Fat? Abdominal pain? ER has no clue, will run thousands of dollars’ worth of tests while making you wait

Dawn writes:

I think my sis may have narrowly missed disaster the other day because the docs at the ER were convinced that she had gall bladder issues (yes, she is fat… AND has recently lost some weight…). It turned out to be her appendix, infected and on the verge of bursting. They kept running unnecessary tests on her for 5 more hours till they figured this out. (So now she owes them more money for their denseness, as well!) Two other people with appendicitis came in and were admitted sooner, while she continued to wait. Bets that if she were thin this would not have happened??

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6 Comments

  1. *headdesk* Yeah, can you imagine a mechanic trying to pull that line on you? Sorry, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but you’ll still have to pay?! Never! Bunch of idiots! I’m sorry it had to go down that way, but at least they do know what’s wrong and can hopefully treat it before any further damage is caused. *Hugs*

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  2. Ugh – what a shame! I went in for abdominal pain in December and there was no mention of my weight, no mention of gallbladder issues (the doc said that because of my age and relative good health, he saw no reason that it would be gallbladder), and they saw me as quickly as I think they could. I felt very well cared for.

    In the end, after an ultrasound and bloodwork, they concluded that it was probably an ovarian cyst and sent me home with Vicodin (after dosing me up with pain meds while I was there). Thankfully some hospitals are good!!

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    • (Appendicitis was ruled out right away, since I had an appendectomy when I was 11😉 )

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  3. Danielle

     /  July 18, 2011

    Seems to me like the doctors were falling victim to a pretty common logical fallacy.

    Given that Condition A is more likely given Condition B, they assume Condition A–even though Condition C and Condition A given B are about equally likely. They’re thrown off by the presence of B.

    (Example: You come home to find your window broken and your door unlocked. You immediately assume you’ve had a break-in, but when you call the police, they investigate and find a baseball on the floor of your room–your neighbor has accidentally broken your window. The unlocked door was unrelated–you just forgot to lock it on your way out this morning. But the presence of the unlocked door threw you off, so that you didn’t remember that your neighbor has often hit your house with baseballs in the past.)

    Gallbladder disease is very common, and is more common in the population of people with high cholesterol, which is higher in the population of obese people. However, just being in a high-risk group for one thing does not mean that you automatically have that particular problem. You may have some other common problem as well. In this case, appendicitis is something they absolutely have to check for, because it is so common. There’s about a 10% lifetime risk for appendicitis–a risk that includes the population of people most likely to have gallstones.

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  4. Thanks, all. My sis is recovering steadily, but slowly. She’s been very subject to infections this summer, and got the flu (!) shortly after the visit to the ER. She herself is glad that they kept her in the ER so long, by the way, because she’s allergic to many pain meds, and while she was in the ER waiting room they would give her fentanyl, which really helped. Once she was admitted… they wouldn’t give her ANYTHING by mouth…which ruled out tylenol, just about the only thing that worked at ALL that she wasn’t allergic to. I still can’t believe how much pain they let her endure, just because “Fentanyl wears off too fast, and we can’t have the nurses coming in to give you pain meds all the time!” Um… what? Just because she’s allergic to the stuff you can give her by drip… you’ll leave her in agony for 2 days because your nurses don’t have TIME to care for her? WTF??

    Much of this is because my sis has been caught in usurious student loans (and therefore is going to the “poor people’s hospital”), and my folks have no more money to help because of our dad’s surgeries (cancer, then radiation treatment, then partial pre-frontal lobotomy to remove the necrosis resulting from the radiation). He landed in an assisted care facility in his 60’s, after having several insurance companies drop him like a hot potato. Expensive much? And yet… and yet… my folks still think single-payer health care is a bad idea. *headdesk*

    Thanks for the explanation of that particular logical fallacy Danielle. I think you might be right about how that came about.

    The good news is that the City Health care plan that she’s on will cover most of this nightmare, apparently. Much better than all of us had feared. Still, someone has to pay for the tests that they did that they really didn’t have to, given that if they’d tested for appendicitis much sooner, they’d have figured that out right away.

    *sigh* Our Mom went in for hip replacement surgery on the day you wrote your comment, Danielle. I hope her recovery goes much more smoothly!

    Thanks for your kind comments and good wishes, everyone! Here’s to an improvement in health care for everyone–fat, skinny or in the middle–very very soon!!

    Reply
  5. Jackie Nakano

     /  August 31, 2011

    Been there, done that!
    This past May I had pain in my upper right stomach area, right under my breast. I do have gall stones so had that checked first, Nothing. Went to another doctor who said it was muscle strain and gave me pain killer, including two injections in my back. Pain got so bad that I couldn’t stand or breathe, the muscles were contracting at evey movement I made. Ended up at the ER. The nurse said it was a kidney infection. Mmmm, aren’t the kidneys located in the lower back? My husband asked for an osteopathologist (bone specialist) but no!!! I saw internal medicine doctors who ordered X-rays, MRI, blood tests, sonogram and pee tests. After 7 hours of tests and waiting and feeling like crap I got to see the specialist we requested at first. He asked a couple of questions, asked me to raise my legs while lying down and within 3 minutes told me I had a hair line fracture on my ribs that wasn’t showing up on the X-rays!!! The hospital sent the bill and debt collectors but they can wait. I lost time from work and lost clients because I was ill. So I am in no hurry to pay. There was no mention of my weight up front but all the sighing and whispered comments made me wonder. I live in Japan where things are never said out right but something wasn’t right!!
    Hope your sister recovers okay!!

    Reply

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