4

My Wrists are Making My Head Hurt

 

I got my new job stocking overnight.

 

My hands and wrists started to hurt a lot more.

I went to see the hand surgeon.

 

The resident told me that the reason my thumb hurt was because of arthritis due to my age.

 

I said that the x-rays didn’t show any arthritis.

 

He said everyone gets arthritis in their thumbs.

 

I said the x-rays didn’t show arthritis.

 

He said he hadn’t looked at the x-rays. He asked who read the x-rays.

I told him whoever worked in his clinic.

 

He said it didn’t matter, we were there to talk about my hands.

 

I said that I wasn’t comfortable with him.

 

He said we were there to talk about my hands.

 

I told him I wasn’t comfortable talking to him.

 

He told me that he was fully trained in the functions of the hands and the surgery.

I told him I didn’t want to talk to him.

 

He stalked off.

 

The surgeon came in.

 

He talked really loud.

He said the test results said that I had mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, but that he would say it was probably moderate based on the readings.

 

I said that the doctor had said the same thing at the time of the test.

 

He looked at me. Who did you talk to?

 

I wanted to tell him, “The man who came in and introduced himself as the doctor in charge of the department.” But that doctor was really nice, and I didn’t want to make him sound obnoxious. I said that I talked to the tech and then the doctor came in.

 

The surgeon said OK, I agree. That test was done in 2014, so things are probably worse by now. We should do the release surgery as soon as possible to prevent any more damage. You’ll have to be off work for two weeks and on light duty another two weeks.

 

By the way, most people do get arthritis in their thumbs when the ligaments stretch as they age.

I went to work and explained the situation. My supervisor told me that he would tell me a good time to take off.

 

My husband told me that he might lose his insurance in June.

 

I told my supervisor. He said to go ahead and schedule the surgery for the end of April.

Three weeks later the time off request was still pending. I asked if he had changed his mind. He said I hadn’t made the request in the system. I said I had.

 

He called me in the floor. Didn’t realize I would be off that long. The store director would have to approve it. Had I spoken with the third-party administrator (TPA)?

 

The TPA can’t help me. I haven’t been with the company for a year and am not eligible for an official leave.

 

How long have you been here?

 

Six months.

 

Oh. I thought it had been a lot longer. I have to talk to the store director.

No response a week later. I ask if they have talked.

 

Yes, we did. The store director makes these types of decisions. The answer is no.

 

My head started to hurt.

2

Bedlam in New York – The Conclusion

(This is part 3 of a 3-part story investigating Stringham Hospital, a psychiatric facility, and the doctors associated with it. Previously we heard an account from a former patient about his stay there and the story of our undercover work. Patient names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

You may be aware that Stringham Hospital closed at the beginning of this month due to the investigative work done by this paper. Once we had finished putting the pieces together, they painted a very ugly picture of what had been happening.

Patients became aware of the medical offices of Drs. Igor, Boris, and Bela from flyers posted on lampposts and subway walls in middle- and lower-income neighborhoods. They were written to appeal to the employees of the uptown millionaires and disgruntled plant workers:

Tired of the Bosses Getting Better Medical Care?

We can help you get first class service without the first-class price!

Visit Doctors Igor, Boris and Bela today!

No waiting!

Cash and all Insurance Accepted!

Call 212-555-5522 for an immediate appointment!

Callers would be given same-day appointments to meet with one of the doctors. The receptionist would call the insurance company to determine the person’s coverage.

If the person was paying cash, they would be given a “complimentary” bottle of sugar pills and sent on their way. If they had complete coverage under a union policy, the receptionist called Stringham so orderlies could come to office to pick up the patient. If the receptionist couldn’t get the required information or the insurance was less comprehensive, the patient was given a follow-up appointment so Stringham could decide whether adequate payment could be made.

When the patient arrived at Stringham, he was taken directly to the Burmese cat panel and admitted to the hospital. An insurance claim was initiated with the notation that it was an involuntary admittance and there was no projected date of release. The Siamese doctors received payment for each patient admitted.

