Have you ever read Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s novel about airmen in WWII? Even if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with the expression. Catch-22 is a situation that presents a logical paradox – such as when, in the book, Major Major gives orders that people are only to be admitted to his office to see him if he is not there.
I experienced a Catch-22 situation with my healthcare recently. After spending a great deal of time selecting an in-network primary care manager (PCM), I found out the night before my appointment that Tricare was not permitting patients to establish new relationships with non-Military Treatment Facility (MTF) providers. However, the MTF near me was at capacity, and not currently taking new patients. Thus, I could not go off-base for medical care, and I could not get an appointment on base.
Tricare’s solution was to send me to an MTF much further away, to a PCM who has no specialized training in my particular health conditions (unlike the network PCM I had selected). Having no other choice, I saw this provider, and requested a referral to a specialist. He denied my request and opted to treat me himself, prescribing two medications that are contraindicated for my condition, and could kill or further disable me. Although I expressed concerns about the prescriptions both to the PCM and to the pharmacist, they both dismissed my concerns.
It’s difficult to describe the frustration of dealing with a chronic health condition that doctors can’t seem to get a handle on. But after a decade-and-a-half of being prescribed medications that did not cure my condition and produced horrible side effects, I was simply not willing to gamble that this time would be any different and this provider would have the solution. When I confirmed that the World Health Organization had issued guidelines never to prescribe to someone with my condition one of the medications that my new PCM had just prescribed to me, it was the last straw.
Faced with a debilitating medical condition and inadequate healthcare, I weighed my options. I met with my PCM again. He again refused to refer me to a specialist, and wanted to prescribe different medications. And then I learned that Tricare has a procedure whereby complicated cases can be assigned a case manager, who will help advocate for the patient. I emailed the MTF patient advocate’s office and requested a case manager, but they never responded.
While I was waiting for the response that never came, I found a blog that advocated self-sufficient living, including holistic self-healing using medicinal herbs, diet, exercise, and common sense. And I decided I had had enough of being experimented upon by PCMs who (mostly) didn’t care about my well-being for longer than the 20 minutes it took to get me out of their office. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of treatments that usually left me sicker, I decided to try naturopathic self-healing.
To me, this means utilizing evidence-based natural solutions when possible, such as using house plants to improve the quality of the air in my house, rather than buying an air purifier. But it also means employing traditional medical procedures when necessary or beneficial, such as routine screenings, surgery, physical therapy, or psychological counseling. The objective is to use all of these methods as tools, rather than being treated like one.