Why you should care
Be careful who you ask for help.
On Nov. 23, 2011, I was getting ready for work. Shaving, I found a lump in my throat about the size of a gumball.
Fast-forward a week. My doctor sends me to a surgeon. Fast-forward another week, two weeks before Christmas, and the surgeon tells me, “Well, you either have throat cancer or not. We will do the surgery after the holidays. Merry Christmas.”
So it was a Black Christmas. Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. My grandparents had all died of cancer, so I’m thinking, “OK, motherfucker, time’s up, balance the books and have some fun.” I balanced the books, which meant making some painful and uncomfortable phone calls and hearing some unpleasant things. And I had fun.
But the holidays hit and afterward I had the surgery done, followed by weeks of tests and waiting until the word came down: No cancer.
Up until finding the lump, I had swagger. But after the scare, I was a shell. I started having bouts of depression and severe anxiety attacks. I even took time off from work because I was “compromised.” My life ground to a stop.
A few months went by.
The cops were standing there, with the point man screaming at me to show them my hands.
My girlfriend at the time told me I needed to see a shrink and get on meds. I had good insurance, so finding a psychiatrist wasn’t hard. I was 30 at the time and the one I landed was even younger, 25 or 26, brand-new to the game. She was scarily eager, and her eagerness should have been a red flag. Eagerness and being brand-new in any area of the medical field can be a deadly combination.
She prescribed me a three-med cocktail. I have taken so many different meds over the years that I’m hard-pressed to remember what the exact three were. What I do remember, though, was that within 48 hours of the first dose, I was a zombie and could barely stay awake.
I saw the doctor on a Monday. By Wednesday, I was a zombie. By Saturday, I was just sleeping. At some point the next day, Sunday, my girlfriend got me awake and coherent long enough to hand me my phone to call the doctor to say the meds were not working. I knew all I had to do was sleep the shit off, not take anymore and I’d be good to go.
I left her a coherent voicemail saying, “Hey, Doc, These meds are not working, all I want to do is sleep, I can’t stay awake, I’m going to sleep them off and not take anymore. Can you call me tomorrow and let’s figure out a time to meet?”
I remember my girlfriend sitting on the bed. I sleep on my stomach, so when I made the call I was propped up on my elbows with my phone in my left hand. My girlfriend said that was good, that she was going back downstairs, to call her if I needed anything and to just sleep.
I went facedown into the pillow. My left arm, the phone still in my hand, slid under my girlfriend’s pillow, my right hand slid under my pillow. I instantly fell asleep again.
“Wake up! Wake the fuck up and show me your hands! Move fucking slow and show me your hands!”
My left eye opened and I saw three cops. Then I raised my head, opened my right eye and saw two more cops. My girlfriend was behind them, saying over and over, “I don’t know what’s happening.”
The cops were standing there, with the point man screaming at me to show them my hands, hands that were under the pillows. And in my left one? A black iPhone. I pushed myself up and brought my hands out and all five cops pulled their weapons and started screaming variations of, “Drop that weapon! Don’t fucking move!”
At that point, all medication fog was gone. One of the cops grabbed the pillow and saw it was my phone.
I flipped over and asked what was going on. They told me they had gotten a call that I was suicidal, a danger to myself and others. My girlfriend yelled, “They just shoved their way in!”
I asked who called them. One of them got on the radio and asked for details. I heard the report they were given as it came over the radio. They had the right person, right address, but then I heard something interesting. The doctor that called it in was not my doctor. In fact, I’d never heard the name of the doctor that came over the radio.
“Hey, fellas, that doctor whose name just came over the radio, I’ve never heard that name before in my life. That’s not my doctor,” I said. All five of them got this Oh, shit look on their faces. I picked up my phone, dialed my actual doctor’s number and put it on speaker so they could hear the name via her voicemail message. Once they heard it, the collective looks on their faces was We just walked into a lawsuit.
I’d seen this kind of shit on TV, and in real life, but now I was the centerpiece of the equation. I’d almost got lit up. Supposedly I’m suicidal and a danger to others, so say I did have a Glock instead of an iPhone in my hand: They could have justifiably killed me. I mean, if I were them, I’d probably have reacted just like they had.
They started apologizing profusely, falling all over themselves to get out of the house. They left, my girlfriend was still on the opposite side of the room and I was sitting up in bed. I tried to piece together how it had happened. My guess? My new and eager doctor had no idea what to do, so she called her supervisor, and her supervisor was the one who called the cops and told them whatever the fuck.
The next day my doctor confirmed as much. I asked her if she realized I almost got shot because of her. She said she’d do the same thing over again.
I fired that psychiatrist with extreme prejudice and replaced her with one who looked like Chloe Sevigny. She was cool. And didn’t call the cops on me. A sound basis for any good doctor-patient relationship.