Spoiler alert: this blog contains a bit of swearing. I was so frustrated I wanted to title it "f***ing healthcare regulations regarding controlled substances."
I changed my mind after I calmed down.
OK. What you need to know to start is that, at least in the state of Kansas USA, a narcotics prescription cannot be phoned, faxed, or otherwise transmitted electronically from doctor to pharmacy. It has to be generated on paper, hand delivered to the patient who in turn hand delivers it to the pharmacy. All that clinical informatics technology meant to make patient care easier and safer sits unused on its server.
That said, here's my story as it unfolded back in early summer 2015:
On late Friday, I realize too late that I do not have enough Percocet (for my ongoing moderately severe abdominal/pelvic pain) to see me through the weekend and most of Monday, which is how long it will take to get a new hand written prescription.
I remember a similar situation after my gallbladder surgery in January and being told by my surgeons's office assistant that I should go to urgent care. So I decide to do that in the morning.
Next day, while I wait at urgent care, a man collapses in the parking lot, requiring CPR and paramedics and full resuscitation efforts, then he's off to the hospital in an ambulance. I share my observations about that in I Choose Life. I Choose Love.
Back in the waiting room after the drama, I certainly don't begrudge the delay. I understand - that's life. At least for me… I'm worried about that poor guy making it.
So patiently I wait, and finally my name is called and the nurse explains to me that the urgent care doctor does not prescribe narcotics. Well shit. What a waste of time, and I was really meant to be painting right now. Then again, perhaps I was meant to be right where I was when I was.
I start crying as I walk to my car, realizing that between my pain and disappointment and the intensity of what just happened, I need some time to process. So I sit in my car and cry for a while, shake a bit, and I feel better.
I call my doctor's answering service, requesting the on-call physician to contact me, which he does pretty quickly. However because of the regulations requiring a paper prescription, he cannot help me. He tells me if I had come to the doctors office that morning they could have helped me. Well shit, I didn't realize they had Saturday morning clinic, and I drove right past it on my way to urgent care where I waited for two hours when I could have just walked in to my own doctor's office and be home painting by now. Live and learn. Sigh.
So what are my options I ask. He says you can try urgent care. Laugh out loud. Ironically. He says you can call your G.I. specialist, maybe they can help you. I tell him they do not prescribe pain medications, they leave that to primary care.
He says my only other option is to go to the emergency room. Well shit. Just yesterday I was hoping I might get through May without having to go to there.
First things first. I go to Steak and Shake and comfort myself with a chocolate shake. My frustration is softening and maybe all things are as they should be and it will all work out ok.
And it does. From the ED I receive immediate pain relief along with a prescription for enough Percocet until my GYN surgeon appointment a few days later.
At said appointment, the surgeon and I agree that a hysterectomy is a reasonable plan, especially given all that I've been through in the preceding months and all that has been ruled out through extensive testing. Because the procedure will be done using the laparoscopic robotic approach, and because that particular OR is in high demand, my surgery won't be till June 18th. In the meantime, I have weekly appointments for pain monitoring, during which he gives me that little piece of paper (aka prescription) that allows the pharmacist to give me just enough Percocet to see me through till next week's appointment.
LOL - No I am not a drug seeking junky, though I am reminded of pregnant women nearing term who have weekly appointments. Certainly I'm giving birth to something through all this…
By now, I'm in the final days of preparing for my first painting exhibit. One morning I awaken with a painful mass on the left side of my neck. Rather than spending a few precious hours with last minute painting, I am at the doctor's office, and then the hospital for urgent outpatient CT scan. Clearly I am not meant to paint those 3x3s and 5x5s and 5x7s. At least not yet.
The next day, as pain and nausea meds - and antibiotics for a parotid gland infection - contrive to make me loopy as can be, I am whisked off to an urgent ENT referral by my friend Jeanette who has come to town to help me with the exhibit. The ENT tells us that in his thirty years of practice, he has never seen anything like my CT results: a multitude of small tracts of air dispersed throughout the gland. It would seem that, at least right now, I am an airhead. Never been called that before. The antibiotics ought to do the trick. Whew.
The following morning I awaken to a rainy thunderstormy day - aaahhhh…. my very VERY favorite weather, and my soul is delighted. A chorus pops into my mind to the tune of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'", and I greet Jeanette singing:
My parotid gland has an infection,
And my nausea seems here to stay.
The pain in my pelvis just keeps getting worse,
But outside it's a stormy kind of day…
Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling
Everything's going my way.*
She knows me well enough to know I'm not insane. God bless Jeanette :)
The exhibit is a hit and I spend the next week in bed, recovering and resting up for my surgery adventure just around the corner. My neck mass resolves and all is right enough in my world.
That's my life right now. So…how do I wrap this up? By noticing what I am loving as I type (and noticing that I can't figure out how to make the font size of the following bullet list the same as the rest of this blog, and that's ok):
I love that I'm able to acknowledge my frustrations and not be bound by them.
I love my family and friends and colleagues and how they are showing up for me.
I love my three cats and how they each have their own personalities, and how they make me laugh each and every day. Oh, and how they show their affection and, yes, love.
I love the gift of creativity, the abundance of ideas for growing my business, and the means to move them forward.
I love that I can go slow, set my own pace.
I love that I can work in bed, that I can be good to my body as it sorts through this immense journey of release and healing.
I love that I'm able to see my current dis-ease with compassion and curiosity, trusting that somehow it too has its place.
I love that I have access to whatever health care I need.
I love that my all my needs and desires are met and exceeded.
I love that I look forward to my future, that I am curious and excited to see what unfolds.
All things are as they should be.
*Adapted from "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"
Music by Richard Rodgers, lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II
Copyright © 1943 by Williamson Musi