Patient Care 101: Thank God It’s Monday

This is a true story. The names of the actors have been changed for literary purposes. It goes something like this.

In 1983, Jim lived in Dallas, Texas. He was working in Amarillo. Monday evening, Jim saw a news report about testicular cancer on the local news. Jim knew immediately that he had cancer. He knew he had because he had discovered a lump a few months ago. Jim did not know what to do because he had never had a lump. He went to his hotel room, opened the Yellow Pages, and started calling doctors until he found one that would speak with him at 8 p.m.

The doctor agreed with Jim’s diagnosis and agreed to see Jim in the morning.

Tuesday morning, the doctor made a few calls and referred Jim to MD Anderson. Jim called his parents. They called him back and told their son that they had scheduled an appointment for him at Johns Hopkins on Thursday. Jim flew back to Dallas.

Because Jim was twenty-seven and knew he was going to live forever, Jim did not have a primary care physician. Early Wednesday morning, Jim walked into Medical City Dallas. The only thing Jim knew about Medical City was that it was the hospital closest to his apartment.

He went to the front desk and told the receptionist he had cancer and he needed to see a cancer doctor. He would have said he needed to see and oncologist, but he did not know cancer doctors were called oncologists. That was because, as we already learned, Jim was twenty-seven, and Jim was going to live forever.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the cancer doctor examined Jim. Jim was scheduled for an MRI on Thursday. Jim, thinking he might have cancer, was a little nervous. He received an MRI and told the radiologist that he wanted to wait until the doctor told him if he had cancer. The radiologist told him that that was not possible. Jim was very worried.

The doctor told Jim to return on Thursday for a small needle aspiration because the MRI showed there was an abnormality in his right lung.  Jim again told the oncologist that he wanted to wait to learn if he had cancer. Again, the doctor told Jim that was not possible.

Jim called the doctor several times on Friday, and all day Saturday. Jim was very worried. Somebody whom Jim did not know told him there wasn’t anyone who could help him. On Sunday Jim went to Medical City and asked to see a doctor. Any doctor. The gift shop was open.  He was told that maybe somebody could help him on Monday.

He drove home, disappointed and worried.

Jim had waited seven days. By day seven, Jim was no longer certain he would live forever. On Monday, the cancer doctor told him to come to his office. Jim met with the doctor and he was told he had testicular cancer.

Jim would have preferred not to have spent his weekend wondering if he was going to live or die. In case you did not figure it out, I am Jim.

Thank God it was Monday, thought Jim.  For the 99% of the US population who will not be sleeping tonight in the hospital, healthcare is closed after five p.m. on weekdays, and all day on Saturday and Sunday–unless, of course, you go to CVS.

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