Thursday, February 25, 2010

Irradiated to The Max and Beyond

Me She Hulk, Me Angry

A friend called last night to tell me to watch the local news.  Apparently the hospital I received my radiation treatment from has discovered a major miscalibration of their brain tumor treatment equipment, starting in the year I received my treatment.  The explanation I read stated that the physicist who helped setup the new equipment did not caculate the dosage correctly.  This physicist is no longer employed by the hospital group, thank goodness, but apparently the poor souls receiving radiation could have gotten significantly more radiation shot through their brains than ordered. An article about Cox Health System and the overdoses was published by the New York Times, so this is big time news around here.  See also an article and newscast from the local NBC affiliate, KY3.

I did not receive radiation treatment to my brain, but I did receive high dose rate brachytherapy which is individually calculated by a physicist - with my luck the same physicist who botched the calculation for the other machine.  The first two brachytherapy treatments I received were 15 minutes with a very heavy radiation source.  After reporting side effects after both of those treatments, I was apologized to and was told that "they" had not meant to irradiate my entire body, just a quarter inch into the skin (which is standard for brachytherapy) so they were going to change the radiation source and length of my last treatment.  It was only five minutes long with a much lighter source.  I did not have the side effect issues I had had with the prior two treatments.  I speculate that there was a gross miscalculation for the first two treatments.

I also received external beam therapy, which during my treatment was delayed several times because new software was being installed.  I don't know whether it was for machine calibration, machine control, or other purposes, but it did throw the patient flow off so it had to be related to treatment. 

I am very aggravated because I have been struggling with after effects of radiation treatment for the last five years, and have been unable to get local physicians to acknowledge the cause.  I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps part of the problem I had getting a diagnosis was that they were already aware there was an issue with the equipment/physicist in the first place.  After all, the physician I saw in St. Louis had no problem stating my digestive, nerve and incontinence issues were due to radiation treatment, while the Dr. Dunces I saw locally had me doing the testing shuffle insisting that it must be some other organic or disease issue.  The local colorectal surgeon was the only one willing to state that the problems I had were from radiation exposure

Whether it is ever officially acknowledged or not, I am certain I received too much radiation for my body or my tissue to handle.  I have contacted the hospital and asked them to please investigate.  I hate to have to escalate my inquiries through official channels, but have no fear of doing so if needed.

I feel like the Incredible She Hulk, irradiated and glowing green ready to tear up some buildings in my rage.  I guess there isn't much to do about it now the damage is done, but gosh durn I'd like to put the smack down on some doctors! 


  1. Wow.

    This is crazy.

    Can you sue? Not for bajillions or anything (or maybe yes?), but for medical expenses and emotional stress or whatever they call it. I don't mean to make it money grubby, but... i think they owe you. :/

    Good luck.

  2. Stephanie: Wishing I could sue, but the reality is that unless it is a slam dunk most lawyers won't take it on. I may check it out, but I suspect I'm just screwed (pardon my French)> story of my life.

    I worry about other people who had individually calculated doses by this gentleman - apparently he worked for the hospital until 2009, I had my therapy in 2004. Surely he calculated somebody's dosage correctly in five years, but who knows??

    If I was someone who trusted doctors and took their word for what was wrong with me, I would have stopped looking years ago for a cause. I had doctors actually get hatefully snippy with me when I insisted that I did not have a disease process, but a radiation aftereffect problem. They were sorta like arrogant neuros that insist they know that you CANNOT have the pain that you know you are having.

    My radiation oncologist did not dismiss me from his care in August when I was due to be dismissed. I am thinking they definitely knew then there were problemsm whether or not I fit the mold. Hospitals cover up lots of problems, I know because I used to work for one.

  3. FINALLY, what you were saying all along makes the NY Times! I'm with Stephanie, I would sue their butts. I know it's a risk, but if they're contacting patients like the article says, then there's a chance they're already preparing for a settlement. I know you love your job, but just think of how much better you would feel knowing that you don't HAVE to work if you won a settlement and had money to fall back on. Regarding your earlier blog post, you've worked there for years so don't feel like you owe your boss anything - you already gave your company seven good years (or however long it was)! Just my 2 cents. :)

  4. Thanks Heather. I've been debating about what to do - I have a friend whose son-in-law does medical malpractice in a huge firm in another state, may see who he would recommend in this state.

    I'm sure my boss doesn't feel I owe them anything, its my own weird sense of responsibility. Goes along with my work-aholic personality I am afraid. :(

    I figure that I will be 80 years old in a walker lugging a laptop around still doing system implementations because I don't have sense enought to stop!!