Friday, August 20, 2010

Medical Matter: The Nuclear Purple Pill

This past Wednesday we traveled south on Interstate 91 for the short drive from Wallingford to New Haven, CT to take a capsule of radioactive iodine at the Smilow Cancer Hospital, part and parcel of the ever-expanding Yale New Haven Hospital complex on and around Howard Avenue.  The purple capsule arrived dramatically in a lead-lined cup along with an official Yale New Haven Hospital disposable plastic cup of water(Unabashed Left came prepared; asked for and received permission to wash down the medicine with an ice cold bottle of Poland Spring rather than risk warm tap water).
Accompanying the capsule were two radiologists(with the alphabet soup "MD" on their name tags), two experts from the Nuclear Safety Department("Health Physics Technicians" or "HST's" if you're keeping score at home) and one Nuclear Technician(or "NT" if you prefer).  That's four of them, one lead-lined cup containing one nuclear purple capsule, and one cup of water against only little old us and our 1/2 liter of refreshing Poland Spring water.  We were clearly outnumbered so we took the pill.
Of course we did not do so without a battle.  We asked the nuke safety guys if there was any black market value for radioactive iodine.  They professed ignorance of it's potential street value.  We Unabashedly informed the attending radiologist of our intent to "cheek" the capsule and pretend to swallow in order to pursue our capitalistic ends.  She snickered.  Our goal was achieved!  A chink in the medical armor.  Some light-heartedness amid a sea of melodrama.  "Ho, ho, ho" we commented.
Following our ingestion of the offending capsule, all my company left hastily.  I interpreted this to be due to their desire to avoid the potential 'fallout' from my earlier remarks.  You have to wake up pretty early in the a.m. to catch this particular glow worm. :)
Minutes later the Nuke Safety contingent returned with what was obviously some sort of newfangled Geiger counter, resembling, somewhat, a jugs gun of the sort utilized to measure the speed of Roger Clemens' pitches in his day(who is, ironically, under indictment this week for allegedly lying to Congress about his own ingestion of contraband medicine in years past). 
The Nuclear Officer stood at the opposite side of the room and reached far out to hand me the business end of a tape measure attached to the Geiger counter.  He told me to hold the tape to my throat.  He took several paces back measuring his distance.  He aimed!  He fired! He confirmed!  I had not cheeked the violet cylinder, and it had not lodged in my throat. 
My Poland Spring plan had worked like a charm. 
It certainly wouldn't have done to succumb by way of choking on radioactive iodine, and the Nuclear Safety Department(NSD) of the Nuclear Imaging Department(NID) of the Smilow Cancer Hospital(SCH), subsidiary of Yale New Haven Hospital(YNHH), the teaching hospital owned by Yale Med School(YMS) in New Haven, Connecticut(CT), America(USA) was just making sure!  What an ironic way that would have been to go.  Hopefully these experts were well trained in the Heimlich Maneuver(HM). 
Thanks go to everyone at Smilow who perform complex and difficult tasks for folks in much more dire straits than UL was that day, and do so mostly in good cheer.
We want to offer particular thanks to two MD's involved in this case.  One is M.D. and general practitioner Jae Jin Kim, sole proprietor of the Milford Walk-In center in Milford, CT.  It is really more of a blast from the past single physician office where no appointment is needed and Dr. Kim heals in amazing ways and cares deeply about whomever crosses the threshold of her office.  The other is M.D. and endocrinologist Surani Fernando of Endocrine Associates in New Haven.  Her clinical expertise, astuteness, willingness to forgo unnecessary procedures, ability to inspire confidence and to teach her patients about their conditions, treatments and possible outcomes have been a rock through this process.  Like Dr. Kim, her obvious passion for people and her craft is evident. 
We've had some difficulties with providers in our lifetime of near legendary proportions.  Suffice it to say that we do not support tort "reform" in the form of reduced malpractice insurance costs for medical providers.  We will simply leave it there, we invite individuals to inquire and we will discuss the matter on that basis--not out here in public.  Its a very personal issue, and one that politicians need not grandstand on at all.  However it is evident and inspiring that there are still many such as the very good Drs. Kim and Fernando, who still not only remember, but exemplify and practice the Hippocratic oath every day of their lives.  There needs to be a Nobel Prize for Nice.  And I nominate these two outstanding women.
And I thank all for their expressions of concern and prayers, our recuperation is proceeding well, and the Right still needs to watch out because Unabashed Left will be back in town before they know what hit them.
We close with a link to the classical version of the Hippocratic Oath provided by the Public Broadcast Service and WGBH of Boston.

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