How not to fix a fever

It would have been funny … if it weren’t my body, I suppose.

If my body were a car, say, with an engine that was overheating or there was something amiss with the fuel injector, and they made me wait day after day for “Joe” to call me back and let me know what needed to be done.  And then Joe never called back, and “Bo” was the supposed guy to talk to the next day, and he didn’t call me back either.  And then I finally got to talk to the AAA guy, not the right guy, but someone who could tell me whether the problem was serious, and he chastised me for not bringing it in because it could blow up any minute.  And that I could bring it in 13 hours from now, no sooner, and please just sit in it and think about things until then. And then I’d have to take it several places for the tests, because God forbid the same fix-it-shop be able to open the hood AND look under it AND check the oil AND fix it.  Oh, no, that’s four different places, and yes, the engine is still overheating and yes, this is very serious, and why didn’t you bring it in on Monday?

That sounds ridiculous, right?

And yet … Saturday night I spiked a fever of 103.5′, tossing and turning terribly throughout the night, gasping in pain with every breath.  I was apparently too drowsy to really realize it, but I woke in the morning feeling absolutely awful, and the pains in my chest reduced to sore muscles from the exertion (could it be that I’m not as fit as I think I am?).  I was in and out of it all day Sunday and Monday, up to 104.4′, never below 102′, and I called the doctor at 9:00 Monday morning to speak to a nurse.  I was pretty sure it was the flu (since, you know, it’s going around … the WORLD) but needed to know whether to stay home and away from other possible infections or come in and see if there was something to be done about it (and I’m totally against unnecessary antibiotics, so I didn’t jump unnecessarily).

So I called just after 9 a.m. Monday morning.  The front desk receptionist at the doctor’s office put me on hold.  For 8 minutes.  When I realized that I’d been shunted nowhere, I called back, explained my symptoms, and asked for an appointment.  No can do; all the same day appointments had been booked (before 10 a.m.) and they don’t schedule tomorrow’s until tomorrow morning.  Well may I speak to a nurse?  Click.  Ring.  To another phone that was never answered.  After another 10 minutes, I hung up and called back (again).  Explained again that it was rather urgent and I just needed to know whether to go to the hospital or not, since I had a history and all.  She took a message and told me to wait for a return call.

I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I lay there lethargically, unable to make decisions, and with no interest in watching TV or reading (for once) as my fever climbed to 104.4′ despite Motrin and Tylenol.  Just before midnight Monday, my fever broke violently, and my chills and shaking turned to sweat.  I watched my temperature drop to 100′, and 100′ has never looked so good.  Tuesday at 5 p.m. a nurse returned my Monday 10 a.m. call.  The office was closed.

Tuesday night my fever returned, and the pain in my chest returned too, wracking the right side of my lungs and making me shudder with every breath, first on the right side and then in the center.  It was awful, but really weird, and not something I thought deserving of the ER at midnight.  (Everyone knows the morning nurses are much kinder and tests move more quickly.)

It was an awful night, but then I remembered a trick to dealing with our health care system that requires physician approval before going to the ER … if one wants insurance to pay for it … and I do.  I called the after-hours answering service at 7 a.m, before the doctor’s office opened.  The physician on call called me back (eventually) and was alarmed that my fever was so high and I hadn’t been seen.  When I explained what had happened with his own office, he just sighed and said, “Unfortunately, I hear that all the time.”

Whaaaaaaaat?  as my two year old would say.

Regardless, I followed his direction, called the office at 9 a.m., dropped his name, and told them that he had insisted that I be seen that day.  (I’ll speed this up; I’m getting pretty tired too.)

When An hour after I arrived for my appointment, I was ushered into an exam room.  By this time, my fever had gone back up and I was shaking with chills again.  Very uncomfortable, nervous.  Listening to the doctor chat with a 40-year patient next door and zoning in and out.  After a quick exam and listen to my lungs, he folded his arms and said, “Tell me about your cancer history again.”  “Mmmm-hmmm.”  “Here’s the thing.  I’m not hearing sufficient lung function in there.  Whether or not it’s a tumor, it’s almost certainly pneumonia.  I suspect it’s a tumor because of the way you describe the pain on the right side, in a line.  When you try to breathe, the pain is breaking along the tumor and shooting up and down the right side.”

The what?  Dude, I came in with the flu and you’re sending me out with a tumor?

“Here’s a referral to get an x-ray.  Go.  Go now.  Do you have someone to drive you?”  My dad came and picked me up, as I had been in no shape to drive, and we drove across town to the radiology center.  I figured we’d have to cross back a different way to get blood drawn too, to check my white blood cells, so settled in for a long day.

There’s a whole nother post about waiting for hours in the doctor’s office (and then the radiology center) with the flu, and receptionists uncaring about contagion, but I’m exhausted tonight, so I’ll cut to the chase.  I had an x-ray, I was told to wait, the right guy came back from lunch and read the x-ray, they called my doctor, and he sent a message back to me to go home and wait for further instructions.

Two hours later he says that the x-ray was pretty normal, nothing acute showing there, and that rules out pneumonia. “What about the tumor?” I said.  Oh, they didn’t see one,” he said. But I knew what to ask as a followup: “If one had been there, would the x-ray have picked it up?”  “No,” he said.

So he jerked me around about a tumor for several hours today without even ordering the test and the truth is that he doesn’t know and isn’t particularly interested in finding out.  But if I’m still running a fever on Friday, I’m to call the office again.

Yeah.

