I called this entry My Mental Week because sometimes patients and their lives can...weigh in on me. This week I had a lot of patients who I spent a great deal of time thinking about.
In Smalltown USA, I see so many people, so many sick people that need help - with no insurance. We have a sliding fee based on income, so we welcome them. This is quite different from Residency. As a Resident, I would be quick to treat a bladder infection with levaquin and not think twice. The vast majority of patients were insured and did not have a problem getting meds. But it is crazy it is to prescribe Levaquin to someone who's husband just lost his job and is struggling to feed 3 kids. Rarely do I prescribe something that is not available on the $4 list and hope that they can get that or treat various ailments with a shot or something available at the clinic or available through a perscription drug program.
Yesterday I saw a man who suffers from chronic pain after having a GSW many years ago. He confessed that he never filled his last script (for Meloxicam and Amitriptyline) because he could not afford it ($30 something dollars). I explained that if he could go to the next town to walmart and they would both be on the $4 list but soon learned he has no way to get to town and does not have $8. So he got a toradol shot. I don't know, I wish I could do more. I then offered him the flu shot and he declined saying "Every one I knows that got the flu shot got sick!" I quickly replied that I got it and I'm not sick (hoping not to jinx myself shortly after I said it). "But you're a doctor!" I couldn't convince him. lol.
Then I saw a lady regarding rapid weight loss - 35 pounds in 7 months! and only 51 years old! She weighs less than 90 lbs and just looking at her I know she has cancer (well, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure). I took a very detailed history. She smokes heavily (lung cancer?) has problems with constipation and bloody stools (colon cancer?) and she still has her ovaries (ovarian cancer?) and has not had a breast exam or mammogram in many years (breast cancer?). She asks me if we can just do some blood work to find out what it is and see if maybe a pill can fix it. She is very pleasant, jovial, and optomistic. As I ponder with how to approach this, I tell her that whenever someone has such rapid weight loss cancer is a definite possibility and she says "Oh, I know! I know! But if it is cancer, I don't want any drastic measures done, just keep me comfortable and let me die!" I counsel her about colon screening and my concerns with her bleeding and she declines. "I don't want to go through a lot of tests! Nothing invasive" I suggest pelvic exam (declines) and a breast exam and mammogram and give her the breast care pamplet as they will pay for that. She says she will think about it. I set her up for a chest Xray which she agrees too and basic blood work. Rapid HIV screen was negative. I will see her next week to review results. I considered ordering tumor markers like CEA, etc, but our lab can't do those and they are very expensive. I don't know if the basic lab will suggest any etiology (like liver metastisis or high alk phos / bone mets) but we shall see I guess. **sigh**
Also, I saw two young girls with Chlamydia. One acted like it was no big deal and the other was so hurt perhaps by her significant other that she could barely speak. I remind them that free condoms are always available here and give them some and encourage them to take care of themselves.
And I found out one of my sweetest patients is a drug seeker. I happened to talk with the ER doc in the next town who I did my Residency with and apparently she is in there several times a month scoring pain meds for various reasons. My nurse confirmed this with two pharmacies. On one visit, she had told me specifically that the ER gave her something for nausea and not pain and I actually believed her and gave her something. She filled a script for Darvocet and Vicoden (from 2 different doctors) at the same pharmacy on the same day!! SUCKER on my head I guess. She has an apt next week and I'll have to tell her no more narcotics from me. I don't know why I am so offended. I guess I thought I was pretty good at detecting drug seekers, but my radar completely missed her. No it's not the first time a patient lied to me, but...idk.