Friday, May 30, 2014

A dreadful appointment at Alexandra :( 28.05.14

WARNING: This is a SUPER long post about my terribly dramatic appointment at the hospital this past week.
(Apologies for the inconsistent grammar. The anecdote is so long and tiring I got a little lazy with the grammar editing.)

Wednesday was a day of thankfulness... Thankfulness that I have (what I now consider) the best orthodontist and surgeon in Singapore (after a very distressing experience at the hospital).

The story begins with my appointment to have some dental moulds taken at Alexandra hospital on Wednesday. I found myself in the room with a few familiar faces - my previous Cosurgeon and two nurses (one of which was a very kind senior nurse). Considering how stressful this jaw surgery process can sometimes be, it was nice meeting familiar friendly faces... But what I didn't expect was meeting another doctor (or "doctor"?). Let's call her "I-don't-believe-you-are-a-doctor-doctor". Okay, no. I can't even do with that abbreviation - which would be "IDBYAADD". Let's call her..."Mucky".

So the story begins with me being in a room with Cosurgeon, Mucky and two nurses. Cosurgeon was taking some measurements and explaining some of his processes to Mucky along the way. No introductions to her at all. I had no idea who she was, but judging by the way Cosurgeon was teaching her, I eventually made a guess that she was an intern. After all, Mucky looked really young and seemed to behave as if she were new in the trade and was with Cosurgeon to learn. First impression of her? She made me feel a little uncomfortable.

I suppose a little explanation at this point would suffice. 

My precious team for the op has been changed. Since I last postponed my operation, there had been some adjustments to hospital regulations that the head of the dental department (I.e Surgeonman) and head consultant (Cosurgeon) are not allowed to work on the same patient. I suppose it's to cut costs or to manage the talent better, that I understand. So technically my cosurgeon for my op on the 20th is no longer the familiar face that I met with for the consultation. I had a slight discomfort that the person looking at my measurements was not going to be the same doctor as the cosurgeon who would be present at my surgery on the 20th. Further, I had no idea who Mucky was.... And she really worried me.

I listened in as Cosurgeon included Mucky in some of the readings and asked her what she thought. As I heard some of their readings - that my central facial line was misaligned from the centre - something seemed amiss. I remembered the last time I did my readings earlier in the year with one of Surgeonman's partners, the readings were that everything in the midline was aligned. I think it was at that point in my scary appointment on Wednesday, when I started to feel uneasy. Readings were not matching, and that was pretty scary.

But okay, so I was a little uncomfortable at some readings, and having some stranger anxiety with the new addition of Mucky, and wasn't too happy with the HR arrangements...not that big a deal right?

Because the drama hadn't really started at this point.

The drama started when Cosurgeonman left the room with SeniorNurse and left Mucky and another nurse to take care of the new moulds and head measurements that needed to be taken. So there I was sitting in the dental chair watching as Mucky dipped a wax covered dental tray into some hot water to soften it. Mucky seemed to be mucking around a bit (thus the nickname) as she joked with the other nurse and fiddled with the wax. As I watched her, Mucky seemed really inexperienced and unsure as she kept asking the nurse if she thought the wax was ready. I sat in the chair just watching with disconcerting butterflies rising, but told myself, "It's alright. She's new, but for the fact that Cosurgeon left her to handle this, she should know what she's doing." 


So after fooling around with the wax tray and hot water for a while, Mucky then walks over to the dental chair and stands beside me still fiddling with the wax, has a half smile/frown on her face, and says to the nurse across me that "it still feels hot". (I start to feel worried) Mucky then proceeds to put the wax mould on her forearm to check the temperature. I tell myself, "I know mothers test the temperature of milk on their forearms for babies too, so that should be okay. It's kinda gross because she's going to put that wax tray in my mouth, but I'm going to believe that she sanitized her arms". I take a deep breath. Mucky then finally looks at me and goes "Is it hot?" as she then places the wax on MY forearm. (Here's where alarm bells start to chime in my head. Is that really normal hospital protocol?! That's going in my mouth!) The nurse, with a clear mildly irritated tone then responds "it's okay" to Mucky. Mucky then somewhat clumsily puts the wax tray in my mouth and tells me to bite down till my teeth touch. 

Standard operating procedures to get a bite mould for the jaw surgery right? 
Not quite.

