant narcissism are the true impetus empowering most doctors these days, and we as a society seem to be utterly helpless in halting this slithering abuse of our trust. The more I deal with certain aspects of our remedial health care system, I begin to understand why the symbol of doctors is a serpent wrapped around a staff- if the venom doesn’t kill you, they can always use the wooden pole to beat you into submission as they attempt to steal your wallet.

The upside, if there is one to be found, is that the majority of these callous clinicians are generally so slimy, one could cause grievous harm armed with nothing more innocuous then a shaker of salt. As one of the rare few who has successfully separated one of these snake-handlers from their ill-gotten gains, I can attest that it wasn’t easy- the medical malingerers tend to guard their tainted bullion with a ferocity that makes Smaug look like Tickle Me Elmo by way of comparison.

Sadly, doing the right thing unbidden by the simple act of accepting personal responsibility for professional mistakes, is as alien a concept to the modern doctor as delivering a coherent speech is to Sarah Palin. Look, I get it- we live in a decidedly litigious society, where nobly admitting guilt will get you sued more often than not, but as a rule, most people are just as good with a sincere show of remorse as they would be with a settlement check.

If not more so, as it’s just seemingly that rare. Shockingly, despite my reputation for applying a scorched earth policy in regards to the balancing of my personal scales, I do occasionally endure honest attempts at rehabilitating shattered trust. Note that I stated “occasionally”- I don’t have many rules, but the two biggest are these: don’t lie to me, and don’t ever betray my confidence. While that may sound like one rule cleft in twain, it and they aren’t- they’re distinctive and non-negotiable.

Unless the situation is my fault entire, I rarely forgive, and I never forget. I don’t hold grudges so much as I raise them as if they were my own sons, and by no means have I ever let the truly culpable skirt fated reprisal when it was truly applicable. Think of me as the snarky embodiment of Karma, but with a far less tolerant outlook.

Credible apologies, as I’ve noted previously, are presented as such: I’m. Sorry. Period. No qualifiers, no “in my defense” rationalizations, nothing other than the two words above and that adorably quaint and right-to-the point punctuation mark. A cynic might feel the need to opine that I’m making a Himalayan range out of a molehill due to my inherent (and well-earned) distrust of all things medical, but in this particular case, I’m being uncharacteristically diplomatic.

Yes yes… I used a word you would never associate with me. But at the moment, it’s actually apt. As if being afflicted with diabetes wasn’t challenging enough, I find myself locked in a battle royale with an opponent who for all intents and purposes, may not even be aware that we’re actually fighting. Granted, their sphere of ignorance will fail to serve as shelter from the oncoming storm that swiftly advances towards them, but as usual- I’m getting ahead of the narrative, which is a habit I think I really need to work on, if the fan email serves as an accurate barometer.

For clarity and legalities, I need to stress that this sequence of events is from my perspective- that being said, it’s also a sad indictment of what a lone and allegedly vindictive individual can do when given power over a person they perceive to be defenseless. Roll out that sphere of ignorance again kids, because it’s about to have its warranty severely tested.

As I stated in my last tale, wherein I served up a tasty, yet economical, hors d’oeuvre of shredded Bugg ala’ mode, I find myself facing yet another adversary, that being an [allegedly] unethical practitioner of medicine who inflicts her chosen profession upon an unsuspecting world.

Their name? Dr. Gypsy Faith Paar. Yes, I said Gypsy Faith. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the big  bad Artbitch is going to heartlessly lob a few humor grenades through her office window in regards to her name, and all I can possibly say in my limited defense is this… ouch. How could you possibly assume that?

That’s just downright cold. After all these years of friendship, it’s like you still don’t know me at all. Sure, I might have taken a shot at her in my last screed, by acidly noting: “she’s named “Gypsy” and yet looks as if she should come with a best friend named Skipper, a pink Corvette, and a Dream-house play-set.”, but I swear on the purity of an eventual Ding-Dong three-way with Debbie Harry and Milla Jovovich that I wasn’t taking a cheap shot at her name, far from it. My first name is Wayne, after all, and when one has that odious moniker hanging around their neck like a depleted uranium millstone, it leaves minimal room to mock.

