Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Injured Playing Golf- Is This Possible?

You know those embarrassing injuries, like walking into a door and getting a black eye? Well, I got one of those yesterday, only much more embarrassing. On the 18th hole, after a fantastic round of golf, I reached for a ball under a pine tree and didn't see the sharp branch that laid my ear wide open. It sliced my ear down to (and including) the cartilage.

The fun part was I got to spend the rest of the day finding out first hand just some of the problems with our medical system. I was just going to ignore the cut. After all, everything was still attached and it wasn't bleeding. But, Ty and Shell insisted I go to get stitches. I called our family doctor to learn she doesn't do stitches. I'm still trying to figure out what she does do besides take blood pressure. The nurse there told me to go to Urgent Care. I went there, filled out all my paper work, paid my deductible and after being weighed (don't know what that had to do with my ear), was finally taken into an exam room where they asked me why I was there. The powers of observation of the staff there are about on par with their medical skills since the nurse was standing on my right side when she asked and I had a pretty good gash in my ear. She oohed and ahhed and finally called in the doctor who told me I'd have to go to the ER. The cartilage was "nicked" and I might need to see a specialist. I was incredulous. I asked her why she couldn't fix it and she just said I'd need to see an ER doctor. Shouldn't the people working at URGENT Care be ER doctors? Their website says they handle any non-life threatening medical emergency. If they can't stitch up an ear what can they do?

So, then I was off to the hospital ER for a cut ear. I avoided Mercy Fairfield (near us but notoriously bad) and went to Bethesda North. All the while I'm thinking this will be a chance to see how well my patience practice is going because I know I'm going to be in for some trauma going through the system. They had one intake person who almost immediately took my name. Good start, I thought. She asked me to have a seat and said she would call me back soon. When she called me back (about 1/2 hour later), she took my name, age and asked me why I was there. I told her the embarrassing story. She said "OK, please have a seat again and you'll be called for Triage. Then, you'll go back to Pod D where you will see a doctor." By now it was about 3 o'clock. I had been there for about an hour. I was still under the illusion I might be home by 5. When I was called back for Triage, they asked me all the standard medical questions. As a person into computers, I found this extremely frustrating. But, I maintained my patience (like I have a choice). Why don't we have electronic medical records yet? I see my doctor every six months. They shouldn't have to ask people like me for my medical history, it should be available on an computer network. This is a huge waste of time. But, I thought, I'm one step closer to seeing a doctor. But, something is wrong. They haven't asked me for my insurance information yet. I knew no one gets any treatment without this. So, I asked why I had not been asked for it yet? The nurse answered "Oh, you'll give that when you get back to Pod D". So, it dawned on me, Pod D is not where I get to see a doctor, it's just one more step in the process. She sent me through the big double doors to Pod D, where I discovered Pod D is just another waiting room. After another hour or so in Pod D, someone finally took my insurance information and sent me to a bed in a room with about five other people. I'm not sure how many rooms there were like this. But, there were several and there was one ER doctor on duty. Long story, a little shorter, when he finally got to me, he was thoroughly disgusted (actually he came in and asked me about my Urgent Care experience long before he actually looked at me). He told me that the Urgent Care centers (and this one in particular) refer way too many patients to the ER. He told me I didn't need to be there and that the Urgent Care had done me a disservice by sending me there. He ended up calling the Urgent Care to speak to the doctor who had seen me. But, miraculously, she wasn't there. From his demeanor, I'm guessing this wasn't the first time this had happened.

Finally, a Physician's Assistant sewed me up and about 6pm I was on the way back home. The whole time I was thinking "What would happen if we had a real emergency that sent a lot of people to the ER?" I overheard the ER doctor telling the lady next to me that 1/2 the people there on any given day do not need to be there. People go to the ER for colds, she had a dog bite and all kinds of injuries and illnesses that could be treated in other places.

Anyway, the ear's fine. It's a little sore. The stitches were extremely painful. I guess because the ear is basically cartilage it's very difficult to numb. And, lidocaine doesn't work well on me. They always have to give me multiples shots at the dentist. I didn't want to be a big baby about it when it was hurting while the doctor stitched it. But, I was expecting a stitch or two. I didn't get an official count. But, it turned out to be at least 8 or 10, most of which I felt.

The next time a ball rolls under a pine tree, I think I'll leave it. That was one expensive little golf ball.

p.s.- On a happier note, it was a great day on the course. I broke 90 for the second time in a row and I think the third time this season (yippee!). The real fun though was convincing Jon I had bought a $400 Nike Sasquatch Sumo2 driver on a whim in the Pro Shop at the turn. In reality, the guy working there let me demo the club for the back 9. It is sweet. Like swinging a sledge hammer. But, I'm not sure it's better than my 2 week old Taylor Made r7 Draw driver that I got for 1/2 the price.

Here's a picture of my ear- post stitches. It's much prettier now than it was before. But, still- not for the squeamish. Scroll if you want to see it.

Golfing Injury


Carol said...


karen said...

Bless your heart, Brian. A friend of mine could sympathize...he nearly took his ring finger off putting up a ping pong table.
I'm so sorry you went through that...and so sorry...but your write-up made me, um, chortle...love your descriptive writing! :-)

brian said...

Yeah. Ouch. It hurt, physically. And, it hurt my pride (having to tell that story over and over again was painful).

But, the bigger picture is how broken our health care system is. Too many specialists and no one really wanting to take too much responsibility. Now I see why the ER's are so backed up.

karen said...

You're absolutely right. . . ER's are awful. . .I've been in them many, many times. It's a miserable experience, and seeing the stupidity of some of the personnel always makes me shake my head--and yes, laugh.