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Hurry Up and Wait

Posted Nov 04 2010 6:21pm

The day after injecting Humira brought a nasty headache once again today (see earlier post ). But this was the least of the RA-related issues as I reflected on an upcoming appointment with an orthopedic surgeon regarding what is suspected to be tears in both Achilles tendons . After my rheumatologist recommended that I see a specialist, I made an appointment which ended up being 14 days out. This two week wait would not normally be an issue if it weren’t for the increasing pain and impact on mobility. Within the past couple of days, walking has become downright difficult and even impossible at times. Growing more frustrated, I decided to call the orthopedic clinic to see what I should do. They were very gracious and understanding and checked to see if there was an earlier opening. There was not and they indicated that they could not recommend any action since I hadn’t yet been examined.

I can’t really complain as my 14 day wait to see the surgeon is actually on the low end based on a survey. As cited in an article in Business Week ,

A 2004 survey by medical recruitment firm Merritt, Hawkins & Associates found the average time needed to see an orthopedic surgeon ranges from 8 days in Atlanta to 43 days in Los Angeles”. [i]

While maybe not to the level of countries with nationalized health care, the time that Americans wait to get into see a doctor is increasing. Some states have even passed laws on how long patients must wait for certain reasons. [ii]

My situation is not urgent or life-threatening. I understand how the system works and am glad to have made an appointment with a specialist with a relatively short wait. In the meantime, I have to take some action to get through the next few days. That includes copious amounts of topical Voltaren gel (diclofenac sodium)  since I can’t take oral NSAIDS , staying off my feet as much as possible, partially immobilizing my right ankle with a brace I used post surgery a few years back, and wearing shoes that don’t push on the Achilles tendons (Birkenstocks would be great, but it’s Autumn in Seattle). My wife suggested putting on the CAM walker (boot) that was used to immobilize my ankles after the last two surgeries. It’s still sitting in my closet, along with crutches and a cane. Call it denial, but I’m trying to avoid those measures for the time being.

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