Daze of My Life: Dying To Find Out, Sort Of

Daze of My Life
Dying To Find Out, Sort Of

I have to admit, the pain was a bit unusual, and it had migrated so, at my wife, Dina's, insistence, I made the trek to my HMO's emergency room, relayed my symptoms to the receptionist and took a seat in their waiting room. All things considered, the wait wasn't interminable, nor was it hours; of course, it wasn't minutes, either, but given the holiday-nature of the day, it could have been much worse.
And apparently, so could the diagnosis. After having my vital signs taken by a nurse, and answering questions from a physician's assistant, there was no clear picture (heck, at this point, it wasn't even blurry, it was completely befuddling, even after the chest x-ray was viewed) to explain my discomfort. It was so befuddling that the physician's assistant actually involved a doctor.
He asked me the standard questions. My answers offered no standard help. So much so that I remember asking the doctor, if it only hurt when I make certain movements, perhaps I shouldn't make those movements; and then watching as the doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yes, probably." And so I was excused, with the ever popular: "If it gets worse, come back." And symptom-wise, it didn't; it got better, until five days later.
That's when the same female physician's assistant called back. Still puzzled by my pain and lack of symptoms, she had, on her own initiative sought out the opinion of a Radiologist to review my chart/x-ray. Based on that consultation, I was urged to go to my nearest HMO pharmacy, that evening, to pick up a precautionary prescription to begin taking immediately. The concern was, despite being asymptomatic; perhaps I had a touch of pneumonia. And so it continued.
The next day, still improving and symptom free, my HMO called to tell me that they had ordered a CT Scan. Somewhat perplexed by their uncharacteristic speed, I nonetheless complied and went the very next day. TWO HOURS after completing the scan, my primary doctor called to discuss the results. Unfortunately - and surprisingly - there was cause (given my age and health history) for concern.
Perhaps I'd like to schedule an appointment to discuss the findings, my doctor suggested. "No, just tell me," I said. And so he did. There were lesions on my lungs that might be malignant. WHAT! Still unsure, however, the doctor scheduled an appointment with a pulmonary specialist as soon as possible. Two hours later, ON THE SAME DAY, the appointment was made for the next afternoon, with a P.E.T. scan to follow, all of which seemed incredibly fast and efficient given my previous experiences with this same HMO. Nevertheless, I was appreciative of their record-breaking haste.
The pulmonary doctor didn't interpret the x-ray and CT scan as the cancer threat that my primary care doctor and radiologist had (canceling the P.E.T. scan in the process), but nonetheless, suggested I return in a week, take a second x-ray and see what develops. And so I did. Still symptom free.
A week later, I'm back with the pulmonary specialist, second x-ray in hand. The second x-ray confirmed the doctor's suspicions that maybe I had indeed had pneumonia and so two weeks after the initial fact, I was once again excused; with the "We'll call you if ... " good bye.
THE NEXT DAY, the pulmonary doctor calls back to say that, upon further review with yet another radiologist, he now wants to me to see another doctor, a thoracic surgeon.
Five days later, I see the thoracic surgeon; x-rays and CT scan in hand. Likewise puzzled by what he sees, he apologized for his inconclusiveness and says he too, would like to review the x-ray and scan with his radiologist to get a better understanding A biopsy and/or surgery are certainly possible but he's not sure. Moreover, he's not sure another diagnostic test (P.E.T. scan, M.R.I.) would clarify anything. Let him review everything he asks, and he'll get back to me, probably in the next day or two.
THE NEXT DAY, the thoracic surgeon calls back to tell me that he now thinks I should have the P.E.T scan and to schedule it as soon as it's convenient. And so it continues.
Four weeks later and still wondering. I wouldn't say I'm worrying yet, however, but I am beginning to have a little trouble falling asleep.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.