02 June 2008

An Open Letter

To an unnamed specialty surgeon:

I don't think we had ever spoken before, but when I called you the other day we had the following conversation:

Me: I have a young man here in the ER with a [painful subacute problem in your area of specialty]. I think he's OK to go home today, and I'd like him to follow up in your office.
You: Hmmm. Sound like he's going to need a [series of operative procedures]. How long has this been going on?
Me: Eight months.
You: Wow. Why did he let it go so long?
Me: He doesn't have any insurance and can't pay.
You: Pity. Still, tell him I'll see him Tuesday morning.
Me: Thanks very much.

You could have weaseled and tried to dump this problem on someone else. You could have tried to get me to send him to the county hospital. You could have been a dick and just said no. I have no real leverage to force you to take care of patients like this. I wouldn't have faulted you much had you been annoyed or grumpy about having to do several complex, risky procedures for no pay. Many of your colleagues will take these cases, grudgingly, and in return for their condescending willingness to do their job, they feel entitled to take out their frustrations on me.

But you didn't. You took the case without hesitation, cheerfully, and without complaint. You did the right thing without prompting, begging, or cajoling. I don't know whether you were motivated out of compassion, duty, charity, or if you're just a really nice guy. It doesn't really matter; either way, you made my day a lot better, and certainly that of the patient as well. I'll remember you for it.

Thank you.


  1. Someone who probably really enjoys his job. Nice letter!

  2. That's a great letter. Thanks for commending your fellow workers when they deserve recognition.

  3. Great letter! Unfortunately, we are getting fewer and fewer opportunities to send these sorts of letters.

    'Tis a pity, really.

  4. Great letter...I hope that you actually sent it to him.

    Pre-med Peg

  5. As an uninsured, unable to pay potential patient, I appreciate this. I only go to seek treatment as an absolute last resort. I have episodes of vomting and writhing in severe misery where I truly contemplate and pray for death. A few times I have been forced to see someone the experience was agonizing and humiliating. At best, I will get treatment that works but I cannot afford. I have narcotic prescriptions here I just found from years ago. I Had narcotics when my wisdom tooth got dry socket. It made me nauseated. I wouldn't think something causing nausea will now relieve it. Sleep is only moment I am not praying for death during these 1-2 day events, with the most acidic bile that makes my mouth feel sore and tender for days after. I sold a car to have tests done. Other than ulcers from the acid in my stomach and damage from acid eating away at teeth and esophagus, I traded my car for advice to not drink, which I have never done, and not smoke marijuana which I did once in high school and was scared. So I have a bucket nearby and if I start burping the rotten eggs taste, I take dramamine every hour until I'm throwing them up or knocked out. It is better than being harassed and treated like a problem by the rude staff at my er. I literally had been stripped naked and awakened by my nurse to leave because they needed my bed and I was in the hallway! Naked and having vomit crusted hair. Humiliating and I still owe $650 after over a years worth of payments. That was my last visit & it was 2011. Next time I feel that much unrelenting agony I will go to my grave before I go to the hospital.And before a nurse counsels patients to stop illegal drugs, try testing or even inquiring. Assumptions are offensive. Just because I'm I'll and therefore uninsured due to inability to work without unplanned absences doesn't mean I'm a drug user. In fact, mylanta and dramamine are all I take. Ulcers make me leery of all otc medicines and distrust of our medical system keeps me away from precscriptions. I was once a 13 year employee of a major pharmeceutical company and I know too much to feel safe in the use of these profitable poisons or the arrogant and jaded providers of "care"