When I bit down, the wax was pretty hard. I didn't remember it being like that the first time Surgeonman did it for me before my surgery was postponed. Furthermore, I didn't understand why Mucky jiggled the tray a little in my mouth whilst I bit down, and I was certain she moved it whilst it was in my mouth (which would mean the impressions on the mould of my teeth would be wider or mis-shapened), but she did. I was worried because I take these moulds and measurement takings seriously (After all this is MY FACE they will be working on), so as Mucky took out the tray, I told her that I was pretty sure that the tray shifted. To which she responded "Did it?", frowned, and looked down at the tray with a disbelieving puzzled expression. At this point, I was a little more than slightly concerned.

The thing about Mucky is that she somehow made me feel really uncomfortable... it's pretty hard to describe it in words, but she was not just a doctor, or "doctor", who seemed unsure. But she also seemed to be the type of person who didn't accept feedback. I don't quite know how to describe it, but have you ever met someone who pretends to know what they're doing and it comes across as proud and cocky even when it is blatantly obvious they are total cons? That's how she came across from her tone and body language. I don't usually judge people on first impressions...and definitely very rarely negatively, but that was how she came across. 

Apparently disbelieving of my feedback, Mucky frowned and walked over to the sink to run the mould in cold water to make it set (with her gloves still on and also under the water) and decides to test it again by coming back and putting it in my mouth. 

Sounds like a simple procedure right? 
It was... 

EXCEPT that the mould and her gloves were ALL wet and water was all over and running down my face as she fiddled with the mould in my mouth. The more she fiddled, the more water was on my face. This was the first time I ever had water all over my face at a dentist's. It was VERY uncomfortable, but I decided to still hold it all in and instead tried to pass Mucky a polite hint by trying to use the cloth the nurses put around my neck to wipe the wetness off a little.

She should have caught the hint right?

Mucky simply watched me as I struggled to dry my face and just moved her wet gloved hands whilst the mould was in my mouth and she continued adding water from her wet gloves to my face. I tried to say "there's water all over my face", but Mucky was completely oblivious to the hint, and half my face was completely wet. 

At this point my head was bursting with fear that the mould set was all wrong and stranger anxiety was taking over so much that I blurted out "Are you a student?" (Because, after all, all evidence pointed to that)

The nurse with her then replied  "No".

All my life, I had always had a special revered place for medical professionals. If a doctor said "sit", I sat. If they took some scary looking tool, I just trusted them, closed my eyes and tried to think of happy things. If they said they were some big-ass-name dentist, I believed them. But this time, with half my face wet, and a probably totally wrongly casted mould, I totally didn't believe Mucky wasn't a student. And for the first time in my whole jaw surgery journey thus far (something like a year and a half coming now), I didn't feel like a patient, but more like a number or animal she needed to practice on. I was beginning to be sad and stressed. But I still chose to just sit quietly.

Surprised by the answer, I kept quiet and just sat in the chair as Mucky went on to get a head gear measuring thing (yes, I forgot the technical term). The next few minutes were some of the most clumsy and frightening of my pre-surgery experiences - of how she fiddled with the gear and things were not getting in place, there were items not hooking, dropping, and she was pulling the head gear in a way where there were parts jabbing into my face and  I couldn't even help to get the ear pieces in properly. Worse still, I could literally feel the nurse get more exasperated with the process... And having all these things happening directly on my head/face... I was VERY stressed. I now understood why animals can die when too much happens to them at the vet's.

It took a while till the head gear measurements were taken, but even with that ordeal over, I was totally convinced all the measurements Mucky took were wrong. My head was filled with fear of how that would affect the operation and the result. I was really unhappy with how the appointment was going and why Mucky was on the team.

I should have said something at this point right?
No. I didn't.

Because then entered "BitchyOrtho".
Does this horror appointment ever end? Apparently not.

Just when I thought the worst was over, I found out that more moulds had to be taken and that the Alexandra hospital ortho (Let's call him "BitchyOrtho") needed to take out some of the wires in my braces so they could two other sets of moulds. 

So there I was: Me in a state of heightened stress, fear about incorrect moulds and readings, concerned about Mucky... I just didn't need someone else to stress me out. And definitely not BitchyOrtho. 

His aura?
Cold and jaded.

