Since I have a medical background myself and am blest as the parent of two awesome medical practitioners it might seem strange for me to share some less than perfect experiences in the medical area but…… goes.

These last twelve weeks I have been wearing a finger splint to correct a torn tendon at the tip of my right middle finger. No big deal – but on my initial visit the orthopedist thought the splint could come off at five weeks. When I went back for the five week check up I learned that the technician responsible for fitting finger splints had put mine on upside down. I am the mother of five children but of the many and varied physical ailments to befall our family I have had no experience with finger splints.

As we age it is a fact of life doctor visits are going to be more and more a part of our daily routine. The orthopedist I saw for my hand is part of the same practice where I get shoulder and knee issues tended to. I had never seen this hand specialist but I think highly of the knee /shoulder specialist so I was hopeful that the good medical vibes would carry over to the hand man. Not so. It felt like he whizzed in and out of the examining room while telling me after he saw my x-rays that with the proper splint, which their technician would apply, I could resume all activities.

That afternoon Jerry and I golfed – or at least I tried to. The hurt finger was supposedly being protected by the splint. The problem was that every time I swung the club, the rigid plastic material of the upside down splint with its sharp edge dug into the part of the finger not covered by the splint. After a couple of holes I just stuck to chipping and putting where a full swing was not required. For the next weeks I continued to work on my chipping and putting; otherwise I walked the fairways with Jerry and took in all the wonderful natural beauty of the course .

When five weeks had passed and I had my return appointment with the specialist I learned of the goof by the splint technician and I also learned that since my finger had not healed properly, I would have to wear the splint for six more weeks . When I pointed out to the tech – fortunately not the same one as before – how uncomfortable the edges of the splint were for the rest of my hand, he offered me one made of hard leather that had soft edges. It is so much more comfortable – why wasn’t I offered that material the first time around?

Another unsatisfactory medical experience was when I received a postcard in the mail from the gastroenterologist reminding me that it was time again for a colonoscopy. Since I am a believer in staying on top of medical needs I dutifully made an appointment and went in to see him. His opening greeting was less than appealing: “what are you doing here?”. l proudly let him know that as soon as I got his reminder card I had made an appointment. I think I was expecting a pat on the back for being such a conscientious patient. Instead the gastro doc quickly informed me that once you hit 80 , unless you are experiencing symptoms that merit further investigation, you are considered too old for a colonoscopy. I felt properly chastised,

I got my first “you’re too old” admonition two years ago when on a visit to the gynecologist she said I didn’t need to keep up with yearly visits any more. – now that I was past 80. I am a breast cancer survivor and the yearly visit and the yearly mammogram have been a non- negotiable part of my maintaining a good health care routine. My gynecologist of about twenty five years years had just retired – over the course of the years this doctor and I had developed a very friendly doctor/patient relationship. At my check up the previous year she had told me of her impending retirement. The doctor I was now seeing had bought out her practice. This doctor suggested that I discuss new mammogram and GYN scheduling with my internist. Such an impersonal dismissal ( which was what it felt like to me) would have been harder to take if not for the fact that I like my internist.

As we age the frequency of doctor visits increases. It becomes all the more important that we have faith and trust in those medical personal whose expertise we may need to call on. Aging can get complicated, and there can be medical misadventures. It was not a smart move on my part to put up with the pain of the finger splint. I should have returned to the hand specialist sooner. We must be our own best advocates for good medical care.

“ Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” This quote from Betty Friedan is a good motto to live by!!!


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