Category Archives: Health Care

Close Encounters Of The Dog Kind

Here’s how it goes:

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That’s Boo, our new-ish 5-month-old Catahoula. As you could gather from the photo, she is not a shy being. She doesn’t know much yet, but everything is her business. In her canine way, she shoots first and asks questions later.
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That’s the Brazos River, blustering along after about two weeks worth of constant rain, running at a depth of about 41 feet instead of the usual 11. In our part of the state, the Brazos is heavily wooded, and populated by all manner of critters. When floodwater covers up miles of animal habitat, those animals move up the riverbanks. As the river rises, the critters rise with it. Among these are many varieties of snakes.

We had been gradually allowing Boo to spend more of her time unsupervised – along with her older dog uncle, Bosco – in the fenced-in back yard. She has discovered squirrels, and began sneaking through the bushes trying to catch one.

It was Wednesday evening and time for her last meal of the day. I went out to bring her in, and my daughter told me she couldn’t be found. My wife and son joined us outside combing the yards, calling her. Ten minutes went by, and no luck. We all were getting worried. I grabbed a flashlight and started crawling under the house, the only place we hadn’t yet looked.

Boo was there in a corner, shaking slightly and holding up a swollen paw, looking somewhat in shock.

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She’d been snake-bitten, but of course the snake was nowhere to be found. Probably it happened in some bushes along the yard’s periphery, and she ran under the house where she felt safest.

Our veterinarian provides emergency care, but he was somewhere in the outback de-horning cattle. His assistant recommended giving Boo 50 mg. of Benedryl and calling the only area emergency animal care center, in Sugar Land. People at the center told us to bring the dog in right away.

I wasn’t happy with their methods. Instead of consulting with us while looking over the dog, and then agreeing on a treatment, they whisked her away and apparently diagnosed her in a back room somewhere, then came out and tried to push $1,900 in tests and procedures on us, including administering antivenin. I’d read that antivenin isn’t usually needed for a copperhead or water moccasin bite – one of which is almost certain to have delivered the bite in this case. I’d also read that antivenin causes a violent allergic reaction in something like 10% of dogs. The clinic vet and I didn’t get along. She wanted to keep Boo overnight and give a series of three blood tests, plus the antivenin. We settled on them giving us an antibiotic and some pain medication, and we took her home. She marked “AMA” on our invoice – “against medical advice.”

Our regular vet told me the next morning that the blood tests the Sugar Land clinic had insisted on served no purpose given the circumstances. He confirmed what I’d read about antivenin, and said about the only time it’s needed in this part of Texas is in a case where a large rattlesnake bites a dog in the chest. He also told me we were correct to bring our beast home. Most young, healthy dogs such as Boo would recover unscathed from a copperhead bite without any treatment at all, he added – although it would surely be a painful recovery. In Boo’s case, her left front paw seemed hugely swollen Wednesday night – all the way to her elbow. The next morning at our vet’s, the swelling had gone down on its own to about half of what it had been. He gave her a $20 penicillin and steroid shot, and three or four hours later it was hard to see any swelling at all.

There’s still a nasty wound just above her paw pad, and we have to watch her closely to make sure it doesn’t become infected, but I think in another three or four days the whole episode will be just a distant memory.

Not too distant in the dog’s memory, though, I hope, as given the fact we live in the woods along a major river in the Deep South, it’s a certainty this won’t be the only snake that crosses her path.

Also posted in Brazos River, Critters, Texas

Rise of the Doc-In-A-Box

This has nothing whatever to do with the rise of so-called Obamacare, as the condition was present before O-care and persists still.

Maybe this isn’t the case in your locale, but I can tell you that in and around the urban amoeba known as Houston, simply being able to obtain an appointment with a medical doctor requires herculean effort if not divine intervention.

We adore our family physician, and a couple of years ago when our kids’ pediatrician retired, we were pleased that she was willing to bring them in as regular patients.

It hasn’t gone so well since then. Apparently her practice has taken on several hundred new patients besides our kids. It’s become impossible to find an open spot for an appointment for the entire coming week. If it’s a near-emergency (as opposed to an emergency-room emergency), the appointment person relays a message to our doctor’s assistant-nurse, who is supposed to call back to let us know if we can squeeze into a slot. But the nurse never calls until the next day.

