How sexism leads to bad medical care.

15 10 2010

Before I get into the whole fucked up medical care I experience, I wanted to give a short blurb on the personal  front, if you’re not interested in that skip ahead to the third paragraph

Sometimes all one needs is a little perspective. Sometimes its a little rest. Sometimes its a bit of both.

I’m visiting the middle of Canada right now, yep Can-tario is where I am at. Kitchner/Waterloo specifically. I’m visiting a dear friend who is giving me ton of TLC. I’m sleeping in, lying on the couch, drinking beer and wine, generally being a single childless women.  Except I miss my boys, terribly. I ache for my child to come into my bed at 4 in the morning and steal my pillow. I miss Mr.SM’s stupid jokes and funny smile.  At the same time, I needed this time.

We’re stepping back from the brink. Which is nice. Its not just a step back, but a good walk away. We have work to do. Neither of us communicated well these last few weeks. We’ve both been so caught up in our own hurt, pain, stress that we have not been able to be there for each other.  Mr. SM lost his grandfather. His grandfather wasn’t just any man, he was the father figure in Mr.SM’s life. He was the one who took him to all his games, talked to him about the ‘why’. Why what Mr.SM did was wrong, not just telling him the actions were wrong. I lost the only grandfather that lived in the same country and city as me. My child lost his great grandfather.

Nor was it an easy loss. We had to choose not to give treatment. Which is a painful no win choice to make. But it sucks doubly when information that is needed to make the decision is not given freely. We often talk about how sexism in any profession hurts other in the profession. Rarely do we talk about how it hurts the by standers. I am an educated intelligent woman. Any one who is capable of being rational, analysis of information would have been able to understand our grandfathers condition if they were given the information.  When doctors are conscending, elitist, sexists assholes they withhold information make decision for us and ultimately cause more pain to their patients and the patients family.

When I arrived in the hospital I tried getting information on my grandfathers condition. I was shown X rays because as the elderly prick doctor stated “I had a spark of intelligence about me”. I refrained from saying FUCK YOU asshole because I needed to put my GF first.  All he told me was that my GF’s bowels had burst and he needed surgery to survive. When I asked what type of surgery and the risk of surgery I was told that it was surgery or death.  The type of surgery was not explained and I stupidly did not ask. I should’ve. I assumed (which was a mistake) that the surgery would be stitching of the torn bowels.

Six hours later, the surgeon came down. PO’d as all hell and was angry that we were doing the surgery. When I asked what my options were, I was told to “close the book” on our grandfather. Let me tell you that is not how you talk to the advocate. The surgeon explained that my grandfather could die on the table (always a risk at his age) and would be on a ventilator.  I’m looking at him, thinking yes but he would be ALIVE??? He will heal and he will be fine. When I asked the internal medicine doctor, the one that thought I had the spark of intelligence, he said normally these types of surgeries have a 1% risk of death and with my grandfathers age and health it was about 20-30% more.  70% chance of LIFE? of course we would choose that.

Thankfully GF’s general practioner came by and had my GF transferred to the main trauma centre. Once we got there, the amazing doctors actually explained what was happening. The surgery was not a stitch’em up and go surgery. It was major surgery, complete removal of the bowel and placement of a stoma so that my GF could poo into a bag that he would have empty out.  Yes the surgery they do as a treatment for colitis.  Shocking isn’t it? Our grandfather was 81. How do you think he wouldve adjusted if he had the surgery and survived. Thats not an easy surgery for a 25 year old. I know, I’ve witnessed friends go through it, let alone some with my grandfathers heath problems.  He suffering from arrhythmia. His heart rated was fluctuating from 96 bpm to 117 bpm, he had COPD.  These are major warning signs against the use of anesthetist.  Oh and yeah at this point, >12 hours later we found out our grandfather had a 10% chance of survival and what did we want to do? The doctors at the trauma centre were amazing. Kind and  compassionate, taking time to explain treatment options, risks associated with each.  They were honest and open about what was happening and they left the decision making power in our hands. They did not make the decision for us.

Why didn’t this conversation happen at the hospital in my grandfathers town, not one that was >1 hour drive away from ALL our family. He could’ve been kept comfortable in a hospital he knew, where family could easily be around him, where his grandchildren could’ve been with him when he died.  None of that happened because the asshole doctor didn’t think I could handle, understand or need the information. Apparenlty his old white ass was better equipped to make decisions about whether we should / want to do surgery then my brown illiterate self.  We should’ve been given all the information at 10 am in the morning at the first hospital, had the pro and cons of each treatment option, the risks associated etc. We should not have been told the information

I think we made the right decision for our grandfather. It was a shitty spot to be in though, his mental facilities were intact and he knew he was dying. And Mr.SM and I didn’t know how to be there for each other.  We’re working on that. We’ve been hit with alot. Thankfully my comps went well and has been a turning point for us. Hopefully we can keep walking away from that brink.  Next post will be a summary of my exam.

Many thanks to all of my readers. Lurkers and commenters alike.

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15 responses

15 10 2010
Maggie May
15 10 2010
post-doc
15 10 2010
ScientistMother
15 10 2010
chall
15 10 2010
Anonymous
15 10 2010
Amanda@Lady Scientist
15 10 2010
drdrA
15 10 2010
Cath@VWXYNot?
16 10 2010
The bean-mom
16 10 2010
unlikelygrad
16 10 2010
Girlpostdoc
20 10 2010
microbiologist xx
23 10 2010
girlvslaser@tumblr
25 10 2010
ScientistMother
27 06 2011
Why I chose a midwife « ScientistMother: raising replicates

[…] is its paternalistic culture. I experienced it first hand with both monkeys pregnancy and the death of my grandfather.  Its been well documented in books such as our body ourselves.  I know there are good doctors […]

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