Wednesday, December 28, 2011

EPISODE ALERT: Medical Emergencies, Family & Health Disparities


For 5 days, my 73 year old father has been carted off and shuttled back and forth to seek medical attention for a very painful illness by the auspices of Kaiser Permanante Health Care System.

For me, who has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, published 5 papers, fought for Obama Health Care Reform vigilantly and so see how much pain my father is in and no diagnosis, no sustainable treatment by qualified personnel, well...Kaiser, shame on you! You do not treat veterans that way!

Since the initial onslaught of the Emergency, I have made recommendations that I feel are best for attacking my father's health issues. He is diabetic, he is hypertensive so key treatments must be decided with care, which is why a specialist physician is needed rather than ER physician and triage care. While the ER clinicians helped, they can only stop the problem, they cannot get my father into HEALING. Only a board certified specialist can do that and NOT a general practice physician who probably caused the problem in the first place.

I have my father's physiology. Genetically I know this. He has allergies to that causes hives, I have allergies that causes hives. He has diabetic complications, fortunately, I have not converted, but I manifest similar symptoms of a pre-diabetic condition. For now, I control mine with diet and exercise. I know I cannot tolerate minute changes in medication, so as a PhD I can pretty much guess that he cannot either or something else in his body goes wacky. Especially a Black Man in his 70s.

Due to my acceptance and understanding in dealing with my mental health issue, I have taught myself and learn ways to maneuver through many health care systems to get whatever care I could obtain. So far, so good. I am in constant contact with my providers whenever there is a health concern and know that it will go on my medical record, documenting my continued care. I am fortunate to have my health, because a lot of people have nothing.

My father, did not have to do that due to generational differences and the mentality of "that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger..." Well, that's nice mantra when you are 23, but when you are 73, it tribulations will kill you and this is one of them.

My mother who is doing her darnedest to help him is exasperated, too. All the changes in his diet, all her follow up and follow through that she has done for him, her help-meet, help-mate for nearly 50 years, all the plans they made, he physically cannot do them. And really when you think about it, it is depressing as a spouse. I have zero idea what my mother is going through, but I can hear her weeping as she slowly accept these changes in their lives together.

So as the oldest adult child, who is arrogant enough to fight back for my parents, after all they have done for me, I told them, change doctors. Get an internal medicine specialist as your primary care physician. No more GPs. GPs are good for young people, but someone needs to be specifically trained in managing and caring for geriatrics. Something her GP does not have as obvious.

Then, I said, call every single day, twice if you have to documenting the pain and rating it. Report it. Email, however you must until you get a satisfactory diagnosis and treatment option. Basic list: Pain, Intensity, Location, Time. That's easy enough.

Then, pounce on ever insurance avenue you got. Writing letters is one option that can be pursued. But this is more about "squeaky oil gets fixed first" mentality. You can be angry that they tried to schedule an appointment 2-3 weeks later, when you are in pain now. But really, what you need is to see a specialist by any means necessary. What can be done now? Three things: Make the crap appointment, ask to added to the wait list, ask for out of network visitation, and then write harsh scathing letters--not just to Kaiser, but to the Insurance Commissioner, Joint Commission, TV/Radio, President Obama if you have to! You have to be crazy to do all of that--but what did I say: Squeaky Wheel...

To be a Black Man who is 73... Lived in the Segregated South, involved in the Vietnam War, taxed to death by Reaganomics Probes, saw Crack Cocaine liquidate our streets, how does someone atone for these health disparities my father suffered?

They don't.

So are we just going to let another stalwart in the San Diego, California community die?

*blank stare*