Once the animals were admitted, they were taken to one of six rooms. On a rotational basis eight animals were taken from each of the rooms for “exercise”. When they arrived at the lab, Michele told them that they would be testing a new anti-psychotic drug.

Michele spoke with each of her subjects to determine which four would be easiest to control. The others were to be given a lethal injection and taken to a disposal site. The drugs being tested had been created by Dr. Stein in hopes of creating a success that would make him a rock star of science.

The only heroes in this story are the cats responsible for the disposal of the unwanted test subjects. Somehow they managed to dilute the lethal dose so that the animal was unconscious but not dead. The cat responsible for disposing of the bodies would take them to a remote part of the city and leave them to wake up. There were six cats involved in this part of the operation.

Aftermath:

The Siamese “doctors” turned out to not have medical licenses. They have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license, insurance fraud and illegally receiving kickbcks. They are currently serving a sentence of six months as “ratters” at the federal penitentiary. They will then be under house arrest for another six months at a public housing project and probation for the rest of their lives. They are required to return all money they received illegally.

Dr. Stein was convicted of malpractice, insurance fraud and unlawful imprisonment. His medical license was revoked. He will spend a year as “class pet” for a first grade class in an undisclosed Staten Island school. He will then spend a year under house arrest and probation for the rest of his life. He is required to return all money he received illegally.

Michele was convicted of attempted murder, assault, and unlawful imprisonment. She will spend the rest of her life as a “bad example” during police presentations to school children. She is living in an undisclosed precinct, ratting for them at night.

The other four Burmese were convicted of unlawful imprisonment and insurance fraud. They have each been sent to a shelter specializing in dog adoptions to act as “ratters” for six months. They will then spend a year under house arrest and probation for the rest of their lives.

Orderlies who had been with the hospital for more than six months were convicted of cruelty to animals and sentenced to a year’s probation. They are prohibited from working at any medical facility for the rest of their lives. Orderlies who had been with the hospital for less than six months were not charged.

The six cats who assisted the patients in escaping have received honors from the city and placement in fast-track positions at Gibbons Medical Research.

The patients are receiving whatever psychological and/or mental health treatment they require and will receive job placement training when they are finished if their prior positions are no longer available.

Ed and Pavlov have formed a private investigation partnership specializing in medical fraud.

 

7

Bedlam in New York – Part 2

(This is part 2 of a 3-part story investigating Stringham Hospital, a psychiatric facility, and the doctors associated with it. Previously we heard an account from a former patient about his stay there. Patient names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

As reported by archy and mehitabel

At the end of Ed’s story, we were perplexed. Was there a story there or not? Maybe what Ed needed was a competent doctor. But stories of cats tormenting rodents sounded too close to the bad old days of New York City to ignore. We decided to split up to do some investigating.

From archy:

As a cockroach, it seemed natural that I would go to the offices of Dr. Igor, Dr. Boris, and Dr. Bela. I would be able to hide in a nook and listen. Even if I was discovered, it would just look like an addition to the neighborhood.

The office is in a well-kept part of a working neighborhood. They shared the building with several other medical practices. The sign said “Medical Office” under their names. I thought it was a little strange. Usually doctors specialize: “Small Animal Skin Disorders”, “Rodent Eating Disorders,” or the like.

I went one night and settled in a nice spot in the wall where I could get to any part of the office easily. I spent the first day with Dr. Igor. He only works in the mornings. In four hours, he saw twenty-five patients. Needless to say, he only spent a few minutes with each one. But that wasn’t a red flag. Lots of doctors barely see their patients anymore before diagnosing and writing a prescription.

He had a tablet that gave him the patient’s name, address, occupation, and insurance information. It also had the reason the patient was there. A typical visit went something like this:

Doctor: Hello Jack. Nice to meet you. I see you have a cold.

Jack: Well, I’ve been feeling….

Doctor: No need to get into that, I’ve been seeing a lot of patients like you.

(Looks at the tablet)

Doctor: You can pick up a prescription on your way out. Please come back in a week so I can make sure you’re better.

Dr. Igor’s patients got one of three instructions: I’m sorry I can’t help you, I need to refer you to Dr. F.N. Stein, or come back in a week.