So just as the headgear thingamajig was taken away, in came BitchyOrtho who simply looked at my braces then started complaining about how Orthoman had done such a "complicated" job of the wires that'd make removal difficult. (To be honest, I was proud of how much heart Orthoman puts in his work when I visit him, so I was a bit upset at his fret.) Continually complaining, Bitchyortho then started to clip off the wires in my braces as Mucky looked down at me from the side like some specimen. I don't quite know why, but something arose in me as if my privacy had been invaded. BitchyOrtho and Mucky start talking to each other mainly about the apparently annoying wires whilst he fiddles around with the wires very roughly. I'm hurting through some of this process as BitchyOrtho struggled with the wires and pulled at the corners of my mouth at some parts. My lips were dry and I thought that they would tear, I was really hurting, but I was too stressed too say anything, but I was tearing up. 

But I think it was only when Mucky laughed at some part of their conversation and told BitchyOrtho "Good job", that I cracked. I could no longer take the stress and seeming lack of care for me or of the work done throughout the whole appointment thus far... That, plus I was actually really hurting. I started tearing up with my eyes closed, and eventually a tear escaped and ran down my face. 

Best part of that?

Somehow, even with three medical professionals staring down at me under a bright dental light, no one noticed.

At this point, I totally felt uncared for as a patient. Maybe I'm a "spoiled" patient because never once in the past two years of my jaw surgery journey had any of my doctors nor nurses treated me as such. I have been used to smiles and the doctors and nurses checking if I was alright throughout whatever they needed to do - be it putting on braces or checking my teeth. They had always been kind and reassuring. But at that point of my appointment on Wednesday, I had zero trust in the medical professionals assigned to me for the appointment. I couldn't take it anymore, so as BitchyOrtho and "Doctor" left the room for a while, I told the nurse that I wanted to talk to the senior nurse (one of the familiar faces from before who had always been kind with me).

When Seniornurse came in, the dam broke.

I started crying, she was totally shocked, and I forced it out of me and told her (through half-sobs) "I can't work with the doctor". It was a thoroughly embarrassing experience. But thank God for her, as she placed a reassuring hand on my hand and listened as I told her that I could not trust Mucky and that I didn't think Mucky was serious about what she was doing and that she probably didn't understand how important and serious the jaw surgery was to me. Senior nurse then told me, "It's okay, I understand". I then apologized for crying and told her how embarrassed I was. And she just told me gently, "I understand. You don't have to be sorry, it's your right."

Finally, a medical professional. A medical professional who CARED - someone with a heart who made me feel cared for. Someone who gave me a little more trust again that I was going to be alright. 

I suppose Seniornurse or the other nurse then called for Surgeonman who then took the next few moulds for me.

Happy ending right?
No, we're not quite done yet...

Because with the moulds taken, I got sent back to BitchyOrtho who basically did some slipshod job at tying my braces back up (all this whilst he bitched about how he hated doing wire work and how Orthoman may not like the way he was tying it). Can you imagine? He literally said out "I hate doing this." and "I don't think your Dr Wee is going to like the way I'm doing this") Worst still, was when he later "qualified" himself out of anything wrong happening later if there was something wrong with the wires, and that it I had to be careful for the next 17 days before my surgery to what I are to make sure my teeth didn't move.  SERIOUSLY?! Which doctor ever says anything along the lines of "I hate to do this. I did it poorly. I am not going to take responsibility for anything that happens. You need to take care of it yourself." Really?!

I think I gave up on the dental clinic at that point.

Honestly, at that point, I was too tired, embarassed and stressed by how most of the appointment at Alexandra went that I was just resigned and told myself that I would call Orthoman after and make an appointment for him to check the wires again (to which the clinic made a speedy next-day booking and Dr Wee Teng Yau totally took out the wires and did them up all proper again. I kid you not when I tell you I left his office telling him "I'm SO thankful that I can trust you").

But yes, if there is anything I learned. I have learned to be grateful for the real people who are on my surgical team.

I'll say it again 

I would give all my lifetime support of votes to them.

Right now, I'm a little apprehensive about how the post-surgery is going to be at Alexandra given the type of experience I had on Wednesday, but I'm going to trust that it will be better. *fingers crossed*

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear... that sounds like a terribly traumatising experience. I've never encountered doctors like that in my life!! Which doc says "I hate doing this"?!? I'm appalled on your behalf...