Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Latest on the Stones of South Haggard

At the suggestion of a dear friend, last Friday I visited a private practice urologist in Taipei with high hopes. The nurse at the clinic immediately changed my appointment to a different doctor in the clinic because she thought he had better experience with sonic bombardment. Uh... that was what I was NOT coming here for. Once again, repeat tests and x-rays and wait. The doctor calls me in and says he wants me to go to a different doctor.

I am sure my face turned a shade of light purple that is not found in the rainbow or color wheel.

He quickly added that he thinks my stones SHOULD come out and soon because he understands that the infection they are causing is bad for my kidneys as a diabetic. Wow.... a doctor finally GETS it. However, there is another doctor that he thinks is better at removing multiple large stones like mine. And this new doctor is on the national health care so it will be nearly free.

So, my all too helpful and dear friends, St. Steve and Angel Amy, help to bring my blood pressure down by nearly carrying me through the convoluted subway systems and train-to-bus changes to get to this hospital. A hospital laid out much like an Escher painting... if Escher has been asleep and on mind altering drugs while painting it.

We find out that this doctor is SOooo popular that he has a waiting list. I can't get in until Wednesday. This is Friday. I live 4 hours away and made the special trip for TODAY. My Taipei friends encourage me to stay the week with them. There was a croquette mallet involved in the negotiations that finally convinced me to stay and wait. They were wonderful. They were having their own issues that week and really didn't need me around but they were self-sacrificing and hospitable. They will be honored in the halls of records for eons to come.

So, first thing Wednesday morning, Amy and I go to the hospital (Steve must work)... the first time I have EVER had to pay first. Granted it was only $10 for the day, but pay first??? Then Amy hands my appointment to the nurse at this doctor's wing and the nurse says that I need to go get my blood pressure checked. "You don't do that?" I asked and I see wall of self-service machines. I stick my arm in, write down my numbers on my chart and go back. Irritated, she says, "Now I need your weight!" Again, self service in another place. I end up getting almost all of my basic vitals and measurements on my own at self service desks. Finally she takes my form and tells me to wait for my number.

The number comes up, I go in, the doctor listens for a few seconds and declares that I MUST be mistaken because kidney stones do not cause this kind of pain. I need to go see a orthopedist.

Visible smoke rises from my ears as my eyes begin to glow a deep orange. Amy reaches for the mallet... I am not sure who she intended to convince with it.

The doctor pales and stutters, "Well, we can also do some tests to see if your kidney stones are bad." He FINALLY looks at my past x-rays that I brought and suddenly changes his tune. Now, with some real concern, he orders tests and for the FIRST time in my journey he orders a CAT scan.

I cool down... until I hear the next part.

"Go schedule the CAT scan and find out when they can do it and I will make an appointment for you after that to see the results."

Schedule? Me? Can't you do that?

"No, you must go down there and find out when they can do it."

Will that be today, you think?

The doctor laughs, "No, no chance. There is a long waiting list for CAT scans."

The smoke is billowing now. Open flames break out on loose papers on his desk from the heat.

The doctor goes white... "Perhaps we can get you into the ER's CAT scan today if they have an opening."

So I get all my labs... another lesson in patience and hospital navigation using GPS and Laser Guidance. Had Amy not been there to ask questions in Chinese for me, I might have given up. I have NEVER been in a hospital in Taiwan less foreigner friendly, which is very odd for a hospital in a town with the most foreigners in Taiwan. Who would have thought that the LAB would be next to the cashier, or that the CAT scan would be on the first floor but the office to schedule the scan would be on the 5th floor. Who would know that to PAY for the CAT scan would be one window, but to get the stamp to say you had paid would be the next window... and that the cashier cannot hand the payment slip to the girl next to her, but you must get out of line, go to the next line and hand it to her yourself.

So I wait 5 hours for an opening to get into the CAT scan. When finished, laying nearly naked on the table, the man OPENS THE DOOR TO THE WAITING ROOM and tells me to stand up and get dressed. When I look at the door where Amy and all the people waiting look at me with smirks, the man says, "Sorry" and then walks away without shutting the door. The stones nearly shoot out my back from the tension.

Now, with all the heroic feats accomplished we must call the Doctor's personal nurse, as instructed, to get back into see him today. The nurse is confused, "The results of the scan will not be published today. Why so see him?" Again, Angel Amy be honored in the record books of time, it was argued that the doctor TOLD us to come back.

Back in the doctor's office, he says that all is done and that he will have the nurse call me later.

For what? I ask.

"For the next step," he says.

And what IS that?

"To see what we will do next..."

And that IS what?

"The next treatment..."

Which IS......

He drops his shoulders in defeat, hangs his head the loser and whispers, "To schedule you for surgery."


"TO SCHEDULE YOU FOR SURGERY!" The lab tests showed pyuria (puss), blood and infection... which I had told him... so he wants me on some stronger antibiotic than I have been on. It is likely that I have not had many different UTIs over the last few months but one big UTI that the other doctors had not given me enough treatment for. This doctor wants as much of that infection GONE before he cuts into me.

Amy guided me out of the hospital and onto the train home, not returning my knives and other weapons to me until there was no chance of me going back to somewhere were I could vent and blow up emotionally. Steve and Amy had thoughtfully disarmed me when I got off the train on Friday. Even though I am closer to getting what I need and want, the journey has been something of a stressor.

So, I walk away a little tired from the psychic warfare with a promise that I WILL get surgery to remove these stones from one of the best urologists in Taiwan. I await his phone call. Until then, I wait...

Prayers encouraged,
mostly to keep me from running out into the night screaming at the insanity of it all.

Onward and upward.
-The Haggard


John Lee said...

i will always pray for you, you will be having the most successful surgery ever in taiwan!


boston said...

will be praying for you.

what i am not clear w/ is where are the stones? are they actually in the kidney or in the ureters? one can try extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy versus putting in ureterostents depending on the location of the stones.

The Haggard said...

Boston: They are in the kidneys, the original stone measured nearly 9-10cm. It was ESWLed 8 times before it reduced to these smaller yet too large to pass stones that no longer respond to ESWL. New docs says that the first doc should have removed the large stone rather than shock it because of its size.