Listening to Dr. Boris and Dr. Bela, I heard similar responses. What triggered which response?

The receptionist was Siamese, like the doctors, and talked a lot. I’m surprised the patients could get a word in. Every call was the same: patient species, patient name, patient address, patient phone, patient federal ID number, type of insurance, insurance numbers, and date of appointment. Interestingly, they did not accept cats as patients.

When she got off the call, she immediately called the insurance company to find out when coverage began, whether medical services were covered, if psychiatric services were covered, how long benefits would continue and whether there was monetary limit to the benefits.

From mehitabel:

I applied for a job at Stringham. At the interview, they said I looked like I would be good at managing patients and hired me as an orderly. Later I discovered that only pure-blood cats would be hired into administrative/executive positions. The rest of us would be orderlies, maintenance or cooks.

We “mutt cats” were treated as if we were invisible. It was degrading, but worked to my advantage. (Ed. Note –The term “mutt cat” was applied by the hospital. This paper does not discriminate based on species or parentage.)

When a patient arrived, the first thing we did was accompany them to their medical assessment. There were five cats (Norwegian Woods) on the panel, with a Dr. Stein as the leader. Everyone who came here was admitted. There was no appeal. If they made too much trouble, an orderly gave them a shot and dragged them to their room.

There were 15-20 animals in each room. We fed them once a day, kitty kibble. Once a week, we put down new litter. The place was beyond disgusting. The patients were mainly small animals with a few dogs thrown in. There were no feline patients.

Every morning, a Burmese named Michele would tell us which animals were to be taken to the lab. She was the head researcher. We took the animals to the lab. She decided which ones she needed that day and told her maintenance staff to get rid of the rest. The maintenance staff was three “mutt cats.” They took the unneeded animals out, and we never saw them again.

We orderlies waited outside until the experiments were over. We took the test subjects back to their room. Usually they were sedated to the point of insensibility.

They fired me after two weeks. They had decided I wasn’t the right “type” for the position.

 

Coming soon: Part 3: Putting the pieces together.

 

6

Bedlam in New York

(Bedlam refers to an English hospital for the insane. During much of its 600-year existence it was noted for its screaming, moaning “inmates”, who were often held in chains or locked in rooms. Others were allowed to roam the halls and generally left to their own devices.)

As reported by archy and mehitabel

Based on information from a former patient, we have been looking into conditions at Stringham Hospital. As you may be aware, Stringham specializes in behavioral medicine and psychiatry. We have changed the names of the patients in the interests of privacy. Further, we would like to point out that there are “bad apples” in every species.

Ed’s experience started with a visit to Dr. William Igor. Ed went to see Dr. Igor with what he considered to be a common case of depression. Dr. Igor prescribed a well-known mood stabilizer which had the effect of worsening the depression, as would be expected. At his follow-up visit, Ed reported increased depression to the point of suicidal thoughts.

Dr. Igor thought that was very bad and immediately admitted him to Stringham Hospital. Ed wanted to just quit the medication, so Dr. Igor had him admitted involuntarily as a threat to himself. Being admitted involuntarily meant that Ed could not sign himself out.

At this juncture, we should point out that Ed is a muscular Nonsense rat (ed. Note – it’s a real breed from India) and Dr. Igor is a rather small Siamese cat.

As soon as he reached Stringham, Ed needed to show his insurance cards. He never saw them again. He also had to hand over his watch, wallet, and all other personal items. (As a rat, it was a relatively simple process.)

Next step was to see the doctors. He was accompanied by two large alley cats. There was a panel of 5 Norwegian Forest Cats. They looked at Ed and started talking amongst themselves about lunch. Without asking Ed a question, they told him he was obviously demented. They told the orderlies to “Take him to cell 6, oops, we mean room 6.”

Six turned out to be a rather large room with about 20 animals of various species. There were a couple of large snarling dogs chained to one wall, rabbits scratching at a pen to get out, bats in a mesh cage, and several guinea pigs who looked catatonic. The rest of the animals were running around the room chasing each other.

