The Squeaky Wheel

As last night unfolded, I knew I would eventually blog about it.

After a long holiday weekend, James and I were doing a bit of leisurely shore line fishing. While we were packing up, James exited his truck and BAM! He immediately felt a sharp pain in his back. This isn’t the first time, but it had been a little while since such a severe flare-up. With this, we promptly went home and applied all the home remedies we knew. Heat, rest, ibuprofen.

James’ back was no better in the morning. After dealing with it for the majority of the day, he made the decision to call his doctor.

It was 6:15 p.m.

After hours.

With the on-call physician answering service phone number safely in hand, he dialed.

“Hi, my name is James, and I’d like to speak to the doctor on call regarding possible pain meds for some pretty severe back pain I’m experiencing.”

Marie: “Um, let me talk to my supervisor.”


She gets back on the phone and proceeds to tell James that he should just simply call his own doctor in the morning.

What. The. Fuck.

I was seriously confused at this point. James had the answering service on speaker phone, so I heard every single word, yet I was still confused. So, let me get this straight: This UNLICENSED person had just singlehandedly made a MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS regarding a patient. Her treatment (via her supervisor) was to have the patient simply call his own doctor in the morning.

Now, I understand that as soon as James uttered two simple words, he was labeled. Marked.

Pain meds.

I understand the caution that physicians must use with regard to calling in prescriptions for pain medication, especially for a patient that may not even be your own. But, this lay person made a decision to simply tell James to call back another time, rather than put him in touch with the on-call physician. I’d rather hear any information from the physician, not some unlicensed telephone operator. Last I checked, that’s the entire reason doctors are ON CALL.

James laid there and sighed.

“Oh, never mind.”

Now, this is where I get pissed. Not with James. I’m pissed at this situation. Here is a man who is following all the rules established by his physician, yet when he calls to speak to a medical professional, some clown circumvents the entire process.

After a few hours, we revisit the situation. I encourage James to call back. He does. Marie again answers. This time, James is a bit more firm, and yet again, he is shot down.

“Sir, you can either go to the nearest ER, or call your doctor in the morning. Oh, and if you call back, you’ll get the exact same answer. ”

Okay, Marie, now you’re pissing off the wrong person.


This has blossomed into more than just a phone call to an on-call physician regarding unresolved back pain. It has now mushroomed into something entirely different. These few sentences were enough to make my blood boil. I now wanted James to call back a third time, ask this person’s name, title, and also get her supervisor’s name. Complaints would be filed. Hey, Marie, guess what? You have zero right to deny James access to medical care and/or advice, and as a result of your unintelligent and uninformed answers, that’s precisely what you’re doing.

I immediately became a patient advocate.

With the third phone call, Natalie answered. Lo and behold, she didn’t rattle off the same answer as our friend, Marie. James simply said, “Hi, Natalie, I’d like to speak to the on-call physician regarding some unrelieved back pain.”

Natalie: “I’ll be happy to page the on-call physician. Can you tell me a number where the doctor can reach you?” After this and a few other questions answered, the doctor was summarily paged, returned the call, and proceeded to call in a prescription for a muscle relaxant.

I’m not sure what the magic trick was to get this accomplished, but I’m sure the fact that he didn’t utter those two words, pain meds, helped a great deal. I understand, as a medical professional, how rampant prescription drug abuse has become, but the bottom line again is that James should have heard that concern from the on-call physician, not Marie The Unlicensed Unprofessional.

Be your own advocate. Advocate for your own health care. Speak up. Say something. Don’t accept what you know to be unfair or unacceptable.

If you won’t speak up for yourself, hopefully, you’ll have someone close to you encourage you to do just that.

You know what they say about the squeaky wheel.

It gets the Flexeril.


One thought on “The Squeaky Wheel

  1. Sara says:

    Glad to hear that James got some relief. Maybe Marie will get the same treatment someday, I hear Karma is a b*tch!! As someone who has a back disibillity & is sometimes in pain 24/7, I don’t think I would of been as nice as James. People that only answer phones should never give advice, as the one time I made a call for my late husband, it turned out he had MRSSA (sp) and was ignored, but I do believe she got her a$$ fired!!

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