Friday, August 21, 2009

Is This a Dagger Which I See Before Me?

Six weeks ago, I was diagnosed with bursitis in both hips. Actually, I diagnosed it myself; the doctor confirmed it. You can learn just about anything online. It made me feel old, and even worse, it hurt. I've been doing physical therapy all this time but it hasn't helped, so I went back to see my orthopedist again today. He gave me cortisone shots in both hips, which is not a pleasure-seeking procedure. When I descended from the ceiling, he snapped, "I need you to lie still." I apologized while thinking how wrong it was that I should be apologizing to someone who was hurting me. I can understand why people crack and spill secrets under torture. He even had the nerve to say, "It didn't hurt me a bit" afterward. I think his sense of humor must be a great source of comfort to him. He claimed the shots hurt so much because my bursa are so inflamed. As if pain weren't bad enough, "bursa" sounds like a hideous garment Muslim women have to wear.

Bursae are fluid-containing sacs located between tendons and bones to cushion friction between moving structures, like brake pads on a car. When a bursa becomes inflamed, it's called bursitis.

He told me to further curtail my physical activity, like breathing, but I forgot to ask if I should stop physical therapy so I tried to call his office after I got home. They have a system similar to the 7 levels of hell protecting them, and it was impossible to get through to a real live person. I'm not sure he was one, anyway. He seemed like a wind-up doll. I heard him greet his next patient with the exact same faux-cheery tone and phrase with which he greeted me. It was one step up from a barker at the county fair bellowing "NEXT." He was practically rubbing his hands in gleeful anticipation. That poor woman had no idea what she was in for.

Meanwhile, I have left messages for both him and his assistant, neither of whom has called me back. It's like trying to get an audience with God, maybe harder.

It is no accident that the word "medieval" as in medieval torture device suggests evil medical practitioners. And yes, I do hold a grudge. Thank you for asking.


secret agent woman said...

Oh dear God, Heart. I'd kill the guy. Seriously. He should have been apologizing to you. And I hate it that you're having to deal with hip pain.

Maria said...

I have had to get cortisone shots in my back several times. The first time, I cried it hurt so badly. After that, I decided that I would die before I let my doctor see me cry again. Especially after he sighed and told me to "please hold still or I may miss the mark and it will hurt even worse."

Not one word of comfort. I would have left, except he is the best in the city and he really is an excellent doctor, just a total fuck up in acting like a human being...

Anonymous said...

What a nasty experience. I have had bursitis and it is, like Bette Davis said about old age, not for sissies. I had it in my right arm but -- and I am thankful after reading your experience -- I didn't need a cortisone shot.

meno said...

"That didn't hurt ME a bit." ????

He seriously said that? Wow. Great bedside manner dude.

Now i'm off to google bursitis, because my left hip hurts a lot. Damn.

Bob said...

cripes. at least my joint problem was operable - and there was no bs about pain. he told me what to expect and he was right.

why is it that these guys we have to depend on have to be assholes? I know not all are, nor are most. But we are at our most vulnerable in these situations and being a jackass about it is taking advantage.

sorry you had to endure that. I really hope the cortisone helps.

TechnoBabe said...

Ouch. So sorry to hear about the bursitis. I know you are making light of the cortisone shots, but your doctor sounds like a wise-ass. I was feeling sorry for my plight with my car, driver side door won't unlock or open and rotars have to be ground down and new brake pads installed, and then you mentioned brake pads in this context and I just end up feeling bad for you.

Jocelyn said...

Perhaps believing in God is the first mistake? (I mean, as in thinking he exists and therefore would call back)

I'm so sorry, genuinely, for your pain and for the added pain you're having to go through in the hopes of relief. Terrible stuff, my friend. Terrible.

May your doc one day endure a health situatio that teaches him some retroactive compassion.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The dagger I referred to was the hypodermic syringe, but now that you mention it, the next line of Macbeth's monologue was, "the handle toward my hand." Hmmm.


Thank you for making me feel like less of a wuss. I have always been stoic about injections but couldn't believe how much these hurt. Your doctor sounds like the same kind of fatuous asshole as mine. They are clearly NOT teaching sensitivity and compassion in med schools.


I am scheduled to return in a month for more shots but knowing what I do now, it would be like walking into an ambush. I try never to do that.


That's how I learned I had it, by checking off symptoms. Supposedly it's the most common cause of hip pain and I sincerely hope you don't have it. Please let me know what you find out, and I hope you feel better.


Thanks for your concern. Will you be my doctor? The cortisone didn't help and in fact, seems to have made it worse. On the bright side, cutting back on my activities is easier because I can hardly walk now.


Funny how pain has made my own car problems seem less important. I had a mishap on June 25th (quite unrelated to Michael Jackson's death) in which an SUV slammed into the passenger side of my car. It turns out that the repair would cost more than the car's present value so I'm hoping that other drivers will give me some respect and a wide berth.


I would say "from your lips to God's ear" about doctor karma but she isn't listening, especially if she doesn't exist. You cannot believe how genuinely sorry I am for my pain. It's probably quite disgusting so let's just say that I would never have made it in Sparta.

nick said...