That’s going to happen.

My husband went out to pick up the antibiotic, and I collapsed into a deep sleep for several hours.

19 Responses to How not to fix a fever

  1. upsidebackwards says:

    Oh yikes! How horrible! As if you weren’t feeling awful enough already. I really truly hope this is “just” the same bug as your son had last week. Stay warm and let other people look after you for a little while.

  2. Jerking your chain is right! Why do doctors’s offices always give you the runaround? I left a doctor because I was not given an appt for a simple strep test. I was told to come back two days later when there was an appt. I knew I had strep because my children both tested positive, but could not get a dr. to give me a test and prescribe antibiotics in a timely fashion.

    Here’s to hoping you feel better soon.

  3. De in D.C. says:

    This really angers me. There is no reason that a medical office should be so blase about their patients’ care. Given your history, and the fact that you were immune-compromised for so long, I don’t care if it’s just the flu; you should have been seen on Mon. Fevers that high aren’t anything to joke around with, especially if over the counter medications aren’t helping to reduce the fever.

    At what point do you start looking for a new PCP?

  4. Amelie says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, this sucks. I hope it’s just some bug or the flu, and that you feel better soon.

  5. carosgram says:

    I am constantly amazed at the lack of ‘care’ in our health system while it remains the most expensive on earth. With the health issues you have had I would think that your doctor would KNOW you. We might as well have a national managed health care system since it has become so impersonal already. At least then everyone would have access and the costs would be less. It seems that I am in an unusual position where my doctor actually is aware of my dreams and aspirations as well as my health history. We have a personal relationship within very professional guidelines. I know if I call and want to see someone I will be seen that day – maybe not by my personal doctor by at least by someone in his office with a follow up by my physician the next day. I only wish everyone had the same level of care. Thinking of you and wishing you the best.

  6. Heather says:

    I really hope you’re feeling better. I just don’t have words to describe the runaround, but the way you began this post drives the point home. I finally found a decent primary care practice after many, many annoyances similar to this.

  7. nanakats says:

    There’s just no excuse for this! None! And – what about a tumor? Why even bring up that evil word if the x-ray is not going to show it? And, what dr’s office doesn’t get a patient in spiking a 103? That’s critical stuff in an adult, no matter what the cause. At the very least, give you a referral to the ER so that ALL the necessary tests can be done in one place at one time. (I know, it takes hours and triage is a bitch.) Your cancer history, alone, is enough (ya think??) to get you seen PDQ.
    Arrrrgh! I hate the “system.” And, the sad irony is, you have coverage. It’s scandalous.
    I hope you feel very much better very, very soon!ancer history should at least set off afew alarms

  8. Susan K says:

    Jeez Louise! Now I know why I didn’t see you at the office yesterday. I was worried your fever was back, but had no idea it was THIS bad. A post above “when is it time to get a new PCP?” I think the answer is it was time on Monday. AND you need to write a letter to that old PCP and tell him/her exactly why you left. I think a lot of Dr’s have no real idea about the shabby treatment their “first line of defense” frequently gives patients. They want and need to know about crap like this. I’m almost to the point of picking Dr’s not on my perceptions of their skills, but on the basis of the office staff alone.

  9. Amy says:

    Wow. Sounds like it’s time for you to switch doctors! If my doctor, or his staff, jerked me around like that, I’d say, “I’m going to find someone else to treat me, because I am not receiving /treatment/ here.”

    Bastards. When you get better, you should give ’em hell!

    And I hope the antibiotics help. Sounds miserable! Feel better, and soon!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I hope you’re feeling better, and I agree with the above about this not being acceptable treatment.

    Keep us posted.

  11. Colleen says:

    Oh gosh — I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. Will pray for you at prayer group tomorrow (and always). Let me know if I can help you in any way.

    colleen z.

  12. Stimey says:

    I’m so sorry to read this and to find out that you’ve been going through all of this. Thank goodness you know what questions to ask and are able to advocate for yourself.

    Know that I am thinking of you and wishing you good health, clean scans, and a quick trip to the ER tonight.

    Love to you.

  13. Oh. my. God! Freaking ridiculous. Although sadly, not entirely surprising. I hope you are well soon. Very soon. And for God sakes, could that STUPID doctor not throw TUMOR around so casually? What does he have, x-ray vision. *shaking fist*

  14. clifford says:

    I don’t normally support recreational^X^X^X^X^X^X^X^X^X^X medicinal marijuana use…sheesh, but in your case, Peter Tosh was on to something. No extra comments needed about the doc.

    Hope you feel better babe.

  15. donna says:

    A few years back our pcp cut all office staff to part time know-littles in efforts to save on their benefits they had to pay..I noted that they kept their billing person full time and sure as shoot it was not long before we as a family got jerked around like you did…but you have a history that should dictate prompt look-sees…that is just the way it is….yes we left that practice….hope you are feeling better and that the tumor mentioning fool gets a boil on his behind….what an a$$ hang in there!

  16. Debbie says:

    Still thinking about you and praying for you.

  17. sprucehillfarm says:

    Oh Susan I am sorry about all this! It would have been nice if they had listened to you in the first place! Hope your tests go well and everything checks out ok.🙂

  18. Radish says:

    This just disgusts me. Especially throwing around the T word like that, and then not even ordering the test to check for the damn thing! You’re in my thoughts.

  19. BetteJo says:

    Geez – he really just threw “tumor” out there like it was a softball? Nice.
    I’m really getting to dislike doctors.

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