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I always knew we would lodge a complaint against the hospital for Mathew’s bone scan last May. It took until today to finally do it. I should thank the receptionist whose “best guess” made me march right up to the Patient Advocate’s office and formally start the process.

Let me digress: earlier today Mathew had a CT scan and an MRI. When I requested assurance the Radiologist who misread the bone scan last May would not be involved in reading and interpreting today’s tests the receptionist’s “best guess” wouldn’t guarantee that. Hence the immediate visit to the Advocate’s office.

Misread bone scan, you say? WTF? Here’s the story: on 9 May 2013 Mathew had a bone scan. The report came back as normal, nothing really of concern. Two months’ later on 19 July 2013 an MRI showed a spinal tumour. Shortly after there was the surgeon’s consultation and he told us the tumour was big and almost 8 cm across. At that point, I was incredulous that the tumour could grow almost 8 cm in just two months and the surgeon’s eyebrows went up while he asked why I thought this happened in a matter of just two months. I told him the bone scan in May was normal and the MRI in July showed this big growth in Mathew’s spine. The surgeon asked who told me/us that the bone scan was normal and we told him where our information came from.

The surgeon then said the bone scan was not normal and in fact, showed the tumour. He proceeded to pull the scan up on the computer so we could see it for ourselves. There were 3 glowing spots almost in a row. Two of them belonged – the kidneys – while the third, on the spine, did not. There it was… visible to our untrained, naked eyes. OMG. How could anyone miss THAT?

Although we meant to file a complaint right away, Mathew’s diagnosis of cancer and subsequent treatment blew every other concern out of our minds for the longest time. Events conspired to reveal the scan results’ error in just two months…but maybe others weren’t so lucky. We never forgot about those other people whose results might still be wrong even to this day.

I’m not clear on exactly how the next steps will occur but Mathew’s file and all of his test results will be reviewed. The complaint will go to the head of the Radiology Department unless he/she is the same person who interpreted the bone scan. In that case the complaint will go up a level in the organization to his/her supervisor to avoid a conflict of interest. At the end of the process there will be a meeting between us, the Patient Advocate’s office and “others” but I’m not clear on who they will be.

In addition to this process we can also file a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons for the Province of New Brunswick. Each Province in Canada has its own College which governs the doctors and is responsible for issuing a doctor his/her license to practise in that Province. It can also take disciplinary action against a physician or even revoke his/her license to practise.

I wrestled with a mix of emotions after filing the complaint today. What transpired to cause the erroneous report is still unknown except there was an error made somewhere between the time the scan was done and when we got the results. Beyond that all I know for sure is that the dirty, aggressive cancer grew unencumbered during those two months in Mathew’s body. The ripple effect of that one action is not lost on me…so now my one action might have far-reaching effects on others and it is a sobering thought that weighs heavily on me.

I experienced serious déjà-vu during the MRI and CT scan today. It was the MRI last 19 July that showed the tumour and Mathew was immediately sent for a CT scan, after which the doctor came out to tell me the news. I remembered turning around halfway through Mathew’s CT scan and seeing a whole bunch of people standing behind the computers and looking at the screens then at us. Many more individuals than were there at the start of the test. I remember seeing someone who looked authoritative enough to be a doctor…and knowing THAT wasn’t a good sign. Followed by the terrible shock of hearing Mathew had a tumour in his spine.

It was nerve-wracking being there in the same position again today. This time knowing about the cancer but wondering what these tests will reveal. Knowing these results will cause us incredible happiness or grief and despair. Or maybe neither if the results are ambiguous. We won’t know for a few weeks so it is a different kind of agony; not the immediate, brutal shock of that July day but the hell of waiting to hear our son’s future.

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