THE ART OF KVETCHING: HOW TO WORK THE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

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Some matters call for drastic measures.  They require you to reach deep into your bag o’ tricks to find a resolution.  For me, this is where being a kvetch, or a kvetcher, comes in handy.

For those not familiar, a kvetch is a complainer and kvetching is what a kvetch is always doing, although a kvetch can also kvetch, so it is both a noun and a verb.  A kvetch also kvetches, which makes this even more confusing.  Allow me to provide a quick lesson through some personal examples.

My father is always kvetching; he kvetches if his Diet Coke doesn’t come with a lemon wedge.

Don’t kvetch so much!  I have something even worse to kvetch about.

Why is my grandmother such a kvetch?  She’s the biggest kvetcher I know and doesn’t have a care in the world.

As the Yiddish spoken in America became Anglicized over the last century and the majority of American Yiddish-speakers of yesteryear have passed on, it’s all taken with a grain of kosher salt.  Fancy Schmancy was not a phrase used in the old country, after all.

Nonetheless, the term kvetch is used in a derogatory sense and is generally reserved for those types who chronically complain about everything in a very drawn-out way.  At the right time, however, I put on the kvetch hat and make the most of it. You must kvetch with an end goal in mind, or else you might as well be a plain old complainer.  Kvetching is an art and one must know when and how to use this craft.

I had to pull out the kvetch hat quite recently in order to remedy a problem.  Refer to my last post for the whole saga, but in short, my corneal specialist just left me hanging over a week ago with a diagnosis of central corneal opacity in one eye, a type of corneal scarring that can lead to blindness and is a rare complication of cross-linking (CXL), which I had done 6 months ago for my keratoconus.  He told me I had to go back to L.A. to see my CXL surgeon, which isn’t possible, and that was that.

I have been self-treating my eye with 2 prescription drops I had on hand since the Friday I was diagnosed with the opacity and was awaiting a response from my CXL surgeon, which I got in due time via e-mail.  He told me that it didn’t seem that serious—as opposed to my local doctor, the corneal specialist, who told me I could lose my vision in a few weeks.  He mentioned that he would be happy to see me, regardless.  That got me nowhere since traveling to L.A. was out of the picture.  Who was I to believe?  I had to save my eye, so it was time to start kvetching, but to whom?  This is not a solo sport.

Well, I got a second chance due to my local doctor’s assistant not reminding him at my appointment—despite reminding her—that this was my 6 month follow up for the FDA clinical trial and I would need the appropriate paperwork filled out and various tests done.  My doctor didn’t do anything required by the FDA, so I was rescheduled to see the optometrist who works with the surgical patients this past Friday.  That was just what I needed.  A chance to perform the art of kvetching in all its finery.

In the meantime, I called the clinic the Monday following my disastrous appointment and left word for my doctor that I had contacted and heard back from my CXL surgeon, wanted to be treated with an ocular steroid and antibiotic and have a follow up in 6 weeks, and to have him call me back in regards to this.  No call.  I called again on Thursday afternoon and asked why he had not called back.  The rude receptionist who answered told me, “Your message was very lengthy and he did get the message.”  Perhaps he could get e-mail like my very busy CXL surgeon?  Regardless, her response told me nothing other than that I was still left hanging and he wasn’t going to treat me.  I let her know that I couldn’t go to L.A., he was my treating physician, and that I expected a call back in a not-so-nice-tone to mimic hers.  This was more of a stern kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.

I got a voicemail from my doctor Friday morning, which was the next day, saying I needed to make sure to come in for my appointment with the optometrist that day, as well as a voicemail from the rude receptionist reiterating what he said and that my doctor would see me at the appointment, also. Maybe the kvetching was paying off?  I called her back and told her that I’ve never missed an appointment and asked why these messages were being left, just to kvetch some more for kvetching’s sake.  This was really just to add extra emphasis and be a pain in the ass, or more accurately, a pain in the tuchus.

