Posts Tagged Medicine

What’s In A Name

Veterinarians are simple practical people. This is reflected in the names of many veterinary diseases. Maladies like lumpy jaw, woody tongue, footrot, chronic wasting disease, white spot and white nose syndrome are sensible practical names that describe the most recognisable symptoms and tell you exactly what to expect.

Medicos, on the other hand, seem to think it more important to immortalise themselves by naming afflictions after themselves. Diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Wernicke’s disease, Perthe’s syndrome and Häusler’s disease, as well as being impossible to pronounce, tell you nothing about the condition except who first described it.

Perhaps it is time to follow the veterinary example? Instead of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease we could have “mad human” disease. Wernicke’s disease becomes “booze rots your brain” disease. Perthe’s syndrome turns into “motorcycle riding crushed chest” syndrome and Häusler’s disease morphs into “skier’s insanity”.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Hospital Hysterics

The other day I felt something odd inside my left cheek. At first I thought I had just bitten myself without realising but then I noticed the cheek was actually swollen. Over the next hour or so this swelling engulfed the side of my face and crept towards my lower lip. It then proceeded to spread along my entire lower lip until it looked like someone had gone seriously overboard with the silicone injection. As my lip now felt like it was going to burst and I was concerned about the swelling spreading into my throat and asphyxiating me, I took myself off to the local hospital’s emergency department.

As always emergency departments are a hive of frenetic activity, particularly in the evenings, and I marvelled at all the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff racing about much like bees in a hive. Each one had their job and I was very impressed with the skill and efficiency with which they carried them out. I was examined and treated promptly and courteously and cannot speak highly enough of the staff, even the nurse who blew my vein trying to get the catheter in. I have certainly blown more veins in my time than most people have had hot dinners.

Watching it all swirl by I reflected on my choice of profession and was glad to have picked veterinary medicine over human medicine. The hospital environment felt very confining and I don’t think I have the temperament to cope with that constant stream of people and their various ailments.

This decision is strongly supported by an experience I had many years ago. A friend of mine was one of the doctors in the emergency department at a large American hospital. He had dropped by with a friend of his to visit, and I had shown them around. Now my wife and I were visiting him and I thought it might be interesting to see the emergency department from the inside.

After some cajoling he agreed to let us tag along, as long as we threw on a pair of white coats and pretended to act like medical residents on rotation.

Much of the day passed reasonably uneventfully but then a fellow came in who had been in a car accident. He was not seriously injured but he had tried to ram his head through the windscreen, resulting in a nasty gash to the top of his head. My friend took him into one of the consulting rooms, and we dutifully followed. He then proceeded to clean and disinfect the patient’s head, inject local anaesthetic and start stitching the wound. I leaned in a little closer for a better look and marvelled at how similar human medicine is to veterinary medicine.

It was then that I started feeling a little odd. My wife told me afterwards that she was wondering why I had started leaning against her so heavily. As all loving wives do she stepped aside and I crashed to the ground. Through my rapidly receding consciousness I could dimly perceive the room exploding into chaos. My doctor friend leapt to his feet and began elevating mine. The patient wanted to know what was going on, obviously thinking I had made a rather bad career choice. And I lay on the ground feeling perplexed and confused.

As a zoo veterinarian I was certainly no stranger to blood and entrails, having necropsied elephants, giraffes and even a whale. So what was this all about? I could only conclude that I had some kind of an issue with damaged human skin. To this day it continues to astonish me, the way my body’s unconscious desire to pass out completely overrode my body’s conscious desire to watch the task at hand.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Turn Your Head And Cough

Socialized medicine seems like a pretty good idea to me and I cannot really understand why so many people are opposed to it. I recently finished a Lionel Shriver book entitled, “So Much For That”. One of the main characters is diagnosed with mesothelioma and, if the book is at all accurate about US health care, then it truly boggles the mind that one chemotherapy treatment could cost as much as $40,000! Who can afford that? And the idea that your place of employment should fund your health care also seems bizarre.

While the Australian system of Medicare is not perfect it certainly seems to work a lot better, based on the World Health Organisation’s Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (a measure of the number of years of life expected to be lived in full health, or healthy life expectancy): http://search.who.int/search?q=disability+adjusted+life+expectancy+&ie=utf8&site=who&client=_en_r&proxystylesheet=_en_r&output=xml_no_dtd&oe=utf8&getfields=doctype&as_q=filetype:pdf . Using this index Australia comes in at number two (behind the Japanese), whereas the US pops up at number 24.

While I have no major complaints about Medicare the Australian government decided some years ago that it was tired of funding Australia’s health care and wanted the public to carry more of the burden i.e. take out more private health cover. Instead of using the carrot method by lauding the advantages of private health care they chose to use the stick method by fining tax payers an additional 1-1.5% of their incomes if they did not have private health insurance at the end of each tax year. And the longer you wait to take it out the more expensive the cover becomes.

I admit that private cover can be useful for things like dental and optical, as they are not covered by Medicare (why is beyond me. Don’t most of us have eyes and teeth?). Unfortunately being insured for those extras does not remove the surcharge. For that you need to take out full private cover, and what do you get for it? Virtually nothing.

Private health insurance is supposed to cut waiting lists. I still had to wait six weeks to see a cardiologist (lucky I wasn’t having a heart attack) and my son had to wait three months to see a wrist specialist. The private insurance covered none of these costs, leaving me $500 out of pocket after my son’s MRI and X-rays. Obviously the amount Medicare reimburses patients for a specialist consultation is based on what they were charging in the 1950s.

Apparently private health cover lets me choose my own doctor and hospital, but who has the background knowledge to decide between Sleep Apnoea Specialist A and Sleep Apnoea Specialist B? Don’t we just let our GP choose for us? And once I had my Sleep Apnoea Specialist he told me which hospital I would be visiting for my sleep test, a hospital that left me $800 out of pocket for one night’s stay.

Ironically, when I had my nose surgery that specialist did give me a choice of hospitals. I could wait three months and have the surgery in his nice inner city private hospital, which would still have left me hundreds of dollars out of pocket, or I could wait three months and go to the nice rural public hospital where the entire procedure would cost absolutely nothing, because it then fell under the Medicare umbrella. Needless to say I chose the room with the kangaroos grazing outside and the birds chirping merrily in the trees.  

I imagine they chirped so merrily because they weren’t being ripped off by private health insurance companies, backed by the government. Maybe it is really a three way conspiracy with the health funds in bed with the government and the accountants. Much as I would like to make it a four way conspiracy veterinarians, naively, appear to put their clients’ interests first. Instead of pushing for twice yearly check-ups veterinarians have discovered that their vaccinations work too well, only requiring boosters every three years, meaning that you don’t need to bring Rover or Puss in Boots back for a booster every year. How stupid is that?

Dr. F. Bunny

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