Back in the Saddle (So to Speak)

Several people have reached out to me to ask if I am still alive, since I have gone a month without a blog post. The answer is yes, but I am the first to admit that 2022 has not been one of my best years.

The major culprit, of course, is Covid. Hammered on a cruise ship in Iceland, I recovered just in time in early July to test negative and upon leaving the ship, did not have to be transferred to a “Covid Hotel” in Copenhagen. What I did not know then was that Covid was not finished with me. I have self-diagnosed as having Long Covid because the original Covid symptoms have now returned three times, all seemingly triggered by my overdoing it—after I had attempted to resume my regular activities of getting out and about, routine walking 2-3 miles a day, and doing volunteer activities associated with work on various nonprofit boards. Being hospitalized in Portland ME for another bout of BVS did not help much either (see previous blog posts about the incidents when I ended up in the emergency room at Washington Hospital Center and recently in Portland, ME, “ER Adventures 2022”). These recurrences have tended to last two to three weeks before I feel like I am able to get back to normal and declare myself free from this horrid disease. Then for a few days I am fine only to be hammered again with total fatigue and exhaustion, coughing, body aches and malaise. As I write this post, I feel fine, and have felt almost normal for three or four days. Tomorrow I could be hammered again by my unwelcomed nemesis.

So that is the story. But some have suggested that I do not have Long Covid, only a pesky respiratory virus with no name. It really does not make a difference what you call it, it is what it is, and as the saying goes, “sucks.”

Now one reason that there has not been a formal diagnosis is that the healthcare plan that I have has recently been changed so that there is a long wait period before you are able to see your primary care physician. You now must go online to get a “phone appointment” lasting 15-30 minutes. I signed up for the first open phone appointment about six weeks ago and will at last talk to my primary care doctor (whom I like) this Friday for the first time since coming down with Covid in late June.

I understand that Covid has changed the way we live and work on the Planet Earth and especially in the U.S. where hospitals have been overwhelmed. Health care workers are burned out and scarce, and hospital and medical systems are trying to cope. I have been tempted to switch Medicare insurance providers during this “open season,” but have resisted because I have about a half dozen doctors that I depend on in this system and am pleased with all of them. To try to start over is just too hard, and few of the people whom I have talked to who are in different systems are enthusiastic about the doctors or Medicare plans they have.  The nurses and doctors are not the problem for me.  

So, what is wrong with the health system I belong to? The post Covid protocol is first to refer anyone who has a health issue to the nearest emergency room. But how do you know if your health issue warrants an emergency room visit? And who wants to go to an emergency room unless you absolutely have to? During my two days in the Washington Hospital Center emergency room, I was confined to a dark corner separated by a thin curtain from the hustle and bustle of stretchers moving in and out carrying victims of gunshot and knife wounds, drug overdoses, car wrecks and heart attacks. This would be my last choice.

The second option is to go to an urgent care center. I have been to the urgent care center in my system three times, each involving a wait of several hours and then not getting a definitive diagnosis. If I was not very sick before the visit, I was after I departed. Not a very appealing option for me.

The third and final option is to call an “advice nurse,” who will hear your story and determine if you should talk to a doctor. This was the option that I selected; and after hearing my sad story, the nurse said I would receive a call from a physician who was at a hospital about 20 miles away. The doctor did call within a few minutes, listened to my story, was caring and supportive, and prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection. She did ask me if I had had Covid and had all my vaccinations and boosters, but there was no mention of Long Covid.

So there you have it. This is the way health care now works in the United States—at least in some large health care systems. There are probably good reasons for some of this, but the idea of keeping patients away from their primary care physicians is idiocy. They are the ones who know you and have your medical history and are supposed to be your advocate. That used to be the case in the system I am in, but no longer. Your options are now emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and doctors who have never met you and never will, and interface with you briefly via phone or video. Does this make any sense? Not for patients like me, who may never know if I suffer from Long Covid but frankly do not care if someone, anyone, can keep these meltdowns with Covid-like symptoms from happening.





8 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle (So to Speak)

  1. I feel your pain, but in different ways. When my husband, with a long history of heart problems, stents, etc. had another attack in June, we went to the ER here on island, knowing there was nothing much they could do. Luckily he did survive the night, and we were medivacked next morning to a hospital in FL, where he was stabilized but basically told there was nothing they could do with his damaged stent. So, we’re back home in St. Croix, taking it easy, knowing there is no cardio unit available, and that it’s not a matter of if, but when, it will happen again. Your system sounds awfully poor also, the ridiculous hoops to jump through……..but at least you can eventually get medical care. Count your blessings, as we do every day.

  2. Joe,
    Glad you are back to writing. I hope your three-day recovery continues into permanent recovery.
    I assume you can go on walks as is your routine.
    It doesn’t seem right – in this country – to not be able to see your PCD – Primary Care doctor – when you need
    to and not days to weeks after you need to see them. I don’t have the answers for what we assume is the “best health care in the world”. At least we can usually say that we are better off than 99% of the rest of the world.
    Please keep writing. We need to hear from you.

    1. Thanks,Sam. Still holding up and you are right that something is wrong with our health care system. I finally will get my meeting with my PCD next week and boy am I going to let her have it! (Actually not true. It is not her fault but probably some analyst who is trying to save money.)

  3. I doubt you’d be much better off if you moved here and joined the NHS! We no longer get to see our ‘family’ doctor, but we do get to see a doctor fairly easily, albeit not as easily as before. We are short of GPs – because they are now paid so much they work only two or three days each week.
    No wonder I’m a socialist!
    BUT, dear friend, treat yourself with care and insist the medics, when you do get to see them, treat you with care too – look at you, talk to you, begin to get to know you, etc., etc.
    We’ve just had friends to stay for two days – even older than me, and, (inevitably??) they came so we could go together to the funeral of a mutual friend.
    There aren’t many of us left and we golden oldies must stick together.

  4. Oh Joe, this news is difficult, but you are so brilliant, you make it a good read nonetheless. How do you do that? Please keep sending these posts, no matter the news, as they help Jim and me get through our busy days with perspective, gratitude, and humor.

    I thank the Cosmos for you and Mimy and hold you in my heart.

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