Tuesday, July 7, 2009


On November 6th of last year, my daughter (the older one, almost 19) was hit by a car while she was crossing the street. She was at a traffic light, the light was green, the walk sign was on, and a girl about her age who happened to be texting while driving turned left and hit her. Those of you who have followed me from my old blog have already heard the story.

Megan broke her right tibia/fibula. It was an open fracture, she was hospitalized, had surgery, was sent home with an estimated 3-4 month recovery time.

It's been eight months. During three of those months she needed round the clock care - she could walk with crutches, but she was unable to carry anything, do anything for herself including cooking, carrying things, getting up out of bed, getting up and down the stairs independently.

Eight months later, almost to the day, she's still using a crutch or cane, she's only able to weight bear 50%. Her lower leg is swollen, and sometimes hot to the touch. We've seen our family practitioner and our surgeon multiple times. Sometimes I can go with her, and sometimes I can't. She wants answers. She gets platitudes:

"Some people take longer to heal than others."

"Do you smoke (no!)If you smoke, it will take longer for you to heal."

"Just keep going to physio, and here, try this ultrasound machine."

"We'll assess in two, four, six, ten weeks. You might need additional surgery."

Last week, her physiotherapist wrote a note to her GP, requesting that Megan receive a second orthopedic opinion. Apparently her muscles have healed, and are fully strengthened. But she still can't walk properly, or weight bear.

Which means that she can't work, go to school, go for a walk longer than two or three blocks, ride a bike, dance, do the normal things that 19 year olds like to do. She needs to keep her leg elevated a lot of the time, because if she doesn't it will swell. So no movies or concerts (I sneaked her out to see the Indigo Girls, but she elevated her leg on the ride down to Buffalo and back).

She volunteers at my workplace although it gives her pain because she's desperate to leave the house.

It will be a very long time before she works retail again. She's a high-school dropout. Retail is all she knows. She will likely not be able to do any work that requires prolonged standing.

My kid is strong. Her sudden loss of independence has been a test of her strength, and she's come out on top, emotionally. But she's paying for someone else's carelessness.

First of all, drivers need their hands on the steering wheel. I've used my cell phone in the car, only if I have to, but for crying out loud, why would anyone think it's okay to take their hand (s) off the wheel and then proceed to look down to write a text message? That's just dumb.

And then there are the worthies in the medical profession. The doctors who have not taken my daughter seriously. Who, even now, are disregarding her symptoms, and ignoring her questions. She's been asking the same question for months and no one has given her an answer.

What's wrong with my leg?

Surely a family physician and an ortho surgeon can put their heads together and arrive at an answer. Or seek out the opinion of colleagues. Or something.

But no, she gets platitudes.

Today, she went to our family doctor to ask, for the third time, for a second medical opinion. The doctor refused - she wants Megan to stay with the same surgeon for some unfathomable reason. So Megan asks the questions again.

What's wrong with my leg?
Why is it swelling?
Sometimes it's hot to the touch, and the skin is red. Is this normal?

And today, someone got their head out of their butt, and decided, maybe, just maybe she may have a blood clot. So they booked an appointment for a doppler and sent her home.

I should mention that blood clots are a serious and well-known complication of both surgical procedures and lower leg fractures. One would think that doctors would be checking, oh, routinely for that sort of thing. But eight months out, this is the first time anyone has checked her, listened to her symptoms which have not changed in months, and followed up.

They sent her home.

Without explaining what a blood clot is. Without explaining the risk factors, or telling her how to care for herself. I only know about the appointment because she doesn't have a phone, and the doctor's office called me to give the appointment time.

No one talked to her about pulmonary embolisms. About the symptoms to look for (chest pain, shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, feeling lightheaded or faint). They just sent her home. Alone.

It's not necessarily good practice to scare people, but really, some basic self-care is required. Rest. Elevate the leg. Watch for warning signs of complications. Is that too difficult?

Or do medical professionals feel that routine instructions are beyond the capacity of a young female?

What if I were asking the questions? Or her stepdad? Would we be getting different answers, more complete answers? If we were pushing for a second opinion, I bet the doctor would allow us to seek one out.

