~Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Burn Baby

Scott's doctor visits have transferred from the free clinic to the hospital burn unit. There are two hospitals in the city that accept patients without health insurance: the one he went to when he was initially in the accident, and the one that has been treating his hand and arm. Thankfully, the second one seems to be on the same page as the free clinic as far as quality of care.

Scott got up early one morning and took the subway to the burn unit. The waiting room was a sea of gauze and medical tape. Dirty office chairs filled with down-and-out folks: there are no appointments without health insurance, you just sit and wait. Scott absentmindedly picked at whatever was crusted to the stained burgundy fabric of his chair with his fingernail, but then thought better of it. One by one, patients were called behind the single curtain. None seemed to stay very long, just long enough for a dressing change and to come back next week for a progress check.

When Scott was called, he brushed back the curtain and sat on the freshly papered bed. Automatically, he held out his left wrist and began to unwrap the long tail of gauze and padding. He had been doing this since that first office visit and wasn't going to give anybody the opportunity not to get a good look at his wounds anymore. The doctor in his white coat shuffled in with his head buried in the clipboard. "So Scott, you say you have a burn on your hand. Let's take a look at it," he read. He looked up at Scott for the first time and was greeted with the uncensored hand.

"Oh my," the doctor said, startled. "You must have been unconscious to get a burn that bad."

"I was. I was out for 10-15 minutes and my hand was against the car's muffler we think."

"All the skin is missing from your hand," he marveled. "This right here," he pointed to the open flesh running from the tip of his pinky down to his wrist "is body fat. You burned everything off down to the fat," he repeated. "Excuse me while I get my partner," and the doctor left.

All in all, six doctors came to look and discuss Scott's hand. Multiple skin grafts are definitely in order. So is surgery. Scott's hand has taken a claw-like appearance. With his injuries, he can't fully open his palm or wiggle his pinky, and unless he has surgery to insert a pin in his hand, he'll never have use of it again. Skin from his thigh will go on his left hand, his left elbow, and his right foot to help them heal. His thigh will look like it's sunburned for awhile.

I keep thinking back to that first doctor, our family friend who has been taking care of us for years, and how he wouldn't even so much a look at the burn. By not looking at it or listening to what happened, he missed an infection, skin grafts, and surgery. He was wrong—he was so wrong—and it just makes me so angry. When he asks about Scott's wounds, and he will, I want to tell him that we didn't trust him not looking at it and paid for a second opinion that resulted in surgery. I want him to feel bad by not taking us seriously. More importantly, I want him to be a better doctor because of it.


Peach said...

and so you should!!! God, it's incredible the difference between professionals' opinions - always such a good idea to get a few, on whatever the subject.

Hope that bodes well for a full recovery for Scott now that he's got a thorough examination and opinion...


nuttycow said...

Agreed. Make sure he is aware of the mistake he made.

Hope everything goes well.

Trixie said...

Let's pray it's all a success and he'll have full usage of his hand again.

Taken Girl said...

Sending healing thoughts Scott's way! My lunch offer to you still stands too!

Paige Jennifer said...

And here I was complaining about a mosquito bite itching for three days straight. Hope he gets the care he needs and heals back to perfect soon enough!

AmyD said...

Can't he be held accountable for not giving Scott better attention when he had the chance? It just seems so wrong... :o(

So sorry this just keeps getting worse, but it finally also sounds like it stands to begin getting better very soon. Hang in there, Sarah!

Indiana said...

His not looking is negligence. Regardless of you wanting him to be a better doctor or not, he has been negligent and you should take steps for that.

g said...

he should be struck off for not paying attention to a wounded patient.

Am sending healing healthy wishes over to Scott.... x


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