Last week my right knee was a little stiff, which I attributed to colder temperatures and my mounting years, but by Sunday it was painful to walk. By Tuesday I went to my pain guru, John "Rhet" Blake, and he was out of town. But yesterday it was really screaming and, since Erlanger’s orthopaedic crowd and I have a particular disdain for one another, I hobbled into the “walk-in clinic” – no pun intended – at the Chattanooga Bone and Joint Surgeons on Gunbarrel Road.
I would be remiss and negligent in my duties as a town crier if I didn’t report it was one of the most pleasant experiences in my myriad of medical encounters. Get this: no phone call, no appointment, no schedule. I think people should know what a dandy experience it was because this old world is chock full of bad experiences at doctor’s offices, trust me. All I did was show up and say “Hello everybody.”
By the time I finished the forms I was summoned back and, as one who has experienced a lot of doctor’s offices and knows the routine, there are medical practices across the country that should study and replicate the blanket of kindness every member of the staff exhibits to the patients at Chattanooga Bone and Joint Surgeons. It was so blatant I noticed it and I was soon flabbergasted by the whole thing.
Jeremy Bruce, a surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and complex orthopaedic cases, got me fixed up in no time, as a lot of trained doctors can do, but he was kind, inquisitive, sensitive and I could tell here was a guy who really cared about me. I’d never met him and now I’ll never forget him. You may think this is silly but it’s a big deal. Does your doctor impress you like that?
I’ve had surgeries all over the country, which I am not particularly proud of, and I’ve had the best and I’ve had the worst. I’ve been the patient and I’ve been the chunk of meat. The Hayes Hand Center/Plastic Surgery and Academic Internal Medicine at Erlanger are as good as any I’ve ever seen, but Chattanooga Bone and Joint Surgeons is my newest glittering gem.
I’m a big admirer of the University Surgical Group at Erlanger and the urology crowd is really good right now. Thank God I haven’t had to see Tom Devlin and his world-class stroke team, but after a couple of bad experiences I can promise that if you use any Emergency Room team besides Erlanger in Chattanooga it is my learned opinion you may be making a big mistake.
For a long time I found you could actually drive to Vanderbilt and be seen quicker than you could by some local doctors who’ll leave you in waiting rooms for three hours or more. It is no secret that several years ago, when Erlanger management was bad, a lot of the best doctors fled our Region’s Level I trauma center and today the real truth is Kevin Spiegel and his executive team are now fixing what is broken.
Here’s the opposite. There were a couple of times this summer when I couldn’t eat because the food wouldn’t go down. So my doctor arranged for me to see a certain gastroenterologist in Chattanooga. I was told their office would contact me and, sure enough, roughly three weeks later a clerk finally called and arranged for me to see a nurse practitioner -- in another three weeks.
The nurse practitioner decided I should undergo three tests that would be done at outpatient facilities in the weeks to come. I also (stupidly) signed a bunch of forms, one demanding a $200 “fee” if I missed a scheduled appointment. Then I was told the doctor who I had been referred to six weeks earlier would – get this -- see me in another two months.
But when I tried to make an appointment before I left the office, I was told the doctor was already booked and to please call in a week or so and schedule my meeting by telephone. In other words, wait a week and then the wait will be even longer.
In short, it was the craziest deal I had ever gotten into and I baled faster than I would from a flaming airplane. Anybody that falls for a plan that takes over three months to see a doctor is a fool. There is a private practice in Chattanooga right now that’s worse than the Veteran’s Administration, I’m telling you, and the patients fall for it.
The moral of the story is simply this – if you are unhappy with your doctor, by all means get away from trouble and find a good one. I believe the patient is in charge of his or her well-being. If you want to pay money to be jerked around by a rude nurse, or “the system,” or someone who doesn’t appreciate you entrusting your care to them, what a terrible thing to do to yourself.
Chattanooga is blessed with some great doctors and, boy oh boy, did I ever luck up on Wednesday at Chattanooga Bone and Joint Surgeons.