I am always running almost-on-time due to my mess of a body from Ehlers-Danlos that is like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, but I managed to print out the journal article written by my CXL surgeon with the case report and treatment protocol I was following for post-CXL central corneal opacity and also had a copy of his message from the e-mail in hand for the appointment.  All bases covered.  One must do this to be an effective kvetcher—kvetch in an informed manner and keep your eye on the goal.

I had been in a pissed off mood for a week due to this ordeal, so when the cheery front desk girl asked how I was doing when I checked-in, I didn’t give a nice response.  Why lie?  It was more of a kvetchy, I’d-be-better-if-my-doctor-gave-a-crap response, but she continued to act in an odd, overly nice way that I don’t normally see there.  I took a mental note of that.

Luckily, one of the better techs called me back for the various tests I had to do and I started kvetching to him about my treatment there—or lack thereof—since he sees me often and is aware I am never like this at the clinic.  I even told him, while he was making notes in my chart, that I was on the two new drops in one eye and was treating myself due to my doctor not willing to do so.  Oy vey.  Would he warn my doctor that a kvetch was in the clinic?  I was betting on it.

The tech and I went into a little room to do the corneal topography and I felt someone rubbing my back.  What the heck?  I turned around and it was the front desk woman I normally deal with and know fairly well, so something was definitely going on.  She had the sorry-you’re-dealing-with-this look, which wasn’t necessary, but gave me some reassurance that a resolution might be coming. How did she know?

Had the rude receptionist spread the word that I was a hugely dissatisfied, kvetching patient who could possibly be a yenta—a gossipy woman—and ruin my doctor’s reputation in this big-small-town in the Southwest? Did the 99.5% Latino, but primarily Latina, support staff have a hidden knowledge of Yiddish and its deeper meaning?  Had they been throwing these words around all week in between English, Spanish, and Spanglish?

“Esa mujer que always está kvetching.  Oy, I’m gonna go loca.”

All the better for me.  Relax, I speak Spanish, was an expat in México, and love that America is a melting pot of cultures. Thanks to the Spanyidglish, the kvetching was definitely paying off.

From there, I was led to another room and told to wait for the optometrist.  I planned on kvetching to him about the predicament I was in and asking for his advice while throwing my hands up in the air, rather than just shoving it down his throat.  Again, there is an art to this all.

However, just as I sat down, my corneal specialist came in.  I wasn’t expecting him yet, so I quickly prepared myself.  I noticed he was more humble than usual and had a nicer demeanor, as his mood is unpredictable.  Had he prepared himself, as well?  I believe the yentas in the office had warned him about me, as well as the tech.  I did kvetch about my predicament to an extent, but I was armed with the medical journal article and the e-mail message, all from my CXL surgeon.  Perhaps this would finally be resolved.  One must know precisely when to take the kvetch hat off, of course.

The optometrist quickly came in and now both doctors were tackling the opacity issue together and taking turns peering into my eye and talking in hushed tones.  The optometrist could see the opacity but thought it wasn’t that worrisome for now.  My specialist actually read the case report in the article I had presented and then agreed that the ocular steroid I was using was the best approach and said that he wanted to see me again in 6 weeks to recheck my eye.  Was that not what I had asked for in the lengthy message?  He even kept the journal article—fancy that!  He reiterated that it would be best to go to L.A. as my surgeon has been doing CXL since the U.S. trials began, but my doctor is doing them now, so what will he do when this happens to one of his own CXL patients?

Who cares at this point?  The kvetchy wheel got the grease again and that, my friends, is the whole megillah.  What a never-ending story it is—similar to reading a long post written in three languages.

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28 thoughts on “THE ART OF KVETCHING: HOW TO WORK THE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

  1. wellbeingdawn101 says:

    Sounds like you are a master kvetcher! Good onya you for putting your foot down and getting the result that you needed and deserved.

