Week 1 Blog Post

My “first-hand” experience with the American biomedical system is actually still ongoing. Beginning in February of this year I started having severe upper abdominal pain that essentially renders me useless for hours and the only thing I can do is go to sleep. When it began in February I assumed it was going to go away on its own and only after two weeks had passed of being in pain everyday I finally decided to go to the doctor. She did some bloodwork that came back negative and told me that it must just be inflammation of my stomach lining and to take acid reducers for a couple weeks and it should go away after that. It did go away for a while but unfortunately, recently it came back and got worse so I went to another doctor again in late June who told me she did not have enough information to diagnose me and instead said I needed to do more testing and then come back for a follow up in a couple months.

There were a couple positives about my experience that I will share first. The first positive is that my doctor wanted to exhaust all the options that could be causing my stomach pain by having me do multiple tests in order to make sure that it was not something to do with another part of my body. I went through an abdominal exam as part of the testing as well as a blood test. My doctor also mentioned they might have to do an endoscopy but noted that it would only be used as a last resort which I appreciated because it is such an invasive procedure. Another huge positive is that recently, for my healthcare system, all test results, appointment scheduling and communication with my doctors can be done online through a website. This makes it incredibly easy and fast to see test results and communicate with my doctor if I need to.

Although my experience has not been extremely negative in the biomedical system, there are a few drawbacks that seem to far outweigh the positives. When I first started having pain, even though it was severe, I ended up waiting a few weeks before seeing a doctor about it because I thought it might pass but I also did not want to have to deal with the healthcare system in general. In the first few days I tried to make an appointment to see my doctor but she did not have available appointments for weeks. My pain became so bad that my roommates asked if they should take me to the emergency room but I knew that being treated could take hours and cost a substantial amount of money. When I finally was able to get an appointment with a doctor at the office, it was not my regular primary care physician, since she did not have any open appointments, and we had to spend several minutes going over my past personal health history. When I went to the follow-up appointment several months later with my regular primary care, because she had not seen me when the incident first happened, I had to update her on basically the entire first appointment, which was incredibly redundant for me. Another negative I experienced was having to go to multiple places to get each test. My doctor, the place I had to get bloodwork done, and the abdominal exam were all in different cities. I also have had to travel back home from East Lansing for these tests because the healthcare system I go to does not have any facilities close by, the nearest one is an hour away. This means I have to take multiple hours out of my day to travel to different facilities in order to get these tests, which is extremely frustrating.

Overall, although there are several positive aspects about the American biomedical system, there are also many negatives. Some of these cannot be helped but there are some that definitely can try to be corrected.

3 thoughts on “Week 1 Blog Post

  1. I am really sorry about your abdominal pain. I have actually struggled with something similar for over a year now but mine is lower abdominal pain. Have you tried going a more holistic approach? Unfortunately, holistic practices are not covered by insurance but in my experience, I have had better long-term success with my stomach issues than I ever did with biomedical doctors, mostly due to the fact they also struggled to figure out what was wrong. In The Vanishing Oath, Ryan talks about his experience as a doctor and mentions something he does not like about ER or family practice is that they do not have enough time with each patient so often (similar to your case) it is hard to properly diagnose. A large problem I see with biomedicine is that they are often just looking to treat your symptoms and give you a medication to take for a while or for life. In holistic practice they try to get to the root cause of your problems and then start from there using supplements and diet changes to heal you from the inside. Biomedical doctors do not have the time or the training for this.

  2. Hi!
    I hope you’re doing better with your abdominal pain! Unfortunately, I think your story accurately shows what was discussed in the deconstructing biomedicine lecture this week. We seen from the lecture that biomedicine is great for treating emergent situations where there is an easily distinguishable cause, and is great for the treatment of the current pain, but isn’t so good at treating multiple issues or cases where the diagnosis isn’t so clear. Clearly the emergency room isn’t the best place to go when you’re looking for a diagnosis that requires lots of tests, but I find it super interesting as this the emergency room is practically your only resort since it took so long to get into your primary care physicians office, and pain like that isn’t something you can just wait on. But like you said, it can cost a ton of money and can keep you waiting for hours, so I see why you wanted to avoid it. I also find it super interesting that you had to retell your story to a different physician. I do think its important for the physician to ask you your story, but only in brief, since there should be in-depth medical records for you already in the system! Even if it was a completely different office, they should have been able to receive your medical records from multiple places as well. I think there’s a huge flaw in our healthcare system, and should be reformed into focusing just as much on non-emergent situations and looking at all of the factors including the root of your problems, how to accurately treat them in a timely manner and making it a lot easier to get appointments and tests done. I feel as if the biggest problem is that the healthcare providers in biomedicine just don’t have the time to focus on all the aspects that need to be focused on, and I don’t think it’s the providers fault but more the fault of the way the biomedicine system is set up.

  3. Suhana,

    First, I would like to say I hope you are feeling better. Having to deal with sever pain for en extended amount of time is never easy nor fun. I have that issue with my girlfriend. She has sever shoulder pain that keeps her up at night and it is hard for her to schedule appointments with her doctor because he is busy. Her shoulder pain keeps her up at night and, on some occasions, I have seen her cry from the pain (it takes A LOT to make her cry). The way our medical system is set up sucks. An aspect that you brought up that I also talked about was the cost of going to the emergency room. It just sucks in our society that rather be treated when something is severe and the pain is really bad, many people just suffer because they do not want to have to pay the price for the emergency room visit. I do not know how we can fix it, but I think that is something that needs to happen because you should not have had to suffer because of the cost of a visit since you couldn’t get in to see your doctor. And to be honest, my girlfriend should not have to suffer either because she is the same way. Lately, she has been having severe headaches and chest pains and I always tell her we need to go to the ER and she resists because she knows she will have to pay for it later. It saddens me.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I really hope you feel better.

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