When Physicians Are A Danger to Patient Care

My experience with the medical system is that the system is not prepared, not able or not willing to accept any deviation by the patient or the patient’s family from the lockstep cookie cutter approach to healthcare.

When I cared for my dad while he was a patient at Duke University Medical System, I asked questions and made decisions about how I wanted my dad treated.  Medical care providers at Duke Medical were irritated that I was a strong advocate for my dad.  The irritation manifested itself in Duke physicians (i.e. Mark E. Easley, M.D. of Duke Medical Orthopedics and Duke Infectious Disease Clinic) ignoring my dad’s condition until dad eventually died.

Nine months after my dad died from untreated osteomyelitis, I was diagnosed with osteomyelitis at Duke Medical.  It’s worth mentioning that osteomyelitis is neither contagious nor genetic.  The only common denominator was that both dad and I underwent orthopedic surgery at Duke University Hospital by Dr. Mark Easley.

In September  2010, I found myself an inpatient at Duke University Hospital fighting osteomyelitis – the same disease and the same medical care provider that were responsible for my dad’s death nine months earlier.  As I laid scared in the Duke hospital bed on September 11, 2010, I described how my dad died and I literally begged Duke orthopedic surgeon Michael Bolognesi, M.D. to not let me die.  Dr. Bolognesi honored my request by ignoring me throughout the eight-day hospitalization.  I was terrified as I laid in the hospital bed and the wound continued to bleed so hard that my bed sheets were soaked with blood.  Rather than face the real fears of a real patient whose dad recently died, Dr. Bolognesi ignored me and discharged me with a wide open surgical wound.  Duke Medical (including Dr. Bolognesi) did not want to treat me because I blamed Duke Orthopedics in part for my dad’s death.

After I was discharged from Dr. Michael Bolognesi’s care, I immediately tried to obtain medical care for the open wound at UNC Department of Orthopedics surgeon Laurence Dahners, M.D.  I arrived at UNC Department of Orthopedics only a few days after my Duke discharge.  But, Dr. Dahners could not be bothered examining or even meeting me.  UNC demanded that I explain  ”the discrepancies” between my impression of the hospitalization and Dr. Bolognesi’s impression before I could be treated.  I could not explain the discrepancies and, therefore, UNC Department of Orthopedics physicians ignored the open surgical wound on my leg.

My experience at UNC taught me that physicians don’t just talk among themselves at their medical institutions.  My experience at UNC taught me that one medical care provider would actually blackball a patient receiving necessary care.  Duke University Medical blackballed my obtaining medical care at UNC.  Then, without any mental health consult whatsoever, UNC determined and in fact charted that I probably hurt myself and, presumably, I should be punished with deadly osteomyelitis.

Because I was a strong patient advocate for my dad and myself and because I asked too many questions, physicians in Ohio, New York, Maryland refused to treat me.  Each physician who refused to treat me did so after speaking with either Duke Medical or UNC Medical.  It took many trips to orthopedic surgeons and two years before I found a medical team in suburban Chicago that were willing to treat me.  The Chicago area orthopedic surgeon who cured the osteomyelitis in Summer 2012  looked me squarely in the eye after reading the UNC medical records that my leg was fine and said “anyone who told you that you don’t have osteomyelitis lied to you.”

The details of my experiences with dad’s physicians and my physicians are chilling.  The experiences range from dad being hospitalized and left in pain with no medical treatment for three days to my being accused by Duke Medical of not wanting my osteomyelitis healed.  My history of depression apparently didn’t help.  Empirical evidence supports the conclusion that my being a strong patient advocate who, although compliant, did not march in unquestioning lockstep with the medical profession combined with my history of depression provided many physicians with what they perceived as a reasonable excuse to deny both myself and my dad necessary and life-saving medical care.  Dad died.  I managed to survive long enough to get medical care.

The implications of what dad and I went through are frightening.  How often does this happen?  My dad and I can’t be such anomalies.

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