Last summer (1991) Joey mentioned to a couple close friends he
wasn't feeling so hot, "mebbe that shit is back again". Around
Thanksgiving, in great stomach pain, he went to his doctor (they were fishing buddies) who "thought" maybe Joe was coming down with an ulcer. After a couple weeks the doctor sent him to a specialist, Doctor C, who diagnosed his problem as pancreatitus(?), an extremely painful condition (another doctor has since told me the body generates no greater pain
than in the pancreas).
In late January, a mutual friend called and told me about Joey. I
hadn't seen him for a few years (being outta action myself - but
that's another story) and told me about him and his condition. All
he could do by then was sit at his kitchen table and try to bear the pain, which would bring tears to the eyes of this tough, tough man. Doctor C was giving him some pills but they were of little value and of short duration. Doctor C kept telling him to hang on, the condition would soon pass as the medication took effect. The only relief (and that was very little) Joe could get was to go to the emergency room of the hospital and wait until a nurse or a doctor could give him a shot of something.
I called Joey and gave him hell for screwing around with these local doctors. He had been given the name (by another friend) of a stomach specialist in Philadelphia but Joe was reluctant to call. He said Doctor C seemed like a decent guy and all and seemed to know his
stuff. I convinced Joey to at least get a second opinion, if only to
be reassured that Doctor C really did know his stuff. "Okay" he said
and made an appointment. The earliest he could get was a coupla
three weeks away (Early February).
In the meantime, I took a phone fit and eventually ended up with one
of those 800 medical referral numbers. The woman who answered was
quite pleasant and very sympathic. I told her I had a friend with
this pancreas problem and could she supply the names of 3 or 4
specialists he could call to see about a second (or third) opinion.
"Certainly. What is his insurance company?" - Her.
"Gee, I don't know. What dfference does that make?" - Me.
"Well I can't supply ANY information until I get the name of the
company. It's the rules." - Her.
Some words back and forth and I finally told her "You know what
you're really saying, don't you. If my friend has Company A, he will
get a Level 1 doctor, and if he has Company B, he will get he will
get a Level 2 doctor, and so on down the line. And if he has *no*
insurance, then he's fucked. He might just as well go crawl to a
clinic somewhere and cower in a corner until some first year med
student has time to give him an aspirin."
She hung up. I knew Joey had insurance (damn lucky for him) but I
just think that some people, no matter how nice they appear, have a
lousy job and should be reminded of it once in a while.
Before Joey's appointment in Philadelphia, he had an appointment
with Doctor C (who had previously disparaged getting a second
opinion). When Joey told Doctor C he had decided to get a second
opinion, Doctor C immediately arranged for Joey to get admitted to
Hahneman's University Hospital in Philadelphia where his personal
friend, Doctor J was a "specialist in pancreatic problems". I later
learned from other sources that Hahneman's has a top reputation for
internal medicine and that Dr. J was the number one man.
Joey called when he got home and said he would get admitted as soon
as there was a room, maybe that night. I had offered to take him
anytime he needed to go to Philly for the second opinion. Hahneman's
called, and I took Joey that night. Within an hour of arrival (8pm)
they had begun examination, xrays, etc.
I talked to Joey on the phone the next day and you could hear the
relief in his voice. He still had pain, but they were working on it
and he finally had some true confidence in the hospital and doctors.
He had already been seen by at least "a dozen" different doctors and
was impressed by them and the entire staff, from admittance to
nursing. I know when I dropped him off, they had the paperwork done
and in a room in less than 10 minutes.
I phoned Joey once or twice a day every day for the next month. His
demeanor ranged from his old self - wise cracking, smartass, joking
- to pain so great he couldn't talk. Sometimes long minutes would go
by and all I could hear was agonized labored breathing. "You want me
to hang up Joe?" "No, no, that's alright." So you just hung on the
phone hoping there was some comfort for him knowing his friends
When they finally put him on a morphine solution fed by an IV, he was
great. It was the only stuff that would cut the pain. No pills ever
did the job. Joey had a metabolism that went a hunnert miles an
hour, healthy he could eat 8 meals a day and still be hungry. He
wasn't all that big a guy - maybe 5'8" and 150 lbs, never did have
an ounce of fat, no matter how much he ate or drank, and boy he
could do both. That was most likely why the pills never worked very
well, they were probably used up by the time they hit his stomach.
The pain was brutal and, without morphine, unrelenting. It would
make him angry and nasty, emotions foreign to Joey's nature. He told
me one day "This morning the pain was so bad, I struggled out to the
hall in front of the nurse's station. I stood there with the tears
running down my face and told them 'This is wrong. No man should
have to endure pain like this when you can do something about it.
Just plain wrong.'"
You see they'd take him off the morphine every once in a while, I
guess so he wouldn't become addicted, and this excruciating,
manhood-stealing, unknowable pain would take him over again.
Joey was in Hahneman's about a month when they sent him home. He'd
had uncountable tests, painful biopsies, scans, doctors, nurses,
needles, ..... Said he felt like "a damn guinea pig." They gave him
an operation to block the pain but that didn't take real well and
put pain in his legs so bad he couldn't walk besides. Some other
stuff too. They had told him there were serious risks but really
what choice did he have and sent him home.
Joey's back in the hospital home here now, got breathing problems
and probably isn't gonna last much longer. You see Joey has
incurable cancer in his liver and pancreas, probably initiated by
his previous drinking. I think Doctor C knew it from the beginning,
Doctor J knew it from the beginning, the nurses and even Joey
himself knew it from the beginning. What I don't know is why Joey is
forced to take this bastard pain when there are so many people who
could help him. Like he said "This is wrong. No man should have to
endure pain like this when you can do something about it. Just plain
Joey died a few months after this was written. I sent a copy to the nurses on the floor Joey was on in Hahneman's (Another reminder).
End of Joey
November 25, 1996
- ( I have received email from people who have someone close to them suffering from Pancreatitis. Please, please, please don't take anything from here to indicate that Pancreatitis is a precursor for cancer or is somehow related to heavy drinking or is necessarily fatal. I know of no evidence for that nor is it something that I believe.
- If you arrived here using a search engine looking for "Pancreatitus", you may have better results (find more hits) using "Pancreas" or "Pancreatitis". I wish you luck in your search.
- For more information, you can try the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Try this number 301-654-3810 and ask for Publication #92-1596.
Click Here to read some letters from other Pancreatic sufferers.
Click here to see a diagram of the Pancreas.
Click here for an in depth discription of Pancreatic Cancer.
A O U main page
You got any stories you'd like to add sendem to: email@example.com
This document is Copyrighted by G. H. Lovgren. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without this copyright notice.
This page was created by Gösta H. Lovgren using HTML and Word 7.