Ed looked around. There was cat litter in each of the cages and a large litter box in one corner. He almost gagged and said to one of the orderlies, “Do you ever change the litter?” “Of course. It’s done every Wednesday.” Ed turned green (not easy when you’re covered in fur). It was Friday.

The orderlies turned to go. Ed asked, “What do I do now?” The cats smiled evilly and told him, “Just behave and do everything you’re told to do, and nothing will happen to you.” They locked the heavy door behind them.

Ed sat in a corner, dejected. Soon a white rat joined him. “Name’s Pavlov. Who are you?” “Ed. Why are you here?” “Went to the doctor for a sore throat. He said it was a sign of neurosis. Got thrown in here. That was six months ago.”

Ed was appalled, “Why are you still here?” Pavlov looked at him sadly, “Once you’re here you never get out.” “That’s ridiculous. It’s the 21st century. Who’s your doctor?” “Dr. Joseph Boris.” Ed remembered seeing Dr. Boris’ name on the door of Dr. Igor’s office.

“Pavlov, are there any other patients of Dr. Boris or Dr. Igor here?”

“Now that you mention it, most of us were admitted by those doctors. Or Dr. Bela.”

“What happens during the day here?”

“Not much. We’re not allowed to have books or magazines or TV. Sometimes they take some of us out. Those guys usually come back looking like that.” Points to the guinea pigs.

Ed notices that in addition to the drugged animals there are also some in coats tied behind their back. “What’s up with them?”

“Medication doesn’t work. Those coats aren’t very effective though. You can chew through them in a couple of hours.”

“Does everyone come back like that?”

Pavlov looks away. “A lot don’t come back.”

They ate their dinner of dry kibble and went to bed.

In the morning, Ed was among those chosen for an “exercise.” He was strapped to a chair, than felt a poke in his shoulder.

The next thing he remembers is waking up by the river with a note: “Hope you enjoyed your cat nap.”

 

Coming soon: Part 2: Is there a problem or is Ed really mentally ill?

2

That Was a Bad Idea

A couple of nights ago, it was really hot and humid here. We don’t have air conditioning so it was almost as uncomfortable inside as out. Horatio Hedgehog has his cage covered with a blanket so the sunlight doesn’t bother him while he’s sleeping.

I had forgotten to give him water that day, so I was worried about him. When I opened his cage, he was panting. I figured it was from the heat (not his grumpy personality.) Hedgehogs are supposed to love water and are good swimmers. Which had been the case with Jean Luc, his predecessor hedgehog.

So I put some water in our sink and brought out Horatio. When I put him in the water, he was not a happy hog. He immediately panicked and tried to get out. He managed to climb up the side of the stainless steel sink. I had to give him his favorite treat (wax worms) before he would calm down.

Speaking of bad ideas, I asked my (temporary) doctor for a note saying that I couldn’t unload pallets for more than 2 hours per day. I got the note. Unfortunately it says that I can’t do any repetitive motion for more than 2 hours/day. Which pretty much eliminates my entire job. I really need to enroll her for a course in empathetic listening.

It’s not just me. You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about Other Stocker and New Guy. New Guy didn’t last. First there was the work slow-down, then the quitting without calling in. Not the way to get a good reference.

But Other Stocker (OS) was the one with the really bad idea. The company is really strict about actually working while we’re on the clock (go figure). They even feel that we should be using the restrooms on our breaks/lunches (not gonna happen).

The deli and bakery are about as far from the break room as you can get. OS would pick out a bagel, pay for it, then go on break. Totally against the rules. It’s called abuse of time clock.

OS got caught one time and warned. He continued to do it without being caught. Until one day they got him again. He was called to Security and terminated.

The really stupid part about the whole thing is that his girlfriend was terminated a while back for abuse of time clock. She lived about 25 minutes from the store (why she would drive that far is beyond me). She always seemed to be running behind, so she’d pull up to the door, punch in, then go park her car. OS seemed to think it was reasonable because she lived so far away. It didn’t seem to occur to either of them that maybe she should leave the house earlier.

