OSF HealthCare was founded in 1880, by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. It now includes eleven hospitals, two colleges of nursing, and two long-term care facilities. It includes my healthcare providers, OSF-St. Joseph Hospital and OSF-Fort Jesse Family Medicine. OSF HealthCare’s revenue in 2014 was $6.90 billion USD. “In the spirit of Christ and the example of Francis of Assisi, the Mission of OSF HealthCare is to serve persons with the greatest care and love in a community that celebrates the Gift of Life.”
My impression is that the medical profession has not been exclusively a healing profession for a long time, in the 21st century they seem to be in the business of collecting fees for disease. Doctors do not seem to be maintaining patient files, they appear to be preparing legal prophylactics. I have read that they go to national seminars where lawyers advise them on the best ways to do this. In my personal experience, for example during my annual exam last week, medical staff stare into the computer as they make my medical record, and when they do glance at me they see only my hands and face (long gone are the days of paper gowns over an unclothed patient). When medical staff habitually repeat themselves, asking the same question two, three times, or more, I do not know if they are disbelieving of my answers, or if they have simply forgotten their place in the computer checklist that they are completing. I do know that they have a lot of difficulty finding my prior medical records in their computer databases, and often they fail to do so, without apology. They do offer to have me repeat the testing.
Still, 21st century medical staff are so skillful that they can diagnose through my clothing! Recently a nurse practitioner assessed whether or not I had any swelling in my lower extremities by rapidly gazing through my shoes, wool socks, compression support stockings, and winter slacks. Infuriating careless of my health and wellbeing. Of course she did not see the slightly puff of swelling inside, under each ankle bone; or the three-inch square puffy pad of swelling inside my right knee that I have had for several years, all of which I used to report to doctors. Old capillaries leak into old tissue. All I can do is put my feet up for comfort, and exercise my legs each night which I have always done. I did not want to challenge her when she announced, “No, no swelling.” This is the way annual exams are done nowadays.
My almost seventy-year-old heart and lung function is unlikely to improve, but what they want is for me to keep repeating the expensive, time-consuming tests every year or so. This is burdensome on me. Five or ten years ago I spent probably ten thousand dollars on those tests (before I retired with Humana/Medicare HMO medical insurance coverage). The tests tire me and at the end of it all the medical profession has nothing to offer to help me. I, very briefly, tried ten, twenty, and more medications that they prescribed for heart, lung, and pain, but those medications have side effects, they do not help, and therefore I do not want them. Did I mention that they are expensive, even with my insurance? My late maternal grandmother had a “skittery heart”, which is probably where I got mine, and she was bullied into powerful medications for heart, blood pressure, etc. She did not take the medications because they made her feel unwell, but she was a quiet woman so she bought all those drugs, probably had to take the money out of the grocery budget, then lined them up on top of the refrigerator, just so she would not have to argue with the doctors about taking her medications. Without those drugs, she still lived into her nineties. I am trying to figure out a non-confrontational way to get out of the most recent testing that has been ordered for me. Just saying “No.” was not effective.
They offered me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which I declined, because no one knows what causes fibromyalgia, or what fibromyalgia actually does, and there is no treatment for it, other than risky and ineffective pain medications. Oh, and they recommend exercise and relaxation (both of which I do) which throws the pain problem back to the patient.
Some years ago, when I was suffering the first onslaught of my burden of pain, a surgeon who had scheduled me for removal of a lump from my breast took me into her office to admonished me for half-an-hour that no one will help me unless I am pleasant to doctors. This was a doctor I had liked and admired, so I was appalled by what felt like an attack while I was worried about possible breast cancer. It seemed cruel to require me to pretend to be good-natured when I am seeking medical help, particularly when I was in extensive pain and fearful of cancer. (I ended up with a scar but no cancer.) I had thought promptness, courtesy, and honesty was appropriate. So now I try to smile during doctor appointments, although surely that is misleading? My profile picture shows me at my very best trying to be “pleasant” while sick and in pain. Before this onslaught of massive pain, physicians had typically noted in my file, “This is a pleasant woman.” I wonder if someone went with me whether my medical examinations would be easier?
I have pain throughout my body, headaches, hands and feet, legs, abdomen, and back; different kinds in different places. The only thing that helps my back pain is to be horizontal. My first task each day is finding ways to coax myself into what will be a painful vertical. When I sit, or especially when I stand or walk, it feel like I am being beaten with boards. The only thing that would be worse would be if I were in a prescription medication fog on top of it.
A bright ray of kindness on my annual exam last week was a nurse who listened to me listing my difficulties with pain, then she asked why I took no pain medications. As my history of trying different pain medications should be there in my medical record, and the explanation that those various pain medications did not work for me should be there also, I just sadly said, “Pain medications do not work for me, I try to tough it out.” She told me as she said she had told her mother who suffered chronic pain, “You do not have to be tough.” She said it twice. She did not understand my situation, but she cared about me. And, for today that was enough.
Caption: OSF profile photo of Annmarie Throckmorton
as I appear for my doctor appointment, 2017.