Ageism. Sexism. The thing is, my daughter has been living independently since shortly before she turned 18. She is a competent adult. She can figure things out. As a human being, she deserves to be treated the same as any other adult woman or man who walks into a doctor's office, or who is carried through emergency room doors on a stretcher.

If she has a blood clot, she's had it for months. My kid has been a walking time bomb and I didn't even know. She could have died. She might, still. What would I do without her?

I'm worried. and I'm completely pissed off. Can you tell?


Earth Muffin said...

That is all just inexcusable. You and your daughter have every right to be upset and concerned. I hope you get the answers you need and I hope your daughter is back to her old self very soon.

Jess said...

OMG. I'm so sorry that your daughter (and you) has had to go through this. I don't understand why they'd make her suffer for so long without trying to find a cause. Healthcare in America sucks.

~Just me again~ said...

I'm sorry too. I expected to hear that kind of treatment in the states, well in Texas where my g/f is. But here in Canada? I shake my head.

Hope something gets solved soon!

Camlin said...

Jess and EM - thanks so much for the well-wishes. Megan would thank you too, if she knew that I'd posted about her.

The good thing about Canadian health care: its universality. If I had to pay(out of pocket) for the treatment she's received I'd be destitute. And everyone who lives here receives the same medical care.

The not so good thing: the system has been so badly depleted of resources that we have waiting lists for many things. It's hard to find a GP, and when you get one, you keep her. Mediocrity flourishes where medical professionals are overworked and underpaid. I'm one of the few who would happily pay higher taxes for better, universal medical care.

I also think that her age and her gender worked against her. Had she been older, and/or male, I think that someone would have listened to her long before now.

Robin said...

This is the first I've known about this, Anna.

First of all, even with what you are going through, I am so grateful that her only injury was to her leg. I was so frightened when I read that she had been struck by a car.

And secondly--and far more importantly--it's good that you're pissed. Get more pissed. Stay pissed. Until you get answers. Yes, advocate for her--nothing happens in medicine these days until people push. So push.

Someone once said to me "You have every right to be outraged. Something outrageous has happened to you." I pass that along.

Ironically, my daughter (who you know better than I know yours) just latched on to a new show on TV (I think it's on the Science Channel) called Mystery Diagnosis. She's addicted. Every show is two cases of people who had elusive diagnoses with lots of symptoms--sometimes it's a huge deal in the end, sometimes not. But all of them express that people shoved them off with "Oh, it's x or y or z". It was only their dogged persistence and insistence (and yes, anger) that got them answers.

How crazy that she could have had an embolism. How insane that no one checked. It sounds very much like a clot--why wouldn't they have checked for that?

I share your grief, your outrage, your anger. Time to go on the warpath, sister.

Jude said...

You and you daughter have a right to be worried and angry about the length of time her leg is taking to heal. She's young, it shouldn't take this long.

Hope the Dr's find the cause of the troubles. If not, keep on pestering them until you get the answer.

Camlin said...

Just Me Again - ironically, when I had surgery in the states, I was shocked at how well I was treated. It's amazing what money can buy. What concerns me are the US citizens who have no financial means of accessing any health care.

Robin - I posted about Megan's accident on my old blog. She's a huge part of my life - I don't often write about her now that we're past the rebellion/angst/scary teenage risk-taking stage...but that is evolving. She's not as sensitive to me blogging about her as she used to be (especially now that I have mostly positive things to say).

From now on, she doesn't go to a medical appointment alone. If either myself or my ex can't go, we'll find someone who can. I am outraged, and I'm not about to watch my child suffer any more for the sake of incompetence.

Ang said...

I am sorry your daughter and you are going through this. This simply isn't right. I hope that they figure out what is wrong and things can be more clearer. You all are in my thoughts.

Camlin said...

Jude, Ang: Thanks so much!

shane rocket said...

go for a second, third, fourth opinion. poor girl. keeping you and your daughter in my thoughts... sending positive energy your way.

Old Crone said...

