Nightmare medicine: The feds come between you and your doctor

Terry Garlock's picture

At dinner time on the last Friday in March, I parked next to an ambulance on the courthouse square in Newnan with my 7-year-old daughter, Kristen, in the back seat. This would be her first trip to Golden’s Cafeteria, soon to be a favorite since she loves pick-your-food restaurants that give a kid the power to choose.

I had no idea I would soon need that ambulance crew.

As I opened the back door for Kristen, my heart was smashed to the size of a pea in a split second. Her eyes were locked left in a minor seizure that I knew well, she was unresponsive and I hurried to the ambulance to ask for help. The crew put down their sandwich and dashed to check Kristen’s vital signs, prepared to give her oxygen if needed.

After a moment, before she could control her eyes, Kristen could squeeze my finger when I asked, a good sign. The EMTs stopped traffic for me and I drove quickly to a fast food joint while Kristen came around, so I could give her the evening dose of anti-seizure pills I was carrying, with some Coke and the chicken nuggets she likes. I promised to take her back to Golden’s another time, and she slept her post-seizure slumber while I drove her home.

It started last June while my wife Julie was out of town and I drove the kids to Pensacola, Fla., to visit Grandma. At a stop in Pensacola I felt my heart crushed into a pea for the first time when I found Kristen unresponsive with a blank stare. Within five minutes I had her in an emergency exam room at Sacred Heart Hospital nearby.

They immediately diagnosed seizure and applied meds. In the space of an hour they asked my approval and completed an EEG and CAT scan. Kristen was admitted, Julie flew in from Philadelphia and the seizures continued through the next day.

We were fortunate to have Dr. Renfroe, the top pediatric neurologist in this regional teaching hospital. He advised an MRI, we approved and he had the results that afternoon.

Dr. Renfroe asked permission to admit Kristen to Intensive Care, where he could sedate her and apply stronger anti-seizure meds while hooking her up to a continuous EEG to record and analyze her brain activity. We said, “Do it NOW!” and she was transferred immediately.

Imagine sitting by your unconscious child’s bedside, switching off with your spouse to cover 24-7, not knowing the outcome, with breathing and feeding tubes, wires and monitors hooked up to the little dear recording data while the clock ticks and tocks ever so slowly.

While we waited, I was searching for the top pediatric neurologists in the Atlanta area because we needed to bring our family home to Peachtree City.

After analyzing the results of spinal taps, Dr. Renfroe diagnosed viral encephalitis, an inflammation and swelling of the brain, possibly caused by mosquito bite. We had to wait for the infection to subside, then expect a year-long treatment to suppress seizures.

After two weeks, Kristen improved enough to travel. I planned to take her to Children’s Hospital at Scottish Rite in north Atlanta, where a distinguished group of pediatric neurologists practice, including Dr. Philbrook, but they were so busy there was a waiting list. Dr. Renfroe picked up the phone and opened the door for Kristen.

Julie and Kristen flew by air ambulance while I drove back to Atlanta, and Dr. Philbrook began treating Kristen in Children’s Hospital. There were more tests — MRI again, echocardiogram, etc. — and each time we said yes because if insurance didn’t cover it, then we would find a way to pay for it.

After a week of progress, Kristen came home. Despite small setbacks, she is eating up life in big bites.

I told you all of that to tell you this; I’m very worried about Washington taking over our health care system.

It doesn’t take much research on other countries with socialized medicine to find a system where bureaucrats with procedure manuals choose your doctor for you and impose treatment limits on doctors and patients, where diagnostics like MRIs must first be approved and have waiting lists months long, where doctors become government employees.

I shudder to think about last summer if I had to deal with a government-run system at each decision point. But there is something just as frightening on the physician’s side.

What motivates people like Dr. Renfroe and Dr. Philbrook to spend many years in college at great expense to become a doctor, then work their guts out 80 to 100 hours a week for years to establish themselves and become a leader in their field? Public service, high achievement, the ability to treat patients without interference and, eventually, financial reward would be my guess.

But we are already driving doctors out of the business with a growing burden of regulation and paperwork and the daily threat of litigation. How many of them will stay in the business, much less thrive and excel, on a government salary, under the direction of government employees wielding a 20-pound procedure manual?

Our federal and state government already controls half of America’s health care spending through Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. Do we really want to turn over the remains of our private health care system to a dysfunctional crowd in Washington that couldn’t lead a group of little old ladies through a pansy patch without serious consequences?

