4 Reasons I Didn’t Sue My Doctor

I love to play soccer.  I love to watch soccer.  Whether it is my kids playing on a local field or a professional match on TV,  it is a beautiful game.  Three of my daughters have played college soccer and I have always dreamed of us playing together in a game.

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A few years ago, I was able to achieve that long awaited goal.  My daughter was home over Christmas and my team was short players.  Our day had arrived.  We played and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  She was amazing and I didn’t embarrass myself (my expectations are lowering as I get older).

The next morning though, I woke up and my left knee was so swollen that I could barely walk.  It had been giving me problems for years, but never this badly.  I decided that I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon.

He took an x-ray of my knee and gave me the news.  I had torn meniscus and cartilage, and most of the padding in my knee was gone.  I had osteoarthritis.  I would most likely have pain the rest of my life.  There was a chance that the torn meniscus may be causing some of the pain and we could try surgery and see if it would help.   I agreed.  I was only 43 and too young to be giving up soccer.

I had the surgery and it went great.  I was up and moving the next day.  I went to physical therapy a few days later.  It felt great in therapy but that night my knee was really warm and it hurt worse.  I figured that it was from overusing it at physical therapy.  I went again the next day.  Again, they loosened it up and it felt great, then a few hours later it was much worse.  It felt really tight.  The next day I went again.  This time one of the surgical holes opened and started leaking goo.  I went home to take a nap and woke up in extreme pain.  I could barely move.  It was Saturday.

I spent the entire weekend in bed.  My knee was warm and I knew something was wrong, but I thought that maybe I had overworked it in physical therapy.  I called the doctor, finally, on Tuesday.  He called in an antibiotic.  Wednesday morning I couldn’t take the pain any more and called again.  My doctor asked me to come in.  He took a large needle and drained my knee several times.  It helped a lot.  He said he would send some of the fluid for testing and get back to me.  He called a few hours later and told me to get right to the hospital.  It could be a staph or mersa infection and I needed surgery that day.

Getting to the hospital was easier said than done.  By this point I could barely move.  My knee was so swollen (and I was in so much pain) that it took 35 minutes for me to get from my bedroom and into the car.  My doctor operated on it that evening and what followed was a mess.  I spent 5 days in the hospital.  I was assigned an infectious disease doctor.  Because of the fact that I had cancer a few years before, my veins kept collapsing.  They had to keep moving the IV around, each time the vein collapsed.  Finally, they installed a picc line and I had to take antibiotics through that picc line 3 times a day for 8 weeks.  I had to visit both doctors once a week for 8 weeks.

The antibiotics killed all the good bacteria in my gut.  For weeks I could barely leave the house because of the side effects of this.  Years later I continue to have issues with my gut.

I remember being asked, “Did you sue your doctor?”  My response was, “What?!  I never even considered it.”  It was true.  Through all of that, I never once considered suing my doctor.

Why?

I liked him!  When he came to see me in the hospital to do rounds, the nurses liked him.  He was kind, sweet, and thoughtful to everyone he came into contact with.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink” says

“Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care and something else happens to them….what comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly.”

Some doctors are sued, others are not.  What is the difference?  Medical researcher Wendy Levinson “found clear differences between the two groups.”  Doctors who were not sued:

  • Spent on average 3 minutes longer with each patient (18.3 minutes vs. 15 minutes)
  • Made orienting comments. “First I’ll examine you, then we will talk the problem over”
  • Engaged in active listening. “Tell me more about…”
  • Were more likely to be funny or laugh during the visit

My doctor did all of these!  No wonder I liked him.

Levinson additionally “found NO DIFFERENCE in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients; they didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition.”

So what was the difference?

“The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients.”

Quantum Bounce trains medical professionals on how to recognize each patients preferred communication style, because providing competent care is no longer enough.

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Mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, cancer survivor, author, teacher, connected, authentic, bold.

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