Saturday, July 07, 2018

Dear Doctors: My spinal column awaits your TLC

I wrote the following letter yesterday after two months of trying to get help for an injury that has gone from bad to worse. It's a long letter, which is kind of a bummer because my arms are weak and my fingers do not work correctly. On good days, I can type 100 words a minute with four fingers. I now am down to two unwieldy fingers that type a combination of letters and numbers and symbols that need major editing before seeing the light of day. Very inconvenient. So I whipped this letter into shape and was just about to have my wife Chris take it to the post office. I like letters and I'm pretty sure that large health care bureaucracies like them too. They want to hear from us! Why else would they send us those surveys after each medical appointment?

But why wait for the middleman to deliver the news? I am posting my letter to UC Health CMO Neff, M.D. here because, well, I'm a long-time blogger and am getting impatient. I'm sure Dr. Neff is a nice man, a kind man, one who will go out of his way to see that I get proper assistance. I hope I'm not complaining too much. I just want to walk again without the help of a cane, walker, a helping hand, divine intervention, etc. P.S.: I have insurance. Read on:

William A. Neff, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
University of Colorado Health
2315 E. Harmony Rd.
Fort Collins, CO 80528

Dear Dr. Neff:

I am a patient of Dr. Biggs at Orthopedic and Spinal Center of the Rockies. I fell on May 3 and now it is July 6 and I still need a walker to walk. Slowly but surely I am getting attention for what seems to be a spinal issue. I first saw my orthopedic surgeon in Cheyenne, Dr. Shannon, on May 24. After my fall, I had gone from a slight backache and a limp to walking with a cane. I told Dr. Shannon that I was worried about my new knees being compromised. His tech took x-rays of my knees and pelvis. Shannon checked out the x-rays, tested my knees, and said there was nothing wrong there except bone spurs. He prescribed a round of PT at his office. Kyle, the PT tech, did a quick exam of me on during my first PT appointment on June 13 and said that I needed more than PT and would talk to Dr. Shannon. Kyle was my physical therapist during my knee replacement rehab two years ago. He said that they had sent me away walking two years ago and now was distressed at my slow and painful progress across the office. Shannon called me at home the next day and said he wanted me to see a neurologist ASAP.

The next day I saw Dr. Tolge at CRMC in Cheyenne. She also was concerned and wanted me to get an MRI stat. I said I couldn’t get an MRI because I’m equipped with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or ICD due to an unscheduled heart attack in 2013. . She thought a larger hospital than CRMC might be safely able to do an MRI so sent me that afternoon to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. They were quite efficient there. The doctor on duty took my ICD ID card and called the manufacturers. When he came back, he said that an MRI would light up my chest like a hot frying pan. So an MRI was out of the question. My wife, who has been my caregiver, drove us back to Cheyenne.

Because I was a bit frustrated by lack of action, I had already seen Dr. Biggs on June 8 in Fort Collins. He took an x-ray of my spine, inspected it in my presence, and said, to be on the safe side, he would like to set me up with an MRI. I told him I didn’t think I could get an MRI with an ICD and he turned me over to Heather who said she would check it out. A few days later, I got a call from the MRI Center to set up an MRI. I told them I didn’t think I could get an MRI, but the MRI Center was insistent. I called my cardiologist, Dr. Lawand at CRMC, and he told me not to get an MRI. And then, the next day, I got the news in Loveland about turning into a hot frying pan so called back Heather at Dr. Biggs to see what to do next. She sent me to Poudre Valley Hospital Radiology and they set me up for a CT Myelogram on June 25. By this time, I was really having trouble walking so borrowed a friend’s walker. I also had tingling in my fingers and weakness in my arms. I am having trouble typing this letter now.

When I got to PVH on June 25, I needed a wheelchair to get to my appointment. The Radiology staffers were wonderfully efficient and the test went well. I saw Dr. Biggs that afternoon. He reviewed the myelogram said that I had some bone spurs in my lumbar region but didn’t look like they were pressing on my nerves. He also looked at some cervical CT scans that Dr. Tolge had ordered but they didn’t provide the detail he needed to decide if bone spurs were pressing on my nerves. Surgery might be in order but he wanted certainty via a CT scan of my cervical spine and I agreed. The first appointment I could get was June 10. The first follow-up appointment I could get with Dr. Biggs was June 19 since he was out of the country for two weeks.

As I prepare for my second myelogram, I wonder why I have spent the first two months of summer stumbling around Cheyenne and Fort Collins and Loveland. I also wonder why physicians in the same UC Health System don’t talk to one another. It appears now that I am going to be housebound the whole summer. I would like to know if surgery is needed. If not, I want to move on to PT or other remedies. Rocky Mountain hiking trails are calling me and I can’t answer.     


Michael Shay
Cheyenne, WY                                                                                                                                              


Lynn said...

Well, hell. For a writer and active guy, this is pretty much a double whammy. I wish I could advise you on how to navigate the clown car that is our medical system, but I'm afraid to draw attention to myself. My 89-year-old mother is having throat surgery next week (in Greeley) and so far arrangements have been going smoothly. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Hope you get resolution soon, Mike. Keep up the fight!

Michael Shay said...

There is a risk about drawing attention to myself. I may be seeking health care in Canada. I wrote this letter after going through the usual channels to see if I could expedite the tests and treatment. I had a whole bunch of words sitting around doing nothing so decided to put them to use.

Best wishes to your mom and her upcoming surgery.