Some think we’re about to shoot ourselves in the foot with more government control in health care. I say we’re about to blow off both feet.

[Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City. His email is]

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sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 12:56pm.

Terry Garlock uses his daughter's illness to pimp his favorite political causes, in this case an opportunity to rail against "socialized medicine".

Garlock trots out the trusty "Oh NOE! Socialized medicine means WAIT TIMES! Wait times are BAD!" meme that have been floating around conservative circles for decades.

Meanwhile back here in the good ole capitalistic US of A, the Washington Post reports that wait times for the uninsured to see doctors in North Carolina for non-life-threatening cases reached an astonishing 25 DAYS back in December! LINK

Tell us again Terry how the US has the bestest medical care in the world....if you're insured.

Submitted by AtHomeGym on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 5:17pm.

So Snif, not insured? Fact is, you'd criticize Terry if hetold you that the new plan was to gift everyone with health insurance. And I suppose that's what you support--we taxpayers paying for health insurance for all--another give-away program. Just what I need, another hand in my pocket.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 7:15pm.

Actually Gymbo, I've got excellent health care for myself and my family...thanks for asking.

And you are absolutely right that the majority of Americans... am in favor of a government-provided medical safety net.

Americans should not have to suffer in a first world economy for lack of access to medical care.

I see America evolving to a two-tier level of medical care, not unlike the private school/public school paradigm we have now: Those that can afford it (insurance or self-pay) can purchase the best care money can buy, just like those who can afford to do so can send their kids off to private school.

Those less fortunate (unemployed or uninsured) can depend on a reliable government-paid medical treatment.

In his first 100 days in office, President Obama has already shepherded the SCHIP bill through Congress, increasing the availability of medical care to at-risk children.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 9:50pm.

"And you are absolutely right that the majority of Americans... am in favor of a government-provided medical safety net."

Show me the numbers on that one sniff... I do not believe a MAJORITY of TAXPAYING AMERICANS are for "FREE" (NOT) Healthcare.. Maybe the Entitlement crowd which you are part of.. wants it.. BUT..Not a MAJORITY..

and as far as waits go.. My boss is English.. her mother just waited 6 months for an MRI.. She was on a list for 4 months before she got her letter advising her she would have her MRI in 2 more months..
Since she is over 75 the Socialist system does not place a lot of worth to what is left of her life.. So she had to wait.. THAT IS THE "FREE" SYSTEM YOU WANT???

I will not lower my standards.. So UP YOURS.. Evil


Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 11:14pm.

I went to school in England and stayed with a host family during the school year. I still consider these people family and visit often. They have vacationed with my "real" parents and are considered family by them as well.

My father in England was diagnosed with cancer 2yrs ago. He was put on the "waiting list" for the "free" health care provided in England. After 6 months his daughter in-law who works at the local hospital pulled a fast one and got his name moved up on the "list" for the "free" cancer treatment. If she had not done that he would have waited 9 months or more to begin treatment for cancer.

It might be "free" but it is a substandard system at best.

I do agree that our system of medical care here is sorely lacking. For those of us who are paying I don't think we get a quality product for what we are paying for. Considering what I pay and my insurance pays for the "product" we get, I shudder to think of how much worse it could get with the guv-ment running it.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Thu, 04/23/2009 - 4:33am.

Aging baby boomers may want this preview of what their retirement years will be like.

Different than what we all thought. Wonder if Hillary will get special treatment or will she be one of the masses.

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 8:31pm.

You believe that we'll have two perhaps three different levels of health insurance. What will the more expensive plan offer that the basic one will not?

Also, I like how the SCHIP requires certain checks like Social Security Number verification in order to ensure that only those legally here can participate.
Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

SPQR's picture
Submitted by SPQR on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:59am.

Tragically it seems as if the U.S. is headed towards socialized medicine. The last tier of health care before no health care.
Perhaps the die was cast in the 50's when health care was still relatively affordable and it was offered to employees as a group plan.
At the time Corporations viewed it as less expensive than salary increases and as an added bonus they got to play all sorts of accounting games with it that made top management look good.

With fortune 500 company's paying the bills, health care providers and the health care industry became flush with cash. The American health care model had little incentive to become cost conscious. Success for many professionals in the field started to be measured more in dollars than ever before. Even before economic downturn health care was becoming unattainable by an ever increasing percentage. Now we are at the point where Americans travel to India for medical treatment.

Coupled with the above we have more Americans than ever giving up self reliance in favor of looking towards government for solutions to everyday problems.

Change is in the wind. What will it be?

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