Don’t believe me? Well then, let’s do a little “play along at home” experiment, shall we?

Just take a minute, and think of everything my name rhymes with, and you’ll see why I generally try not to poke fun at those highly disadvantaged people who were apparently named while their yurt-living, hemp-wearing, rainbow-riding, micro-bus driving parents were still working their way down from an ill-advised experiment of taking the whole tab at once.

In fact, I have a great deal of empathy for the period in which she was attempting to get into medical school, I really do. It couldn’t have been easy applying for student loans when your birth certificate is scribbled on the back of a Grateful Dead show flyer, and your witnessing doctor was known as Autumn Sky Unicorn*.
[*AKA: The former Ms. Rhonda Stella Schwartzman of Paramus, New Jersey.]

With all kidding aside, I’ll be taking the high road, despite my crafting some awesome zingers about her singing backup for Phish, when she isn’t spinning fire at the Ren Fair, that is. And you still believe that I have no compassion? Seriously, I have no idea where you tend to get these crazy assumptions.

Moving on…

I first discovered Dr. Paar via her current employer [Paradise Family Medicine], where a friend’s healthcare was being tended to by one of the co-owners of the practice. At that time however, the well-regarded physician they had recommended to me was booked solidly for the next two months, much to my chagrin.

Having been tossed under the bus by my previous doctor in regards to my pain protocol, I was placed in a rather untenable position- either I waited for the doctor my friend raved about, all the while in extreme pain, or go with the desk staffs’ suggestion of visiting Dr. Paar, which, while not the ideal choice, was still a wise decision nonetheless, or so I erroneously believed at the time.

That’s the unexpected side-effect of extreme pain- it really doesn’t leave you much time to slow down and smell the poseurs, if you know what I mean. It does, however, dull your intellectual abilities to the point where one’s metaphorical machete is blunted into a play-set butter-knife.

 When I first employed the services of Mrs. Paar* [*I’ll reserve the title “Doctor” for those who actually deserve the accolade from this point on] it seemed like it was going to be smooth sailing, no rocks ahead.

She turned me on to a med-lab that I could easily afford [Theranos.com] re-established the pain protocols that my two previous doctors either ignored or discounted, and seemed genuinely interested in helping me get my health back on track. 

Whoopie. Whoo-hoo. Yay team. Raise the roof. However? I’ve constantly reiterated that my sense of optimism hasn’t been pulling it’s weight recently, and that as of late, my gut instincts seem to be on an eternal four day weekend, despite my sending out a tersely worded email that they were needed back in the office several weeks ago.

But I’d guess this is what happens after you outsource those jobs to a Lithuanian day-care center, if truth be told. Sigh… and my profit margin was looking to be huge this quarter, My first two visits were routine and relatively uneventful, despite a strong push to visit specialists that she had been informed were out of financial reach, due to my lack of health insurance. On a related note for any future doctors, your response to such information should NOT be the blithely stated: “well, it has to happen”, unless you’re also about to give your patient a winning lotto ticket in lieu of a bill. Just saying.

The average time between visits was about three months or so, during which period I was struggling to maintain a strict testing and dosing protocol, due to my now former employer’s inconsistent interference in allowing me to do so. Not an excuse mind you, just some vital back-story for what is to follow. By my third visit however, things had taken a solemn turn towards the grave- both metaphorically and literally, as evidenced by Mrs. Paar’s opening gambit of attempting to recuse herself as my doctor.

Woof- honestly, I did not see that one coming. She goes on to opine that she feels her care is ineffective, confessing a deep-set fear that she may “wind up killing” me. Nevertheless, the best (or worst) was yet to come, as she explained why that was, stating that my last blood numbers were really “bad” and indicated the strong possibility of ongoing liver disease as well as my kidneys ultimately shutting down.
Double woof, times woofinitity. Nonetheless, this news, despite its serious tonality, still presented as a no surprise/surprise kind of package deal. My liver has always been wonky- one of my former gastroenterologists used to refer to me as “The Martian”, referencing an actual alien from Mars, not the Matt Damon character needing rescue. On a related note, I think this country has spent more than enough of its money trying to “save” Matt Damon. Next time, I suggest we let Ben Affleck do the rescuing- after all, he needs him way more than we do.