Probably the dumbest idea I’ve run across lately is from the guy in the next section over. He stocks overnight with another guy in dairy. The night people are supposed to take breaks consistently every two hours.

Dairy Guy (DG) has his own “system” and feels the need to not take his “lunch” until he should actually be taking his last break. And he usually schedules it so he misses unloading as much of the truck as possible. DG also has things he “has to do” before he goes to lunch.

The other day, one of the managers asked why DG was not working on the load. He went to find DG and told him to go help. DG was sure that his partner had ratted him out. DG was furious that his priorities should be questioned. He said that he was going to take his second break and leave on time. It was actually kind of amusing that he had thought he was impressing management by not taking his last break and working over every day.

The next day, DG went to the manager above the one who had “forced” him to help unload the truck. He told the manager that his “system” was being interrupted. The second manager agreed with the first one. I thought I was going to be stomped on if I got too close to one of his carts. It was the fastest any of us had ever seen him work.

At least Horatio will never tell anyone how I tried to drown him.

5

Some Doctors Should be Researchers

I finally went to the doctor yesterday for the numbness and pain in my hand and arm. I had an appointment with my own doctor last week, but somehow thought the appointment was at 3p when it really was at 2p. Unfortunately, it isn’t one of those places where you always have to wait 45 minutes so I had to reschedule.

But my doctor is on vacation this week. And she’s really busy next week because she’s on vacation this week. I had the same problem when I was sick awhile ago. She’s pretty popular. I think she’s really in the office, but they’re trying to give patients to some of the other doctors. The one I saw yesterday could use some help.

She walked into the room and asked if I had seen her before. She said she thought I had. I had no idea who she was, but said I wasn’t  sure. I felt like a bad first date. But it had only begun.

She asked why I was there. I don’t know if she didn’t read the intake the medical assistant had done 3 minutes earlier or wanted to see if I gave the same story twice.

So I told her about the numbness in my hand and the pain in my thumb. Her first question was which one I wanted her to treat. I’ve never had a doctor imply that they would only treat one of a possible number of problems. I didn’t bother telling her about the recurrence of tendinitis in my shoulder.

So I explained that I had had the numbness for several months but when I tried various braces they had caused pain in my thumb. The first one I tried is something they call a cock-up splint (that name has always embarrassed me). It forces your wrist to bend up slightly and is used for carpal tunnel.

She asked why I tried it. I told her that when I previously had wrist pain it had helped. Oh, OK. I don’t know if she’s had patients who used it for illicit purposes or what. Maybe there’s a black market.

It caused my thumb to hurt so I tried a regular brace from the store. Same result. She feels around the base of my thumb. It’s tendonitis and arthritis.

How long have I had the numbness? About six months. Which fingers are affected? All of them. That doesn’t make any sense. Each of the fingers has a separate set of nerves. I’m not sure what to say. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. She gets irritated. We can only work with the information you give us. In that case, believe me when I say that all of them get numb.

She says that it sounds carpal tunnelish, but that usually only affects some of the fingers. Do I want an EMG? Do I know what an EMG is? Apparently she didn’t really have an opinion.

We can’t treat the carpal tunnel until we fix the tendonitis. So she orders a thumb spica splint. (Who names these things?) I should take anti-inflammatories and apply ice.

I tell her cold make it hurts worse. She asks me if I mean that it makes it better. I say no, worse. Am I sure? Then apply cold. Cold makes it worse. It shouldn’t. Are you sure it doesn’t make it better? I work in a cooler. Trust me. Well go as cool as you can. ??

I ask about work. She says not to worry, it will keep my thumb stable. I mean I use my thumb at work. Well, you’ll have to make accommodations. Gee, thanks.

You’ll need to use the split for several weeks. Let us know if it doesn’t work. Really? You don’t believe that all of my fingers are numb or that ice doesn’t work. Do you think I’m really dumb enough to tell you the treatment doesn’t work?

She can’t decide whether she needs a hand x-ray. Decides to go with the EMG and splint. Tells me to talk to the receptionist about how to get them. Thank goodness we’re done.

Definitely should have double-checked the time on the original appointment.