Dan Rattiner's Stories

Eavesdropping: Colonoscopy Goes Wrong, Doctor Sued

The easiest way for me to visit my son in Hanover, New Hampshire is to take the Jitney to New York, then fly for an hour from Westchester to the airport 10 miles from Hanover. The Jitney is quiet—like a library—and I work on the way to the city. I also usually work on the 10-seat Mercedes limousine the airline provides for the one-hour ride up to Westchester. That’s quiet, too.

This last time I took the limo, it was just me and the driver. I sat in the passenger’s seat next to him and we chatted all the way up. He was also the driver of the limo on the way back down, but this time all 10 seats were taken. Again, I sat in the front.

Directly behind me, a man was on the phone talking so loud that everybody in the limo could hear everything he said.

“Well, maybe we should buy another car or two. I’m in the limousine now. And it’s packed. Look into it. We’ll see. You know I’m in every Tuesday and Thursday. So I’ll see you then and I’ll let you know what to do.”

I initially intended to turn around, look at this man and ask him not to talk so loud, but from the way he was talking I thought he might be the owner of the limo company. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. Maybe he’d kick me off the limo.

“Yeah, my dad’s fine,” he continued. “Thanks for asking. Let me tell you, this doctor who took care of him is gonna lose his license. Yeah.”

At this point, all conversation in the rest of the bus, quiet as it was, stopped. They’d listen.

“You know my mom and dad are getting on, so I think they should have check-ups. So we go to this doctor and he says he wants both of them to have blood work and a colonoscopy. Mom was fine. Dad was a problem. You know they scrape around up there when they do the colonoscopy? This damn doc did it himself.”

We’re coming down the Saw Mill River Parkway, entering Yonkers.

“And he botched it. After it’s over, my dad is bleeding everywhere. He goes to the john in the hospital and just buckets of blood come out. They hook him up to an IV.   They give him three pints of blood. They put him in the ICU. We can’t even visit him. We go see the doc. He says, ‘Why didn’t you tell me he is on blood thinners?’ He’s telling me this. I can’t believe it. ‘Don’t you read your own medical reports?’ I ask him. ‘You go in and do this without reading the results of your own medical reports?’ What day is it, Thursday? He’s been in the hospital since Monday.”

A woman from the back of the bus suddenly speaks. Many who take this flight are Dartmouth parents.

“I think I can speak for the rest of us,” she says.

“Hear, hear,” another person back there says.

“Nobody on this bus wants to hear you talk about your father’s medical problems. You have to shut up. Stop it.”

“Oh,” the man says. “I’m sorry…”

“And you are violating the HIPAA laws. You can’t talk like this. We could have you arrested for talking like this.”

“The HIPAA laws? There’s no HIPAA laws about this. Who the hell do you think you are?” the man replies. “I’ll talk any way I want anytime I want about my mother and father.”

The driver speaks up. “My mother was on the committee that created the HIPAA laws,” he says. “The man’s right.”

“You should apologize to me for that,” the man says. “Arrested? Apologize.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman says. Her voice is quavering.

Nobody says another word for the entire rest of the trip. In Manhattan, everybody gets their luggage and hurries off. The last two are the man and I.

“Would you believe these people?” the man asks me.

“Who’s the doctor?” I ask.

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