How To Avoid Medical Torture
"How Do I Keep The Pain To A Minimum?"
That's a question that I will be asking each time I find myself lying on a hospital bed as I am approached by a medical professional bearing sharp objects! Far too many times I have been victimized by busy doctors who don't want to take the time to use local anesthetics. Or more frustrating yet, they do use them – inflict that pain with that "stick and a burn" shot of Lidocaine... which I consider a worthwhile investment... and then they don't allow them the proper time to take effect before they begin the procedure. Either way, it's just wrong. The following story illustrates what can happen when anesthetics are used improperly.
A couple of months ago, I had to have a filling and an extraction done by my dentist. This dentist had worked with me on building trust that my visits wouldn't be painful for over two years. I had grown to trust him. This time he applied the usual topical numbing agent that he uses before giving the local anesthetic shots. Normally at this point he leaves for about 10-15 minutes to allow it to take effect. But this time he was apparently in a hurry, because he sat beside me and waited only about two minutes before beginning the shots. When he hit me with the first one, I winced, moved, and managed to get out the word, "OW!" He didn't stop but continued to the next shot. It had to be obvious that he was hurting me. "Why doesn't he just stop," I wondered. The question I keep asking myself is, why didn't I MAKE him stop? Physically move, put my hand over my mouth, obstruct him from continuing in some way. I have made up my mind that if this happens again, that is precisely what I will do!
This visit only continued to get worse. The filling went okay until the part where they have you bite on this thing to check the filling height - they tell you to chomp-chomp and grind your teeth around. Well, this dentist wasn't paying attention because in my numbed state, I couldn't tell that my tongue was in between my teeth! There was a big gash bitten in both the top and underside of my tongue! (Later, of course, it also turned black and blue). Oops!
When he went to do the extraction, he broke the tooth off at the roots and had to pound and dig for over 30 minutes to get it out. Since I take blood thinners, my tongue had continued to bleed all the while. He sat me up and was ready to send me out. I pointed out the blood thinner thing and he said it didn't look that bad, I'd be okay. Knowing better, I hung out in the ladies room sucking on paper towels for about 15 minutes trying to get the bleeding stopped before I left. Finally I gave up and walked out to the receptionist desk and asked for gauze to pack it with. Seeing me looking like a vampire after a sloppy lunch, she quickly provided me with the gauze and I left to tend to myself.
This visit amounted to medical torture on three different levels: 1) Torture by lack of anesthesia; 2) Torture by direct injury; and 3) Torture by the emotional distress caused by the fear associated with uncontrolled bleeding.
Unfortunately I still have one major procedure to go - a bridge. Although I have always liked this dentist very much, we need to have what I refer to as a "Come to Jesus" meeting on the issues that occurred during the last visit. I will be asking why it all happened as it did. I will be asking what he will do to assure me it will not happen ever again; and I will be asking for a reduced fee as compensation for the pain and injury I suffered at his hands. (From the tongue injury, I was unable to eat without severe pain for over a week).
Ouch! Stitches Aren't Fun! But They CAN Be Less Painful!
How To Avoid Being Victimized!
Stand up for yourself! Remember YOU are the employer here! You have the right to adequate pain management, so ASK for it. If they are getting ready to start a procedure, ask what pain management will be used before they start. If they say there is none, ask why it cannot be used.
The Way Medical Treatment SHOULD Be.... And CAN Be!
This summer I had a bad laceration on the front of my leg that was going to require stitches. You have to understand, I have had lots of similar injuries and have gone through a whole lot of pain getting them fixed. On this visit, I learned that was not necessary!
The first thing that surprised me was that the doctor injected my leg with lidocaine before he began the process of scrubbing out the wound! This was unheard of to me. I'd always had to endure this extremely painful procedure that would last for several minutes. Not this time! Once I got through the lidocaine shot, the whole rest of the procedure was pain-free! It was amazing. Life-changing. I was so impressed I vowed to bake cookies for the Emergency Department staff! Question: Why isn't this standard procedure? They are going to numb up your body part to stitch it anyway. Why not do it before the cleaning part, which is always the most painful part?
Have You Had A Bad Experience?
Have you ever had a painful medical procedure without appropriate pain management?
From An ER Doc's Perspective... The Top 3 Most Painful Emergency Procedures
I asked an ER doctor what the most painful procedures were, in his opinion, that are performed routinely in the emergency department. They were:
1) Lumbar Puncture
2) Toe or Nail Pain or Removal
3) Abscess Incisions
In My Opinion...
I think the biggest problem is that doctors and dentists don't always allow enough time for the anesthetic injection to "kick in." Do you agree?
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
Obviously when you are injured and require medical or dental intervention, some pain is going to be unavoidable. But what can you do to protect yourself from unnecessary pain?
1) Ask if a topical or injectable local (e.g. Lidocaine injection) can be used for your procedure. Some ER's will even use topical and/or injectable numbing before starting an IV! Some won't... but it can't hurt to ask! In dental procedures, they can apply a topical to the area, allow that to work a few minutes... then do the novacaine injections, allow those to work... then start the actual work. These drugs are not instantly effective, they need time to kick in!
2) Make sure the numbing agent has kicked in before allowing them to start work when possible. Obviously if you are in a life threatening situation, pain control is going to be a lower priority than saving your life.
3) Find out if there are alternatives to your procedure. For example... last week I had to have five days of IV treatment at home with home health nursing. I'm a very "bad stick" and have a lot of trouble with getting and keeping IV's going. In total I had somewhere around 19 IV start attempts over the course of the five days. Looking back, it would have been much smarter and easier to get a PICC line. Yes it's a bigger procedure done in a hospital setting but it's also done in about 20 minutes and you're good for however long. Not to mention you only get stuck once!