Waiting to Wait

prostate_logo movember_logo There’s a very old George Carlin comedy sketch about dogs. Dogs are always waiting for something, he says: waiting to be walked, waiting to be fed, waiting to be fussed; sometimes, just waiting to wait.

I’m naturally reticent to knock our National Health System – it is, after all, offering sometimes very expensive care to all regardless of bank accounts and/or insurance cover – but waiting to wait is exactly what my waiting to be admitted for a radical prostatectomy is beginning to feel like. Weeks elapse between each stage of the process. Here’s a rough timeline in my case:

  • 27th Aug: Biopsy.
  • 20th Sep: Biopsy results and presentation of treatment options. (+3½ weeks)
  • 22nd Sep: Confirmed my selection of surgery. (+2 days)
  • 21st Oct: Meet surgeon. (+4 weeks)
  • 17th Nov: Pre-op assessment. (+3½ weeks)
  • 1st Dec: Hospital admission (+2 weeks)

In stark contrast, I recently heard of a former American colleague who was in the same predicament. On Tuesday he was diagnosed; on Wednesday he elected the surgical approach; on Thursday he had the operation. I assume he had good medical insurance and that we are not comparing apples with apples but I don’t know. Another former colleague Stateside was, just yesterday, presented with brain surgery options and he is being operated on today. So, speedy action is clearly not an isolated incident on the other side of the Atlantic.

Apart from the waiting to wait syndrome, courtesy of our constant injections of gaps running to weeks rather than days, being something of a drag, it introduces a real danger. The danger is that one will not remain healthy long enough for hospital admission on one’s assigned date. The main problem is the common cold. Trying to avoid one for over a month, particularly in winter, can be a real problem. Catching one leads to missing one’s original date and adds (I’m guessing) another month or two while a second surgical slot is found.

Immediate treatment may not have been considered essential in my case but, given the inbuilt delays and potential addition of further delays should anything go wrong, I’d say it’s as well to kick things off just as soon as possible to provide some leeway.

Since retiring, I’ve been running at an average of 1 cold per year. Needing to remain cold-free for about 6 weeks results in ~10% chance of failure. For working folks travelling on germ-laden trains and working in bug-ridden offices where other inconsiderate bods insist on sharing their infection when they should stay at home, the risks are far greater. How many times have I heard someone snuffle, “I’ve only got a cold”? Far too many times. “Yes, you have, and you may be adversely affecting someone else’s critical treatment.” An attitude adjustment vis-a-vis the (all too) common cold is long overdue.

Truthfully, I’m very grateful to be waiting for my chosen treatment but it does start making we wonder about the pros and cons of alternative systems. I just want this done so I can start my recovery.

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2 comments on “Waiting to Wait
  1. Keith Stillman says:

    Services have to either be rationed by queue or financial ability. I assume the queue process reduces demand from the death rate among waiters while the financial ability system reduces demand from the death rate among those not able to pay. Either way care is rationed.

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  1. […] the solution fad just ‘cos I’m retired]. These  four months have very definitely felt like waiting to wait. By far the worst time, however, the most psychologically stressful, has been the last two weeks […]

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