Getting back on track, the kidney diagnosis was a shock, but overall, I wasn’t too worried- that’s what tests are for, to catch stuff before it gets worse…idyllically. We also discussed my then-current job, and how it’s stresses were slowly grinding me down, which led to the unspoken, yet obvious, need for me to do something drastic in regards to how I was managing the earning of my living.

However, the foremost thing I needed to do at that time, was to get Mrs. Paar off her allegorical ledge and back inside the building where happy teddy-bears and piping hot cocoa awaited. This I managed to do… or so I thought- damn useless gut instinct. I’m telling you, if I manage to live through this, it better start sending out resumes, and that right quick, because its ass is fired when I get back to the office. Regardless, and despite her willingness to throw in the towel when things seemingly got rough, that unsettling encounter did kick-off a minor series of positive events, I am happy to admit.

First on the to-do list was launching the much-needed dental work, [noted in the last blog] followed by the aforementioned tightening of my Diabetic protocol belt, and lastly, the elephant leech in the room: my job. As much as I wanted to leave, it’s hard to do so when you’ve invested eight and ½ years of your life into something, even it’s for the best- which this most arguably was.

That’s the thing about taking a risk- it’s just so darn risky. Nevertheless, I did find a better job within my industry (art framing) leading to a significant increase in my take-home pay, zero superfluous drama, and unlike my last place of work- access to some really awesomely sexy tech. Milla Jovovich-level sexy tech is what I’m talking about here, via the form of an Italian manufactured computerized mat cutter. I’d unwrap a Ding Dong at the sheer thought of it, but I’m cutting back, you know. Given all these constructive changes in such a short time period, it was with an upbeat frame of mind as I entered my appointment, lab paperwork firmly in hand.

In retrospect, I should have walked in clutching a NERF bat and my lawyer’s arm, for the rationale of possession was towards a singular purpose- that is, to metaphorically and literally dope-smack Mrs. Paar upside her unprofessionally smug head. Keep this in mind as we go down the rabbit hole- I wasn’t expecting my numbers to be vastly different- after all, it had only been a short period since my last blood test, and changes within the diabetic landscape do take some time to manifest. Months, in some cases. What I was hoping to see was a slight uptick as confirmation that all the hard work of the last three months was paying off.
[See: “Sense of Optimism”. See: “Lithuanian Day-Care Center outsourcing”. See: “Idiot”.]

The treatment I received in regards to Mrs. Paar’s implied bedside manner makes being the guest of honor at a wedding hosted by Lord Walder Frey* seem almost warm and fuzzy by contrast. Sure, that may have ended on a bad note too, but at least there was cake. Heck, I’d listen to Ken Ham talking about Jesus riding a Brontosaur for hours if there was just the possibility of cake, so what happened, exactly? *[http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Red_Wedding]

Let me start by reminding you of that age-old threat of exasperated mothers everywhere: “If you don’t behave, I’ll sell you to the Gypsies”. As with most things from our collective past, an evolution of sorts is required for it to work in today’s society, and all it would need is this simple tweak: “If you don’t behave, I’ll make Gypsy your primary care physician.” If there is true justice in this world, many years from now, Stephen King will use that as the basis of a book, Tim Burton for a movie, and TLC for its newest reality show.

Disney of course, would set it to music, and put it on ice. I can just imagine the toys. They’d be epic. The doctor character could be both heartless and spineless, akin to a glittery Stretch Armstrong, but with much better hair. [Hands sculpted from butter sold separately. Back to the narrative!] So there I was, sitting in a tiny beige room, waiting to impart, and hopefully hear, some cheery news. I did mention my outsourced sense of optimism, right? Good. Because I’m about to show why it’s imperative to buy American-made whenever you can.

