Both Sides of the Desk

And other benefits of my medical secretary career …

I’ve been lucky enough to work both sides of the desk for two parts of my career path. Most recently as a volunteer and paid staff for the Girl Guides of Canada. Loved that job. Loved helping volunteers. Loved the interaction with parents. Loved being a volunteer with the inside track on resources, getting help for my unit, etc. It was a large win, win. In my previous career, I was a medical secretary. Now those of you higher up on the medical scale might scoff, but we secretaries have our fair share of knowledge. Not the least of which is how to work within the system. This is where having sat on that side of the desk, I’m in a better position than most for the patient side of the desk. Right now – I’m working every angle I’ve got.

Last week, on the day my current job in communications ended, my husband also broke his collar bone. Now when I say broke, I actually mean a rather nasty comminuted fracture. Pray tell what does comminuted mean? Well let’s just say his right collar bone now looks like a wonky dog’s hind leg with a 2.63cm space between where the bones used to join up. Did I mention the rather large bone fragment and its friends that are lodged in behind the break? Did I also mention that two specialists and our family doctor all agree it’s one of the nastiest breaks in a collar bone they’ve ever seen? Not really the way one wants to distinguish oneself as a patient in the medical community.

So, me being me, gets a file folder together complete with plastic file carrier in to which goes note paper and pen. Along with the note paper and pen goes his hospital report, referral letter, cut off hospital bracelet, etc. Because having sat on the business side of the desk, I know what is going to be necessary to get my husband the care he needs: everything. I also have two research studies which support the idea that any comminuted fracture with a distance greater than 1.5cm has a low chance of successful union if left to do its own healing. After the first specialists visit, I also asked the hospital to burn all his films on to a CD. That went in to the trusty file folder as well.

Over the past week, we’ve been to three hospitals, visited three specialists and seen our family doc twice. An abuse of the over burdened Canadian medical system you say? Well, when the first specialist tells you that your husband is going to have a permanently shortened right shoulder that drops lower than the left and he’ll have a huge bump over the area where the body will try to knit bones and fragments back together, your first instinct is to give them a good slap.  God, in his infinite wisdom, made this bone to lie in a straight line for a reason. Letting it end up looking like that wonky dog leg I mentioned earlier isn’t an option. Did I mention my husband is a mechanical millwright who is right handed, a scratch golfer and a proficient snow boarder (though the break did occur on the hill)? Having a wonky shoulder is not an option.

Now we sit waiting for the third hospital to call with his surgery time. Why you ask? Because the third specialist initially took a look at the x-ray off the CD I brought and thought it was only a 1cm gap. The medical fellow working with him advised him to look at a different film and measure the break. At that point, the surgeon didn’t even hesitate when he said, “Oh no, we’re operating on that.” And so the option to wait three months for the break to heal and then decide to have surgery and recuperate again for six weeks is being shortened down to 7 weeks in total. Partly because I’ve sat on the other side of the desk. Partly because I refuse to allow my husband to get lost in the vast system of healthcare that could easily see him sitting for another three weeks getting bounced around and forgotten. And partly because sometimes having that file folder at the ready filled with paperwork and backed by some knowledge is the bonus of having been on both sides of the desk.

Originally posted on My Creative Voice, February 2014

2 thoughts on “Both Sides of the Desk

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Elizabeth! Great record keeping tips (did not know we could ask for copies of X-rays) and example of the importance of being your own health advocate and getting second and third opinions. Sorry to hear about your husband’s clavicle, sounds nasty, best wishes for speedy healing!


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