    D

  2. How else can I get anything accomplished?! Had to do it again today as they never sent any of my paperwork or tests for 6 months now to my surgeon to send to the FDA (gov’t agency that handles the trials). Ugh! Oh, get this… They sent my topographies (or similar test) in a b/w copy! How can they see a topography that’s not in color? Who are these idiots? My local doc isn’t sure the CXL worked in one eye (can’t tell me why), but I think it’s fine as my VA hasn’t gotten worse (or better) and I was progressing like crazy pre-CXL. I peaked at the scans and saw lots of green everywhere. Green is flatter so good. Hope to hear from my surgeon’s office tomorrow if they get the scans in color and can assure me all is OK. If not, I’m moving to the Outback (believe it is very dry there and I would do OK). Ha ha.

    You have to post on “onya” and all your other words I’m learning. I didn’t think that was a typo knowing you and saw it was an Aussie word. Who knew? Starting a linguistic blog…

    From Dictionary.com: onya/good onya
    Interjection 1. A term used by Aussie’s to express a job well done. 2. Aussie slang for “Thanks” or any other gratitude.

    Thanks for commenting and dropping by the sleepy blog, D (yawn)!

    A 🙂

  3. dyspatient says:

    Well that was an ordeal. I’m glad you got in. I hate obstructionist desk help. They really do everyone a huge disservice. I used to wonder, when I worked at a hospital, why patients and families were in such bad moods. Yes, I was young and stupid about a lot of things. It wasn’t until I was older, not a lot older but a bit, that I realized that any given person on any given day could be having the worst day of his or her life. Put that in a hospital or health care context and the odds of that are greatly increased. Why is this person so “rude” immediately on the phone when she calls to ask about her mother, the patient in room 665b? Well, maybe she’s – oh I don’t know – upset that her mom is sick? It’s amazing how people (me included) can be so clueless sometimes. So I am more forgiving now, but only to a degree. Someone who is my age or older should have amassed enough life experience to have made the same realization I made in my late 20s. I don’t have any sympathy or patience for their attitude when I get it for being a kvetcher.
    So yeah, good onya for pushing!

    • You’re right about a lot of this and appreciate the feedback. “Obstructionist desk help.” Ha ha. It’s all of them!!! We have this *type* that works in healthcare here and I’m just done with it. Well, we’re close in age so remember when they didn’t have medical assistants with their GEDs? Think it’s a SW thing and so sick of it! For me, it’s just unprofessional and complacent behavior. I don’t need any sympathy (courtesy would be nice), I just need them to do their damn job–my doctors included! I tend to be less forgiving of the age thing, as I started working at 14 (ugh) and had many receptionist jobs and was always the consummate professional.

      I really do act courteous in doctor’s offices, etc., but when I hit a road block, then I have to put the kvetch hat on. I don’t act like my grandmother (OMG, hate those types), but when you have to get from point A to point B and there’s no one to help, what the hell else can you do? Well, now you know who I really am (sort of). Had to come out of the closet about the Member of the Tribe thing–it was driving me crazy! Figured you’d get through the basic Yiddish being in your neck of the woods. Ha ha.

      A 🙂

      • dyspatient says:

        Yeah, I’d take an efficient staff who have good stress management skills over someone who vacillates between the two poles of deeply unprofessional (defensively obstructionist vs. touchy feely sweet). I’m lucky. My PCP doesn’t have a lot of staff but the ones he has are pretty good. Not always sweetness and pie, but good.

        Oh the Yiddish, definitely. I went to a university named for a certain Jewish US supreme court judge up here in the Northeast. Got a decent informal education in Yiddish.

      • The staffing is such a frustration. Then we have the abysmal doctors. My new GP has good staff, so I’m hoping she’ll work for me as she seems knowledgeable at least. They are not the typical type out here so someone must carefully choose them. Then I have this place to deal with chronically! It’s hit or miss. I remember you talking about finding the winning combo of good staff + good doc. Very rare in these parts.

        I know exactly where you went to school! You’re so smart, D. I floated around and then graduated from a Jesuit university (and then went back there for grad school). We probably should have switched! My mother was involved with the women’s organization of your alma mater back home that supported the library. Always stuck helping out with that when I was a tween. Ugh. How funny!

