By Dave Simpson, weekly columnist
Talk about a stark contrast…
Couple weeks ago, I got down on the floor to play with my grand daughter.
For years I’ve been wearing knee pads whenever a task involved getting down on my hands and knees. Some prior surgery, and 60 years of wear and tear made it necessary. Going without felt like kneeling on a Lego block.
When I asked my doctor about it years ago, he said he couldn’t recommend ever getting down on your hands and knees. Physical therapists smile when I tell them what the doc said.
How about the guys who install carpets for a living, I thought.
But this was something new. It was a really sharp pain in my right knee, like someone heating up an ice pick and stabbing it in right below the knee cap.
“Just what I need,” I thought as I struggled to get back up from the floor from playing with my grand daughter, “another trip to the orthopedic surgeon.”
But I figured a guy can’t go through life without getting down on the floor with grand kids and Labrador Retrievers. So I called the clinic where that orthopedic surgeon works. And this is what I posted on Facebook (because, like, we put everything on Facebook these days):
“A sharp pain in my right knee flared up last weekend. On Tuesday I called (the clinic one town over) for an appointment with the doc who fixed my other knee and both shoulders. ‘He’s in (my town) today,’ the scheduler said. ‘Can you be there at 1:40?’”
“So I had my appointment within four hours,” my post continued. “X-rays were taken, and I had my diagnosis of bursitis by mid afternoon.” Then I was able to get right in to see the physical therapist I’ve gone to in the past. “It’s now three days later, I’ve had two physical therapy sessions, and I’m well on my way to recovery.
“This is not a health care system I want to fundamentally change.”
The surgeon I saw – who is also the team physician for our university football team – fixed my left knee when I tore my quadriceps tendon 11 years ago. Then he fixed rotator cuffs on both my port and starboard shoulders. Great guy.
I wasn’t on Medicare for those surgeries, but I am today. So I’m not the most attractive patient with a bum knee. Nevertheless, I got great care.
So I put all that on Facebook. And I soon got a response from a young mom overseas, who I have known all of her life, who was born in the United States but now has two sons and a daughter in a country that has nationalized health care. This is what she wrote:
“Dave in (my country’s) health care. Pain in knee. Call Dr., appointment in two weeks. Goes to appointment, told to take Paracet. Gets sick leave. Dave calls Dr. again a month later, gets another appointment in two weeks. Goes back in. Gets told to try some rub-on pain killer prescription. Longer sick leave.
“Dave calls back still in pain. Another two weeks waiting for appointment. Dave insists on X-ray. Dr. agrees just to get him to quiet down. X-ray is scheduled in three months down the road. X-ray Dr. looks and says there is nothing wrong with it.
“Dave gets sick leave for extended period. Dave is pissed he can’t get decent healthcare and is willing to pay more for diagnosis. Dave goes home to Wyoming where he should have never left.”
She added that when her son was 18 months old, he needed to see a dermatologist.
“I called in January to find out his appointment was for November,” she wrote.
I know our health care in the United States isn’t perfect. I know how fortunate I am to have such great care available so quickly.
I just think the folks who are determined to turn our health care over to the government should talk to folks, like this young friend of mine, who are living with it every day.
Let’s not screw up what, at least in my experience, is some pretty wonderful care.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org