In these blog posts we’re often guilty of highlighting the worst in healthcare (see, for example, here, here, and here). That attitude shouldn’t be totally surprising when we started Advera Health Analytics with a mission to correct a glaring problem in the healthcare system – the lack of transparent drug safety and efficacy data. That said, it seems only fair to give credit where it’s due when things go exactly right. This is one of those stories.
A few days ago, I woke up with some sharp pain and swelling on the inside of my lower leg. I’m fairly active, but hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary the day before and certainly didn’t suffer any sort of trauma in that spot. I reacted the way most of us would – assumed it was a muscle strain, popped a couple of ibuprofen, and went about my day.
I have to admit that a couple of things left me with a lingering concern. First, I’d never had a muscle issue in that spot before. I’ve had every leg muscle problem you can imagine – knee, shin, calf, hip, ankle, psoas, etc. But this pain was localized to the inside of my lower leg, between my knee and ankle. The second concern was that there was visible swelling in my calf, which I didn’t see in other previous leg muscle issues. Lastly, I have some varicose veins right in that area. Other than being kind of gross to look at, they’ve never been a source of pain or circulation issues.
For you medical folks out there, you’ve probably already connected the dots and arrived at the concern. Swelling and pain in the lower inside leg compounded by existing vascular issues are classic symptoms of potential DVT (deep vein thrombosis), otherwise known as a blood clot.
Being thoroughly responsible, I decided to ignore my fears and the pain for a couple of days.
By Sunday morning, neither the pain nor the swelling had subsided. This is when I made the fateful decision to tell my wife. Though she no longer practices, my wife is an MD. As a pathologist, she typically saw the worst of things – cancer cells, abnormal placentas, and corpses – and therefore always assumes the worst. Kid’s belly ache always means appendicitis. Headache is a toss-up between meningitis and a tumor. Fever means flesh-eating bacterial infection. And you better believe that swelling and pain in my lower leg means pending blood clot moving to my brain. So telling her about this meant I’d be given a choice – would I like to drive myself to the Emergency Room or would I prefer that she call an ambulance?
So, on a beautiful Sunday morning I did what most of us dread – I headed over to the ER. We live in the Santa Rosa, CA area – the heart of Sonoma wine country. With a local population of maybe 200,000 people, we have surprisingly strong medical options with both Kaiser and Sutter Pacific well represented. Sutter recently built a brand new hospital about 10 minutes from our house, so that’s where I went, Sunday paper and laptop at the ready to help pass what I assumed would be about a six hour ordeal.
This is where things started to go right, much to my pleasure and surprise.
Though busy, the ER wasn’t jammed packed. I made clear at check in that I really didn’t think that I had an emergency situation but that given the symptoms and the fact that it was a Sunday, it seemed best to come in. Within five minutes, I was being processed and my vitals were read. Within fifteen minutes of arrival I was on a table getting an ultrasound of my leg. Within forty five minutes of arrival, I had been put into a private ER “room” and was being checked on by the staff. Within an hour of arrival, I was being seen by the ER doc for a physical exam while she waited on the results of the ultrasound from radiology. And within about ninety minutes of arrival, I was discharged. Literally two hours after I had walked out my front door, I was back home.
Diagnosis? No clot, just muscle strain. Phew.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to visit an emergency room and I was definitely expecting the worst. I was overwhelmingly surprised by how quickly they got me in, did a pretty comprehensive check, and got me out. I really don’t know where else in the world I could have as much high quality medical care at my disposal on a random Sunday morning in a pretty rural area. It was truly remarkable and emblematic of everything that is right with the medical system in this country.
Now the only part of this story left to be told is the bill. I guess we’ll see in the next week or so if my positive impression holds up!
Brian M. Overstreet, President, Advera Health Analytics, Inc.