By Jack Jodell, Apr. 18, 2012
Exactly a month ago, I posted the story of my 52 year old brother, who had noticed some digestive discomfort and had checked himself into the hospital, only to be released a mere 2 days later, after having undergone inconclusive testing, having had his stomach evacuated of its contents, been pumped full of morphine and given a useless enema, and then being discharged on the grounds that “…this is simply a matter of economics. According to the tests we have done, you are simply constipated, and we cannot justify tying up a hospital bed for constipation.”
Well, that was then, and this is now. It turns out my brother was severely MISdiagnosed, and was actually afflicted with STAGE 3 ESOPHAGEAL CANCER! Unbelievable, but true, and due to gross negligence on the part of an overly eager and irresponsible hospitalist at that original hospital, my brother may very well be facing a painful and agonizing death as a result. Needlessly!
Let’s face it, folks: ANY physician worth a grain of salt would certainly suspect something to be afoul when presented with a patient whose abdomen was becoming markedly distended, had a rapid fall-off in appetite, and an accompanying rapid loss in weight! After all, mere constipation, by itself, doesn’t lead to an increasingly bloated and painful belly! Nor do the presence of gallstones. But a suspicious-looking intestinal mass as revealed in what were called “inconclusive” x-rays WOULD be cause for concern, wouldn’t YOU think? Evidently not to the General Practicioner who first examined my brother, nor to the hospitalist who booted him, against his better judgment and pleas for more thorough testing, out of the hospital! This gross negligence is inexcusable, but fully understandable in a very flawed health care system which places hospital and insurance company profits well before true patient care and comfort!
Through a great level of mental anguish, physical pain, insurance company resistance, and determined persistence on my brother’s part, he was admitted to another, BETTER hospital, which quickly made the correct diagnosis of his condition. He was immediately given exploratory surgery along with three separate biopsies, and that is when the cancer was discovered. He had displayed none of the classical symptoms of esophageal cancer: no acid reflux; no difficulty in swallowing. It wasn’t until his appetite had fallen off and a feeling of fullness and pain had set in that he became alarmed enough to seek further help. Indeed, roughly six weeks before, when I had last seen him, he appeared to be the very picture of health! Now, unfortunately, he was in a fight for his life!
He has now undergone two rounds of chemotherapy and will receive more on an outpatient basis in another week or so. I talked to him yesterday on the phone. He sounded understandably weak and a bit frail. I winced as he saud, “Jack, you wouldn’t even recognize me now. My eyes are all sunken-in, and I look about half the weight of the most emaciated Auschwitz victim you have ever seen. The skin on my arms is hanging in flaps.” He continued, “i’m gonna ride this out and file a lawsuit against that first hospital—I think their bungling has cost me at least a stage!”
The bungling he referred to may have cost him more than a stage; it may eventually cost him his very life. For there is a marked difference in the survival rates of patients with stage 2 as opposed to stage 3 esophageal cancer. Jist google “esophageal cancer stages” and you’ll see what I am ralking about. Still, my brother is very determined, and definitely wants to survive this. But I am realistic and have mentally prepared myself for what may very well occur sooner rather than later. And I share his fury.
Adenocarcinoma, the variety of esophageal cancer he has, arises in the glandular cells and can at times be difficult to spot by either CT scan or x-ray. It is the same cancer which killed my mother 2 years ago, although in her case, they never were able to determine exactly which glandular site it had originated from. But clearly, in view of the symptoms my brother had displayed while in the first hospital, the decision to discharge him was premature, ill-founded, and deadly.
My sincere thanks to all who have, or who will, express their best wishes and concern as we grapple with this serious matter.
Heads are definitely gonna roll! Most deservedly. I only hope my little brother will survive long enough, and have enough resources, to see that his just rewards are realized!