I'm sorry to hear that. It's so difficult to isolate the causes of pain like that, and equally difficult to find an effective treatment. I've had mysterious knee pains for years and the medics have no idea why. I know nothing about bursitis, so if the cortisone's not helping, I'm not sure what would, except finding the particular painkiller that works for you.

the walking man said...

I tried to tally up all the cortisone injections over the past ten years and I remember the 7 that went into my vertebrae...oh now I remember the three that went into my wrists...I think that's all of them. Shit never did me any good for more than a heartbeat.

You know Hearts, and I have told you this before, you start off with any doctor by using their first name and gauge them by their reaction to that. There just ain't no way I am going to let one of them highbrow puissant see me react to anything they do. I can howl at the moon later.

On the other hand once this protocol is done then what? There is always a next step. I know you can't take any of the opioid class of drugs but there are others that might work to some effect.

Peyote for your doctor and some codeine for you might be a good place to start.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sorry about your knee pains. I suspect that knees wear out over time, even sooner if one is a football player. (American football, not soccer.)

I tend to avoid drugs so pain killers are not a realistic option for me, and I developed a strange rash on my face immediately afterward which makes me wonder if I'm allergic to it, unless it was a extreme stress reaction to the brutality of the shots.


You should call your blog The Walking Pincushion.

Our primary care physician introduces himself to all his patients by his first name, none of this "I'm doctor God and you're a lowly worm" shit, which always sits wrong with me because in my view, the doctor-patient relationship should be one of equals at best. After all, I own the body.

I would have much preferred not to let Herr Doktor Mendel know it hurt but I reacted involuntarily. Still, I'm not going to worry about my pride here; I will simply get a different doctor.

I used to wish peyote would cross my path but it never did. This doctor probably needs a lobotomy. Oh, wait. I think he already had one.

Liam said...

I certainly hope you at least felt better after receiving your shots.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I didn't, but thank you for your kind thoughts. I seem to be allergic to steroids, so there goes my Olympic career, just when I was so close to 17 gold medals.

Meggie said...

I do sympathise! I have had 2 previous experiences with contisone injections. Once in Hospital for 4 broken ribs. It equalled increased agony!
The second encounter was with a tennis elbow. I ran screaming from the room, about to vomit from the pain. I vowed never to let anyone give another cortisone injection to ease my pain!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I cringed reading your comment and have also taken that vow. I wonder what happened to "First, do no harm."

Perhaps my expectations of others are unrealistic, but it seems that the appropriate response to my obvious pain was "I'm sorry this hurts, but I hope it will help you." It is the lack of basic kindness that makes me unwilling to go back as much as the pain and possible allergic reaction I experienced.

Molly said...

Ouch! Getting older is a pain in the bursae! And lots of other places.....
Is it asking so much that docs could treat patients like human beings? Treat the whole person, mental condition caused by the pain as well as the physical ailment. Because everything is interconnected. His treatment might work a lot better if he softened it with a little compassion and respect for you as a person, rather than a disembodied ailment!

Mercurious said...

My sympathies. Several physician friends who happen to be self aware have told me that "modern" medicine is exceedingly medieval. I'd be tempted to try something oriental in nature, as these folks usually don't hurt you.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Oh Hearts. I'm so sorry to hear this! I will keep you in my prayers & send lots of good thoughts and love your way.

Next time whack him in the head with the closest blunt object and tell him it didn't hurt you to do that.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Medicine today seems to be a paint-by-numbers kit with a different doctor for every body part. Your left ear doctor can't treat a problem with your right ear because he's a left ear specialist. It's like being dismembered.


I believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine but unfortunately, the pills are huge and dense and always need to be taken in multiples while I am a very poor pill taker.

Thank you for your visit!


I'll do that. He deserves it. Maybe I'll show up in stiletto heels and at the right moment, whip one off and zap him with it. Your exit line is perfect for someone running for her life.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Stiletto heels are perfect!
It's all in the flick of the wrist... WHACK!

You could do the ninja spike move; one heel in each hand to make matching holes on his forehead.
He'll think twice next time.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I responded to this comment in the wrong post when I said you seem to have this move down. :)

On a limb with Claudia said...

I've had bursitis all over my body - shoulders, hips, knees. It's just something I get - for whatever reason. I found that taking lots of fish oil helps (6 pill/day) and staying on an 'antiinflammation diet.'

Of course, what to do about the pringles?? ;)

I'm so sorry you're in pain. With everything going on in your life, it's insult to injury.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you. Your good thoughts and prayers are gratefully accepted.

TaraDharma said...

I hope the shots do the trick. I had this in a shoulder years ago and the shot hurt like holy hell.

I love it when they tell you to lie still: I had a gyno procedure that felt like the Spanish Inquisition and was told afterwards that, "I've never had a patient that reacted this way." FU Doc.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


All gyno procedures feel like the Spanish Inquisition. Don't you love it when they act as if it's YOUR fault they hurt you? He said the shots were so painful because my bursae were so inflamed - If only I'd known, I would have had them before I needed them, like maybe a year ago, just on spec. I canceled my follow-up appointment - forever.