That’s pretty unacceptable, and not the way things used to be a few years ago. As a result, we’ve been forced on several occasions to make use of the doc-in-a-box CVS keeps on staff at one of their stores a few miles away. The inability to be able to get in to see our regular doctor caused me to go to Walgreens to get flu shots for myself and my kids last year, with horrible results.

On those occasions when a family member is able to actually book an appointment with our family doctor, that person has to wait what I consider an outlandish length of time – usually two hours or more beyond the time the appointment was made.

Thus, even though we adore our family doctor, we are on the lookout for someone else, for the reasons listed above. Unfortunately, so far no one locally whose opinion I trust has a better family doctor situation than we do.

In other words, apparently the entire Houston area is plagued by such a lack of qualified primary care physicians that you can’t get in to see one without sacrificing pretty much half of a work day, or more, and having to schedule that sacrifice 10 days in advance.

So increasingly, we’re all at the mercy of the anonymous dox in boxes. And that’s just those of us who possess actual medical insurance.

Is this the way it works where you live?

When I gaze into my crystal ball, I think I see the rise of the neighborhood healer.

Also posted in Grumpy Old Man Does Retail

Government Ebola Policies Inch Toward Logic

It’s taken way, way too long, but I am happy to report that the politicians in charge of our medical response to the Ebola crisis have finally begun taking the actions I recommended more than a week ago. (I’m certain my widely quoted blog turned the tide for common sense.)

Initially, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that every hospital across the country be prepared to isolate and treat Ebola patients, should they somehow arrive. Now that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas so clearly demonstrated the flaws inherent in this CDC plan, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has declared that two newly established centers will handle any future Lone Star Ebola patients – one in Dallas and the other at the University of Texas medical campus in Galveston.

I’d also taken issue with federal government plans to screen passengers arriving from West Africa at five major U.S. airports because, for starters, you could book a flight from Liberia’s capital to Brussels, Belgium; from there to Heathrow Airport in London; and from there to Bush International Airport in Houston. And I’m sure there were a few other airports with flights connecting from Brussels and/or West Africa. Also, it made no sense to me that “screened” passengers exhibiting no Ebola symptoms just got a nod and a wave, when we know now that Ebola’s tell-tale fever symptom doesn’t show up in the afflicted for several days.

But now, the Obama Administration has seen fit to close the loopholes and stop such flights into the U.S., unless they go into one of the five airports with screeners looking for Ebola-like symptoms. And in a final attack of common sense, the CDC now has decided to monitor anyone coming here from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, for 21 days.

I am glad a few logical precautions are being put in place, but otherwise I am sick of reading about Ebola, writing about it and watching the partisans use it as weapons with which to bludgeon each other. I think I’ll probably write about beets or spinach next time.

Also posted in Be Afraid, Government

What Else Don’t We Know About Ebola?

Here’s another thing either the government and its Centers for Disease Control don’t yet know about the Ebola virus or aren’t telling us:

According to experts at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: “We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”

Which also means either that the CDC is ignorant or lying when it repeatedly tells the public to dial down the worry because you supposedly can’t catch Ebola without coming into direct contact with a victim’s bodily fluids.

When the CIDRP uses the term “infectious aerosol particles,” that means Ebola virus dispersed in tiny droplets of moisture in the air, capable of being inhaled. Caused, for instance, by a cough, sneeze or even the flushing of an open toilet.

If you care to, you can find a detailed and scientifically researched explanation here at the CIDRP’s website.

On its own website, the CDC still is maintaining that Ebola can’t be spread through the air. It’s pretty clear this assertion is at best unproven and at worst a lie.

In a national medical emergency, a competent set of government medical officials can create an atmosphere of calm confidence in the citizenry through frank discussion and disclosure of the situation at hand, and through timely, decisive actions.

Unfortunately, the way our government officials have handled this Ebola emergency is nearly the opposite of the above, forcing the public to weigh and question every statement and suggestion that comes from the CDC and state health people, because of the series of missteps and misstatements witnessed to date.

It’s as if the CDC is your fire extinguisher, and you only find out it doesn’t work when your kitchen erupts in flames. It would be great to have another fire extinguisher in another room somewhere.

Also posted in Be Afraid, Government