  4. dyspatient says:

    btw, my cat’s name is “anya” and we use “onya” ironically when she does something stupid. “woo, kitty just pulled down the curtain chasing the laser pointer! Good Onya!”

    • So funny about your cat! She must be so confused. How did you know that word? I’m learning a whole new language from KC D (as opposed to EDS D–who I learn other things from!). KC D is Aussie, but from England originally, and they call people like her Poms, so now we talk about Pommy things like drinking tea, bad teeth, etc. Never knew any of this and have known Aussies in the US. Love the whole cross-culture thing! Funny, funny.

      • dyspatient says:

        Pom. lol. Had some Aussies in my life – a friend when I lived in the Great Midwest (she and her friend from England were quite fond of the “c” word, and oh boy, no amount of shocked looks from midwesterners were going to stop them from using it as every part of speech during a brunch rant…hilarious) and worked for one in Ye Olde New England Outback University. I’d only heard “onya” used in phrase, as in “good onya”, not as stand alone. But how I, with my New England accent, say the cat’s name, it is pretty much identical to “onya” as an Aussie would say it.

      • Ha! I was wondering if it was pronounced anya or onya (long o). All the Aussies I’ve met swear like crazy and crack me up. I grew up (or for most of it) next to an English family who was very Pommy, so I know the whole English lifestyle. Did you ever catch Jim Jefferies? Raunchy, Aussie comedian, but so funny. He’s a fan of the c-word. I get HBO here (!!!), but he’s on YouTube.

  5. I’ve been tvetching lately. Seriously, only I had never heard of the word. I’m so tired of having to fight with health care professionals who lack important skills and say stupid things that I’ve been thinking I should tvetch about the things they say to others in their field – maybe then they’ll all start realizing that it’s easy to “sound” stupid and be more careful.

    Yesterday we had an appointment with my daughter’s psych and I meant to tvetch (but forgot) about the nurse practioner that told me he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to treat my daughter. Imagine where that would have settled her unprofessional butt.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you. It’s a good thing you handled your own treatment – but it’s all so crazy as it should never be that way.I hope you’ll be OK. And yes, how will your local deal with his own patients if he doesn’t start now by handling your case?

    • Oh, Sheep–you’re so funny and glad you’re back. At least you see nurses up there–we’re stuck with medical assistants (not even a BS degree) down here. I hate to do this (well, you are learning a new language), but change the T to K… Kvetch. Lol! You’ll sound like a real Jew, in case you hadn’t figured that out already about me. Anyone of Mediterranean ancestry is pretty good at kvetching, in my opinion (especially the women). So, regardless of your ancestry, kvetch away! The pronunciation by Yiddish-speakers is really weird and makes me sound like a Gentile. There’s no break between the K and V and the V sounds more like an F. Just practice at your local deli over a bowl of matzo ball soup next week during Passover. Ha! What a stereotype! Well, this is not a PC blog. Wonder what sort of Google search results I’ll get now? “Is matzo ball soup good for keratoconus?”

      Take care and add informed kvetching to the your bag o’ tricks to deal with these people,
      A 🙂

      • Lol… sorry.. i don’t even think that was a typo. But at least I made you laugh 😉

        I’m trying to make a comeback… am a little overwhelmed but will get there i’m sure. 🙂

      • No need for apologies–it made the post even funnier! It sounded Yiddishy enough, anyway! There’s this newer trend in the States for using Anglicized Yiddish (by non-Jews) and it cracks me up. I got an e-mail from the big, chain pharmacy a while back that had something (wish I could remember) in the title and I had to forward it to my father. The best (or worst) is that I really use these words in these parts and get odd looks from people who don’t know what schlepping is, etc. (just Google).

        Don’t get overwhelmed–that’s not good. Blogging has been good for me, but I had to make it work for me, like not following people anymore (and just bookmarking them) and so on so that I don’t get overwhelmed. 🙂

      • WOW! I’m so not good with various cultures.. lol. I know this is tacky but did you ever watch Vancouver City Housewives? Anyway, there is this crazy (she is mean) woman in there who uses all these words and it’s funny because all the other little Canadians keep asking what they mean. 😉 In Montreal, I had quite a few Jewish friends but still, I don’t know anything about the vocabulary. I found online “Yiddish language and culture” and I’m all excited. I’ll read through it and will surprise you with something big!!!

