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15 July 2009


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I'm so sorry for your mother's situation and how it's affecting both of you. My mother endured a similar situation taking care of my dad. Fortunately, she had my brother and decent hospice care when it was needed. I hope you don't get to that point anytime soon, though.


I can't even imagine. What you describe should be unacceptable, inconceivable even in a modern day heath care system in a first world country.

I'm sure you are tired, frustrated, worried and sad, but I'm also sure you are the best advocate anyone could ever have.


The pain thing? And the meds thing? And the leave for a second and have some student take them off somewhere or try to make them sign a waiver through the cloud of Morpheus? That's why my husband, nephew, and two brothers-in-law never left my sister-in-law alone two years ago.

Broke? Fuck that. More like FUBAR.


oh dear, how unspeakably horrible. I learned when my dad was dying that the system is indeed designed to make patients and their family/friend advocates as helpless as possible. And "niceness", as I'm sure you've learned (or if not, should) is a weapon in that system. Being "nice" to "nice" people who are essentially passive-aggressive doesn't accomplish anything (I personally don't believe that "5 minute wait that lasts 45" is accidental, at all, or a necessary part of a rational system). Sometimes you find a truly competent and caring provider, and those are the only allies worth having.

Mike Fry

This story is as sad and tragic as it is predictable. The health care system in this country is beyond broken. I suspect you also give too much credit to the people in the system. They may seem like nice people to your face. But, anyone who tolerates a system like that is not a nice person, in my book.

A few years ago, I had an experience with my own mother in the health care system that convinced me of this.

Mom fell and pretty much destroyed her knee. Off to emergency we went with her at about 10 in the evening. The place was packed. She was in extreme pain, the massive swelling, bruising and hematoma were pretty obvious.

No one got to her until the something like 2:30 AM. Finally discharged her at about 5 AM, after only taking x-rays and sending her home with a knee brace.

By the time we left, the place was empty. Folks that worked the night shift were pretty casual and relaxed by then. The draped in area where they kept my mom was across from a staff area. As we were getting ready to leave, we overheard a group of the staff laughing about how, because they managed to make everyone wait so long, they had a record number of people leave without getting care. They seemed to believe that people who left didn't really need care.

A year or so later, mom needed to have that knee replaced. I can't help but wonder if they hadn't gotten the swelling under control sooner, if the damage couldn't have been reduced. I can't help but wonder if there was not some possible surgical intervention that may have helped that night.

I am certain that the staff on duty could not have cared less about my mom, or any of the other patients they were responsible for. I hate to even think about how much we all pay for this kind of "service". It is sickening.


I'm glad your mom is back home. Being in your own place with your own stuff is so much better and easier to heal when not having to worry about being harassed by 'well meaning' staff who decide you need blood gasses done two minutes after you finally fall asleep after a night of pain and suffering.

Your mom's experience sounds like my Aunt's experience with Kaiser. I don't know how those people stay in business.

It does make you wonder about the medical establishment that is trying to tell us that a public option would be horrible as folks would not get the wonderful top notch care they get now with today's private insurers. Yea right. I'm ready to learn Dutch and move to Holland for their nationalist, socialist healthcare which puts ours to shame.


I'm so sorry for what you've been going through.

But hey, at least you have the best health care in the world.


What a dreadful story. As a breast cancer surgeon I have seen what is called "tumor flare" twice in my 15 year career. Typically the patient has what is considered to be operable and controllable breast cancer; but following surgical intervention (these days everyone, but me and a few others, are so gung ho for mastectomy that women are just checking their breasts at the door of healthcare) there is an enormous, aggressive, all-consuming growth of cancer everywhere. In the last patient in my practice that this happened to, she developed chest wall mets in the Recovery Room (!!!) following her delayed reconstructive surgery. I think it is unacceptable that you have to wait even a day to see the oncologist for further care. God speed. Dr. Kathleen Ruddy, Founder and President, Breast Health & Healing, breasthealthandhealing.org

Cathy Reid

It is so sad that your story is all too common. I lost my Mom last year to medical errors (she went in with a dislocated hip and died 59 days later with gangarene and massive blood loss) and my husband to male breast cancer (yes, I said my husband). These days I am a doctors worst nightmare and I tell them so upfront. It it doesn't feel right to you or your mother keep harassing them. Don't take no for an answer. Find an oncologist you are comfortable with and who will actively listen and address your concerns. Most importantly, don't wait; when battling mets time is not your friend. I wish you and your mother the best. Cathy Reid, Founder, Out of the Shadow of Pink, Male Breast Cancer Awareness, outoftheshadowofpink.com

Kathleen Balestreri

Ms. Reid: Please contact me as soon as possible via email so that I might assist you with your mother's care at the UCSF Medical Center. Kathy Balestreri, UCSF Medical Center

Lisa in Cape May County, NJ

Before I underwent bilateral mastectomy in 2004, I told everyone within hearing distance--repeatedly--that I could not tolerate opiates. The hospital's pain management specialist, however, did not consult me until I arrived in the recovery room after my seven-hour surgery. Through my post anesthesia fog, I managed to reiterate my powerful wish not to be treated with opiates--a wish reinforced by my husband, who was by my side. The specialist responded that she'd prescribe dilaudid, breezily adding, "You'll be fine!"

I was not fine. Pain meds were delivered by PCA, but because I'd just been through an ordeal of sorts, it took me a while to figure out the source of my nausea. I stopped the PCA cold in the middle of the night, preferring to tough it out. When the pain management person stopped by the next morning, she was horrified that I wasn't being treated for my pain. Why, she demanded, hadn't I called her in the middle of the night. To me, the answer seemed obvious.

During rounds, the docs all seemed stymied about how to deal with me. Now, I am not any kind of medical doctor, but I make it a point to be an informed medical consumer. I demanded Toradol, an injectable NSAID. The doctors wrung their hands, worried that they would have to monitor me closely if they complied with my request. Ultimately they capitulated. Thereafter, I did well and experienced no more pain. Last year, my breast surgeon told me that her current patients think she is performing painless mastectomies because she is prescribing Toradol.

I have had the same thoughts as you did, Christie, regarding those who are alone, or confused, or otherwise unable to help themselves when dealing with the medical establishment. More often than not, I have these thoughts when struggling with my insurers--always a through-the-looking-glass experience. Our health care system is hopelessly, hopelessly broken.

Every good wish for better treatment for your mother, who deserves not to be in pain. This is basic.

Mallory Kates

Christie, I'm not sure how I found this blog but within minutes I wanted to reach out and do something...anything! Your story is just terribly familiar to too many (including me) but I'm really heartened, as I hope you are, by Kathy Balestreri, the nurse who has reached out to you. I wish you well and I am now a forever fan.


Ah geez Christie, I feel for you and certainly your mother, who is stuck in medical hell. I learned how to be a screamer at medical personnel also, had to use it with two family members.

Those people may have been "nice" but quite frankly I think most of them should go work in a real factory, instead of treating medical clinics and hospitals as factories with products.

I have zero faith in our medical system and how medicine is practiced today. I am amazed at how too many general practioners lack common sense. Something wrong? Let's just add another pill to the mix, even if it was one of the pills causing the initial problem to begin with. Oh, unless of course you're in pain, then you get tylenol.

All you can do is wake up every day and hang in there with your mom. Wish I lived around the corner and could help.

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