From Medical Conference to Medical Patient

While attending the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) meeting in Washington, DC, two prominent cardiologists ordered me to take myself immediately to the hospital. A week earlier, while attending a different medical conference in Washington, DC, the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), I tripped over a broken brick in a sidewalk and hurt my ankle. I wasn’t very worried because I seemed to have full range of ankle motion and it didn’t appear that anything was broken. My ankle was sore, and there was swelling around the ankle bone, but I could hobble on it. The problem at TCT was that I was still hobbling a week later, and the ankle had swollen a little more. Roxana Mehran, MD, an interventional cardiologist from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and Philippe Gabriel Steg, MD, an interventional cardiologist from Paris, both took a look at it and said I had to have it checked out right away for a possible fracture – and to get a Doppler to be sure a blood clot hadn’t formed. I would still probably have waited two more days until I was home from this marathon string of medical conferences (~3.5 weeks on the road) to get it checked out, but my friend Peggy Peck, vice president/editor-in-chief of MedPage Today pointed out that flying home would not be a very good idea if it was a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). So, the TCT press staff hailed a cab for me and off I went to George Washington University Hospital emergency room. The ER was really busy at lunch time, but after about an hour the nursing head of the ER saw me herself, Mary Caitlin Noon, RN. She ordered a Doppler and x-rays, and I started writing this blog while I waited. It really wasn’t long before the radiology folks came to get me to take pictures of my swollen and black and blue foot. The tech was very pleasant and efficient, so my only complaint about this was the usual one – the room was freezing. After that, Barbara Neiswander, RN, helped me out of my clothes and into a hospital gown, onto an ER bed, and brought me two heated blankets. The ER doctor, David Marcozzi, MD, examined my foot, predicted it was either a fracture or a very serious sprain of a ligament below the ankle. The ultrasound Doppler and two sets of x-rays confirmed that it was a sprained ligament with no DVT. At the doctor’s direction, the staff fitted me with crutches and an air stirrup ankle splint. An orderly even hailed a cab for me and loaded my stuff – including my new crutches – inside. I called a Florida orthopedic surgeon and made an appointment to see him in three days. The ER doctor wants me entirely off the foot (no weight-bearing) for at least two weeks. That’s not possible with my schedule, though my schedule is a little lighter than usual for the next two weeks. I have to meet my grandson in Atlanta on Friday for the weekend, and then I’ll be leaving for Madrid in 9 days for the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) meeting. I’ll probably disobey instructions and hobble to both of these events, but I will try to stay off my foot as much as possible. Maybe I’ll let the airline push me around in a wheelchair! All in all, I was really pleasantly surprised at how well and how efficiently I was treated at George Washington University Hospital. Everyone was really nice, and Nurse Gina even brought me a boxed lunch. Everyone was professional, kind, helpful, and knowledgeable. I wish I could say my experience with Florida hospitals has been as nice when I’ve taken family members.