      • Lol! You’re so funny! Never saw the show–is it part of The Housewives series (in the US)? I lost Bravo when I moved here so no more drek TV. That means something cheap more or less. “I went to the neighbor’s yard sale, but it was all drek.” I use Yiddish for words that don’t really exist in English or just sound better in Yiddish. That’s so funny about the website and I have seen those. The problem is how to pronounce? Yiddish came from Middle German but is mixed with Hebrew and is spelled with the Hebrew alphabet, so it’s a transliteration when we write it. If you have any knowledge of German, it helps.

        I figured you’d run into some of us in your profession–ha ha! Montreal and Toronto have big communities, as well as Vancouver, as I went there all the time and you drive right through an old Jewish neighborhood to get into the city. I stopped one time at a kosher deli for lunch and to buy this and that as Seattle didn’t have much left at the time. The big Canadian cities seemed so diverse to me (never made it to Toronto and wish I had).

        Funny stuff. Oh, if you knew Sephardic Jews (like my step-family) they spoke Ladino, which is old Spanish mixed with Hebrew but I can understand most of it. It all depends on where the ancestors ended up after we were booted out of the Holy Land so long ago. So, not all became Yiddish-speakers. Then there are the Persian Jews…

        A 🙂

      • “I use Yiddish for words that don’t really exist in English or just sound better in Yiddish.” That’s what she says as well (lol – the mean woman in the Vancouver series). It’s really the same show as those of the US but I’m not sure how they’re connected in the background.

      • I found the show last night on YouTube–couldn’t resist. I also figured out who you were talking about (Jody), but she only spoke in English. Took me a bit as the blond, blond hair threw me off. Oh, is she snoooty! She’s like my grandmother. We have an English word for types like her, something about a princess… Such self-entitlement! I did love that I recognized so much of the city.

        I can be a total reality TV junkie, but no good channels here. Btw, what is wrong with the woman’s face who was the pageant queen from the States? Holy fillers and botox! I think her cheeks might explode in due time. Lol! So LA. Reminds me of the same show in OC, which is the best one (for making fun of people). Yikes! When did this become the new look? Ha ha. 🙂

      • Lol.. I know – the cheeks and Jody laughs at them all the time as well! That show has to be the worst I’ve seen to date! The meanest one of all! Then there is Ronnie with the awful fish lips filled with Restylane! lol

      • Yep! I caught the nose job fight and I could tell that the cheeks woman had a nose job before it even came up (I can see my blown up lap top pretty well). I didn’t see much of Ronnie, but there was someone with the fish lips, like on the Beverly Hills one. Lol! I hate that look. A lot of women my age back home started looking like that (Seattle isn’t a tree-hugger city anymore). Creepy–especially when they smile and their faces don’t smile exactly. Well, I guess I’ll just sit here with my gaunt, aging face. What to do? Not a Jewish American Princess by any means (barf). 😉 We’ll have to start a Housewives blog and I need the motel to ditch the Dish so I can catch up. Oh, the Van show never aired here as I had my rental and cable until Nov. Odd.

      • LOL! You’re so much fun! We should start a Housewives blog! lol

      • You too! My next post is like watching the Housewives, but in a total different setting. I love people watching, but now I people listen. If I ever get cable, we’ll have to start something and I can catch the marathons that run into the wee hours of the night. Ha ha.

      • Yes, lol. Lets have some fun! My bests friends are now people online. Isn’t that amazing?

      • Same here. People in the real world are sooo annoying! I’ve found my circle on WP and we all get each other and have great laughs. What more could one ask for? Will work on the cable connection for the future blog (and lots of cash coming in as we dish about The Housewives). Lol!

  6. 1hundredworks says:

    Haha! This is just precious. You know how to get things done, something I still gotta learn.

    Akhil.

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