Ian RuderAs the leaves start to turn and the days grow shorter, I find myself daydreaming about the idyllic days of early summer; back when I could count on the sun to warm my quad bones late into the night; back when the rains held off long enough to allow me to explore nature in my power chair; back when I had a full stable of excellent doctors I could rely on.

That last memory may not seem like it fits, but when I look back on this summer, the series of unfortunate (and sometimes inexcusable) events that left me questioning the medical profession and struggling to find competent care providers will no doubt be near the front of my mind.

A mere three months ago I considered myself lucky when it came to doctors. I had a wonderful physiatrist, a trusted urologist I considered a friend, and a new primary care physician who seemed young and enthusiastic. Then it all fell apart.

It started with a letter. The envelope looked like the many other bills and insurance requests littered across my desk, but inside was a solitary sheet informing me my beloved urologist of 15-plus years was ending his practice in two weeks and moving away. Just like that — gone.

A few days later I went in for a long-scheduled physical with my new PCP. Believe it or not, I actually found myself looking forward to getting to know him and developing a rapport like the one I had with my previous doc. He quickly disabused me of that fantasy with a perfunctory exam and business-like demeanor that made clear he had other places to be. He handed me the form to get blood work done and then let me know he was leaving his practice.

He explained that he was opening a new practice about a half mile away and offered a sign-up form to be kept in the loop on details. My lukewarm feelings about our burgeoning relationship grew even colder when I found out he had selected one of the city’s least accessible buildings for his new office, and his new practice wouldn’t be accepting my insurance. Wonderful.

The following week held a first visit with a colorectal specialist I’d been waiting over two months to see. She’d come highly recommended so I’d decided it was worth the extended time dealing with some frustrating symptoms. Again, I naively counted down the days to my appointment, excited by the prospect of getting answers and relief.

On the doctor’s request, I reworked my morning routine schedule and did all the not-so-fun extra prep the morning of the appointment. At 11 am, two hours before I was supposed to be there, the nurse called to say that unfortunately she was going to have to reschedule my visit. For when, I asked, informing her I’d been waiting for months and had been dealing with some relatively serious issues. A couple of seconds later she politely told me that it looked like the first opening was in six weeks. Would I like to take that?

Next week brings the official end of summer and the annual visit with my physiatrist. We’ve been together for over 20 years and normally I’d look forward to catching up. But after this summer? Well, let’s just say that if I could cross my fingers, I would.