Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There is a Little Old Lady in My Mouth

Just what you wanted to see on a Wednesday morning- a close up of my mouth. Yes, my teeth are that crooked.

On Monday, I went for my second in a series of hydrogen breath tests which help determine whether my body is tolerating or absorbing certain sugars properly. Since the birth of The Baby, my body has been all out of balance. In addition to working through bouts of vertigo, I have, also, been dealing with bouts of intense abdominal pain. There may be a link between the two ailments and the answer will hopefully come from the results of the testing. Before the test, patients are required to cease taking certain medicines and supplements. And the day before the test we are required to follow a strict diet. Basically, you can only consume boiled chicken (or fish), rice, chicken broth, water and jello. The test is timed and you take it with other people; so it is important that everyone arrives on time. On Monday, there were only two other woman with me. One was about my age and the other was an elderly woman. The test procedure goes as follows: patients provide a baseline sample of their breath which is obtained by breathing into special collection bags which are attached to a hard plastic tube (resembling one of those noise maker party favors). The technician then injects the samples in the diagnostic machine. Then you consume 8 oz sugary liquid. The breath samples are repeated every 20 minutes for three hours. We all wear name tags so that the technician can match up the proper bags with the proper patient. With only three of us in the room, it was not an unruly number to handle. And her task seemed quite simple and straightforward. But, she made a nasty error which made me want to go home and rinse my mouth with Lysol All Purpose Cleaner.

The technician was one of those bitchy, know it all types. She was clearly distracted and agitated through out the test. Her exasperation began when a fourth patient arrived after the test commenced. The technician made us all very aware of the fact that this patient's name was mud before she even walked in the test room. So, it was even more uncomfortable for the rest of us, when Patient #4 arrived and admitted that she had not adhered to the strict preparation guidelines. Instead of calmly explaining to Patient #4 that she would have to reschedule because the test results would be invalid, she ripped her a new one and made it quite evident that this patient was an idiot in her estimation. I think we all sort of felt the same way. I mean, come on, we all read the preparations pamphlet and followed the guidelines. After Patient #4 was given the boot, the technician received a phone call from the front desk. Apparently there was some mix up in personnel scheduling and someone else had taken over the tech's duties of dealing with the doctors' phone service. We know this because our tech was talking in her outside voice and using some choice adjectives to describe the girl who had stolen her duties. It was a small room, there was barely any place to hide our heads to mask the uneasiness we all felt. So the three of us sat quietly, uncomfortably rolling our eyes in the solidarity of our disbelief at this technician's unprofessional behavior.

I mention the tech's agitation because it is the only excuse, if one should be warranted, for why she performed such a stupid error. Somewhere between the 2nd and 9th sample we provided (I blocked out the exact time), the tech had given me the wrong device to blow into. It was only after I had wrapped my mouth around it and provided my sample that the patient next to me shouted, "Oh, no! You gave her the wrong bag!" The tech looked back at the counter and confirmed that she had taken the bag out of order. She had given me the old lady's bag. I had my mouth on the bag of the Old Bag. I was struck into a state of numbness. And it's a good thing because if I had truly processed then what had happened I would have FREAKED OUT! I have no nice words to describe my technician, so from here on she is going to be called, Incompetent. Incompetent then proceeded to use the sample from the wrong bag to record my results. I wanted so badly to speak up; but, I did not want to offend the old woman by having her believe that I thought she might be diseased- which I did think because isn't that why we were all there-we were unwell? And if it was not bad enough that Incompetent made the mistake the first time, she did it again at the end of the testing. But, both the woman next to me and I spoke up before the device was in my mouth.

I didn't wig out until I went home and relayed the story to The Mr. and heard his reaction of, "Eww! Dude, what if she has herpes or some communicable disease. You need to call your doctor tomorrow and tell her what happened. From a scientific standpoint, your test results won't even count because of the contamination." And, then he told me he would not kiss me again. Because I have Old Lady in my mouth. I can't say that I blame him.

I couldn't sleep that night. I was anxious about making the phone call to my doctor. I had written a letter, a script, just in case I got nervous. And, when I called, the operator patched me through to my doctor's assistant who just so happened to be Incompetent. I wanted to cry. How do you leave a message with the person you have a complaint about? I was very vague and I could tell that she was annoyed. I didn't hear back from my doctor until this morning. I love her. She was very upset about the error and affirmed that this recklessness is unacceptable and she will be looking into it further. She, also, confirmed what The Mr. suggested, that the results would need to be interpreted differently and my not yield true answers. She thanked me for bringing this issue to her attention. And, she apologized profusely.

As patients, we agree to adhere to the preparation guidelines (which for some of us, leave us uncomfortable for weeks prior to testing); and, we agree to participate in time consuming tests because we are concerned about our health. When an error such as this occurs, my faith in medical personnel wavers. I realize in the scheme of major health issues or mistakes this may be viewed as a minor infraction; but, it is recklessness none the less. I shudder to think about the mistakes, the grave errors that occur on a daily basis through out our country in the field of health care- which forever change the course of one's life, of well being. Once again, I am reminded that I could be much worse off. But, still sucking on someone else's bag is just plain gross.


  1. oh noooo!!! let me apologize for medical professionals everywhere. that is just gross and stupid. But there are unprofessional people and idiots in every field, including medicine. good thing you called the MD, hopefully they will move that lady to another department, processing stoll sample perhaps?
    BTW, I loved you link on modesty swimsuits. I got a good laugh from that one.

  2. Wow, isn't it disapointing when people you should be able to trust, lack in the basic departments of comon sense?! I would have totally freaked (in my head) and then done the same as you. I had to chuckle, because I always write scripts when I'm about to confront something over phone. I have a bad nervous system, lol.

  3. Do you want me to go smack a bitch for ya? I've felt like I needed to anyway, and she seems like a prime candidate! There is no reason for that level of disregard for professionalism, ESPECIALLY in a medical setting. You are better than I am because I would have said something before leaving that day.

    Now on to the funny of it.. Has The Mr. kissed you yet? I mean, you basically tongued an Old Lady, my friend. I think I would have had to brush my teeth about 100 times after that. Bless your heart! Sorry, but I had to go there. :)

    Seriously, I hope they can find out what the problem is so you can feel better.