Push, push, push. Tell her she needs to push, and then push for her. That needs to be taken care of ASAP. I'm so sorry she is still going through so much pain. It has to be hard to lose your independence like that.

Anonymous said...

I remember that scary post and I can't believe it's been so long. I really thought that she was doing well so it breaks my heart to read this. I'm just really, really sorry for both of you. Please keep us posted - I'll be thinking of you.

Solo Homo said...

Cam, STAY PISSED OFF!! Bang on doors, rattle some windows, scream at the top of your lungs if you must.

I am one of the fortunate that lives in the City hosting the largest Medical Center in the world, and admittedly may be somewhat oblivious to the reality of the Medical system in general.

Kudos to you for being a Great Mom, a determined Advocate, and
Woman with a BACKBONE!

I'm so very sorry that you've both had to endure this nightmare. But never give up.

Dawg said...

This is the typical downfall of Canadian healthcare. It's great that all Canadians have access to it, but ultimately, it keeps falling short.

Sounds like she needs to make more noise about her situation. Letters, phone calls, etc.

Nulaanne said...

Your daughters case is one reason that I don't want universal health care here in the states. Right now I can and have fired Doc's who have not and don't take me seriously.

Pissed off is a good place to be. You should be, and so sould she. Do not give up on this, and if it comes to it even thought it costs it might be worth a trip south of the border.

Camlin said...

Solo - thanks! That's the thing -there's always something worth fighting for!

Dawg - I agree.

Nulaane - perhaps it's the idealist in me, but I believe that money or insurance coverage should not determine the level of health care treatment that one gets. No system is perfect, and no system can completely eliminate incompetents. But overall, I like what we have. Thanks to OHIP (ontario's helath insurance) I had my gastric bypass surgery in the states covered completely. I'm alive, mobile and happy today because of that surgery. It would have been better if the surgery had been available closer to home, but at least my insurance recognized my medical issues, and covered the cost of treatment, no waiting. If I lived in the US, in the same circumstances I have now, I would probably have health insurance, but Megan would not. She was 18 and barely employed when the accident took place. So while I am angry at individual doctors, and I wish I had more options (she does have a right to a second opinion and she will get one), I am not ready to hcuk out the entire system. For every example where the system did not work, I can relate a story or more where it did. I'm anemic. I was notified by my doctor and had blood transfusions within the same day, no waiting. I've accessed our system for mental health care when it was required (only once). I'm grateful that we have our health care system here because without it, I might be dead right now, or at least seriously debilitated.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you have ever right to be pissed. The way they are handling that is BS. But I know what you mean because the doctors here are the same way. I went 8 years not knowing about lupus and arthritis because the doctors did the exact same to me, till I found a good one. And it was many docs till then. I hope that this test pulls through for you and your daughter comes out of this with no problems. keep pushing with these doctors, sometimes that is what you have to do.

Avril Fleur said...

You know, it just sounds like plain old laziness, and passing the buck to me. The people who have seen her can't seem to be bothered to go the extra step and give her the care and attention that she needs. They have probably pigeon-holed her as a whiny teenager, or impatient young girl who can't take a little pain. My step-daughter often has trouble speaking up for herself or pushing issues that need to be pushed because she is around Megan's age and often gets overlooked and ignored. It's unconscionable and should not be put up with! I'm glad she has you and N to advocate for her, but she shouldn't have to need you to.

Nulaanne said...

I work in health care and I don't like insurance companies, I don't like that with out money there is no health care here. What I do like is the ability to move from doctor to doctor if needed.

Heath care here needs to be fixed, I know that no system is perfect. I just don't want to loose the ability to choose who I see when and if I need to use them.

~seelenschmerz~ said...

hey Camlin..i was quite saddened to read about your daughter's accident...maybe it hit closer to home for me as our daughters seem to be the same age.
when it comes to my kids and the often stupid, lame, i'm-obviously-God-because-i'm-a-doctor attitude, i get like a mother bear and i don't stop until i get the right answers or the action needed to heal my kids.
if i know you, girl, you'll do the same thing.
my thoughts are with you and your daughter.