This past August reminds me of the opening line from “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”
As for the “best of times,” I was able to help an owner salvage a business with $3.2 million in sales and $3.9 in expenses. The owner had already loaned his company $90,000 and by the time he contacted me he had just sunk another $75,000 into the business—the latter coming from the education funds for his two daughters. In this case, my advice was free, and I was able to point out some immediate problems that could resolve the crisis and hopefully turn the business around. More on this later.
What about “the worst of times?” Well, I spent the entire month of August with a high level of anxiety, anger, and frustration. Somehow, somewhere I contracted a serious staph infection called MRSA. MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, and those that can be used to treat the disease have many strong side affects. Left untreated or misdiagnosed you can die from an MRSA infection. As the month of August progressed, and as I sought out help from general practitioners and orthopedic surgeons, it became clear that I had reached, as Dickens said, “the epoch of incredulity.”
A Comedy of Errors
During the month of August I discovered that my family physician is only good for writing prescriptions, and wouldn’t know how to incise a small infection if he tried. I encountered an orthopedic surgeon who declined to treat the infection and suggested instead that I visit the emergency room at the local hospital. He then had the nerve to invoice the insurance company for $375 for this worthless piece of advice.
When I told my doctor I wanted a second opinion he recommended another surgeon upstairs. When I called that office to make sure my appointment had been made the nurse told me they don’t treat MRSA patients and that I should visit an infectious disease specialist instead. By the time I saw the latter, it had become a comedy of errors and the infection had gotten worse! The infectious disease specialist basically told me that the drugs I had been prescribed at the dosages given had been totally inadequate for treating MRSA. Instead of getting better it was getting worse. Consequently, I now needed five days of infusion with an antibiotic 100 times stronger than what I was taking orally.
As I sit here today typing this column, my anxiety and frustration levels are still at an all time high. I completed the infusion a few days ago, but I am now back to double doses of another antibiotic. At high dosage levels, antibiotics can cause numerous side effects, including high levels of anxiety.
By the way, don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you can’t detect if you have high blood pressure. Hogwash! I can. And despite taking blood pressure medication, I can tell you my blood pressure is probably 160/90 as I write this column—all of this as a result of the drugs and frustration of trying to fight a serious infection and find competent doctors.
Anyway, the primary lesson I learned from this episode also applies to the “best of times” portion of this column that follows. While undergoing treatment for MRSA, I was told time and again by both other patients and nurses that patients need to become their own healthcare advocates. You need to be very knowledgeable regarding all medication and treatments that are prescribed, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Ironically, that’s the same advice I ended up giving to my $3.2 million printer who called me for help. I told him he needed to be a much better advocate for his own company or he would surely fail. He was relying far too much on second hand information from his managers, and was allowing others to dictate how his financial statements should look.