As Mrs. Paar walks in, I attempt to tell her of all the beneficial changes I’ve made, this right after I inform her of the need to refill my essential Lyrica and Oxycontin prescriptions, but am abruptly cut off via a condescendingly frozen smile backed by an almost mirthful giggle:

“I’m giving you notice that I’m recusing myself as your doctor. Looking at your numbers, [this said while she scans the lab report] which are all bad, I can see that your liver and kidney disease is advancing- all I can think of is that this guy is dying right before my eyes, and I will NOT have that on my conscience. Here are your labs [as she folds them up and hands them to me] your next doctor will need them.”

Stunned, I stammer that I can’t afford specialists, and query as to what the hell I should do, and she responds casually: “I don’t know… medical insurance really isn’t my forte- but don’t worry, I’ll give you a thirty-day supply of your meds, and today’s visit will be discounted.”

She then walks out… and doesn’t come back. Nor does anyone else walk in, for almost fifteen minutes.

To articulate that I completely fell apart would be analogous to declaring that the Twin Towers suffered some minor structural damage after a small airplane-related mishap. I lost total cohesion and became utterly unglued to the point of hysteria. I called Ashley, awash in sheer terror, and while I don’t recall much (if any) of that particular conversation, I do know it lasted until Mrs. Paar’s nurse strode in and handed me an envelope.

Inside was a form letter outlining Mrs. Paar’s recusal as my primary care doctor, my two essential prescriptions, and that was it- no physician referral, no protocol, and no opinion as to what my next move should be. Questioning her noticeably apathetic nurse led to no further clarification, and was bookmarked by an indifferent shoulder shrug, and a mumbled “I don’t know what to tell you”, while staring at the floor.
No context. No counsel. No concern. No f**ks given.
But if I were forced to play devils advocate and look at the overall situation optimistically, I still did have that discount to look forward to, so cry huzzah, and let slip the twerking Unicorns of Joy. And to this day, some people still wonder why I have so many trust issues where medical “professionals” are concerned?

It’s not just the story of my parents swearing that they were going to the mall to buy me a puppy made out of ice cream 42 years ago, some of it is based on actual experience. And they’ll be back just like they promised. Soon. Any day now. It’s a really big mall, they probably got lost. Especially when you remember it was torn down 25 years ago.  

Moving on…

So, still emotionally overwrought, I’m shepherded towards the receptionist desk so that I can compensate Mrs. Paar for that exhausting six minutes she just worked, and that’s where I balk- I tell the receptionist that there will be no way in Hell that I will be paying for what I just went through, and sensing my distress, she becomes the only one in that entire office to show any professionalism that day. Actually, come to think of it- the only one since that day as well, but guess which one gets the biggest check for doing the least amount of work, using the slightest amount of Humanity they can skate by with? If you said the backup singer for Phish, you’d be dead wrong, because I already said I wasn’t going to use that joke.

Seriously. Grow up.

However, if you instead said: “Dr. Paar”, you’d be half right, because actual doctors are supposed to help people, not metaphorically sacrifice them to Asclepius’s inbred uncle Incompetentcius just because the sky got dark outside. She then spends the next 20 minutes or so talking me back to center, and goes so far as to contact the office manager in regards to my situation- end result: I didn’t pay a dime, and I managed to get home without wrapping my car around a family of four. Granted, that was after I spent 45 minutes sitting/chilling/coping in the parking lot, but her kind intervention was appreciated, nonetheless.

Whoa- just looked at my Twilight Limited Edition wristwatch and noticed that the glittery Vampire is half past the wickedly buff Lycanthrope, and we all know what that means- and it isn’t that I need a new timepiece… go Team Jacob.

No, what it means is that it’s late, I’m tired, and now is as good a time as any to take a short break.

And when we come back….

The sub-Paar basement adds a floor with extra pain, a metaphorical Renfield mires an office in the social media marsh, my medical file is shorted a few Post-it notes, and I defend my opinion that if correct diagnoses were quarters, a certain doctor allegedly couldn’t gather enough to do a load of laundry.

“Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained adequately by incompetence.” – Anonymous