Marvin the Martian take note
A month ago, I had a follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon who worked on my back six weeks earlier. Among other things, he told me that he was going to schedule me for a follow-up MRI, to take a look at how things were coming along at this point. He told me that he'd mark it as "medium priority", 3 on a scale of 1 to 5, and that it would probably take about 4 to 6 weeks to get through the queue. I'd have another follow-up appointment with him when it was done.
A couple of weeks later, I called up the MRI scheduling office to ask if they could give me any idea when it would be happening. All they could tell me was that I was in the queue and that yes, it'd probably take another few weeks for me to work my way through it. Priority 3 meant that more urgent scans would bump me down the line.
On Tuesday, thanks to several people nudging me, I called the scheduling office to ask if my medium priority made me eligible to be put on the list for taking over someone else's slot in the event of a cancellation. (This flexibility can get one's MRI done very
quickly.) I was told that the MRI requisition had been flagged as requiring "Gad" (i.e., gadolinium contrast agent), that those could only be done during the day shift because the technician requires additional expertise/certification, and that the queue for those is months
long. I could expect it to come up in 4 to 6 months
, not weeks.
As you might expect, I was surprised, and disappointed, and puzzled. The contrast agent is usually used if there's reason to think there might be a tumour: cancerous cells take up the agent rapidly, and a comparison of scans before and after the agent is injected can show if something nasty is lurking. I had an MRI with the agent last November (at my own expense at the MRI clinic in Hull) and another one with the agent at the hospital in June. Neither showed any anomalies. The surgery itself didn't show any signs of a tumour. So why was that option checked on the requisition? I left a message for the surgeon to ask what was going on.
I got a call back this afternoon. Apparently the surgeon didn't mark that option; it was added by the radiologist who processed the requisition. The surgeon didn't know why. His assistant who called me told me that the surgeon would "go down and talk with the radiologist" and sort things out.
My immediate reaction to that comment was to wonder why the surgeon seemed to have to track down the radiologist and sort things out in person. But on further consideration... if communication between doctors is as bad as it is between doctors and patients, as it seems to be, that may be the only way of extracting a straight answer.
If I haven't heard anything further by, say, Monday (as I expect), I'll call the MRI scheduling office again and see if anything has changed.
If I hadn't decided to look into jumping the queue, I might still be waiting, many weeks from now.