“The doctor was adamant: ‘This is America, not Sweden,’ he told me. ‘We operate.’”
Below, a physicians assistant (PA) recounts what happened when he was diagnosed with appendicitis.
Andrew T. Gray knew that he could not afford surgery. Ironically, he had just taken a new job as a PA but had not yet filled out all of the paperwork for insurance. Moreover, he had read about a randomized controlled trial done in Sweden suggesting that over 70% of patients did just as well taking antibiotics rather than going under the knife.
Gray’s story originally appeared in pulse- voices from the heart of medicine, a free online magazine that publishes riveting stories and poems written by health care providers as well as patients. All of the them are true, and both the writing and the editing is superb. If you’re not familiar with pulse, see this post where I describe how pulse was boron, quote reviews, and link to some of my favorite stories.
I urge everyone to consider subscribing to pulse’s free weekly e-mails. You will receive a story or poem at the end of each week that will brighten your Fridays.
At the end of Gray’s story, I have added a note on research done not only in Sweden, but in the UK, comparing the results when doctors recommend antibiotics before scheduling surgery for patients diagnosed with appendicitis.
Saving My Appendix
By Andrew T. Gray
How did this happen to me? I wondered, looking at him across the ER exam room. How could I, a healthcare provider, not have insurance?
I had woken up that morning with a mildly upset stomach. Nonetheless, I’d gone to my job (begun only six weeks earlier) as a physician assistant at a Beverly Hills HIV clinic. I’d seen patients until lunchtime, then attended a research meeting. The subject was a study of irritable bowel syndrome.
“I need to be in this study,” I joked to a coworker. “My IBS is acting up.”
I don’t have IBS, but I was indeed having crampy stomach pain. I continued to see patients until 3 pm, when the pain became steady: on a ten-point scale, I gave it a six. I left work early.
As I exited the building, my first thought was Freedom! I can get home early, relax, maybe take a nap…
Crawling into bed, however, I realized that my pain had coalesced in the right lower quadrant of my abdomen. Could it be appendicitis?
Panic flooded me. After six weeks at my new job, I now qualified for health insurance, but I’d neglected to fill out the necessary paperwork.
Only an hour after leaving the clinic, I returned. Almost hysterically, I completed and faxed in the insurance forms.