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The Good Doctor

6 July 2010 6,176 views One Comment

by Scott Creighton.

I recently met with my doctor, Dr. Vasco Marques, a cardiologist here in Tampa, Fl. where I currently live. Now I am going to tell you the story about that meeting, devoid of my usual overly emotional hyperbole or intentionally leading contextualism… and I am going to do that for a reason. The reason is simple; because this isn’t about me.

First, a little work background.

I had my first real job when I was 14 years old washing dishes at the Lynchburg College Burton Center, Saturdays and Sundays from 7 am to 9pm or so, depending on the shift. The pay was minimum wage… $3.35 per hour I think, 1980.  I wrote about that job once, “Labor Day Memories at the Zoo”  I worked there for several years till I started wrestling and doing theatre productions. I will always remember riding my bike to work in the early mornings, working all day, and riding home soaked in steam and foul water mixed with the garbage I scraped off the plates of private school college students.  That’s a certain smell you never forget even 30 years ago.

I worked throughout high school at various jobs like Pizza Hut and Big Star food stores and others. I continued working into my college days.  When I left college I worked when I went back to school I worked. Hell, I even worked and paid my taxes while I was in jail on work release.

I worked in Lynchburg, Charleston, Harrisonburg, Richmond, New York City, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, and our nation’s capital, D.C…. I worked all over,  up and down the east coast… 30 years. All that time, paying my taxes, my unemployment insurance, and my Social security.

A little health background. (bear with me)

In Feb. 2007 I suffered a massive pulmonary embolism. It should have killed me but it didn’t.  It was caused by a rather large DVT in my left leg. Two years later I went back to the hospital and they determined that I was experiencing what the doctor called “shower embolism”, which involves smaller bits of blood clots raining into my lungs.  Later that year, 2009, I went back to the hospital because of more chest pains and swelling of my leg. I stayed at the Peppin Heart Center, which is a great institution, by the way.

And now… my “doctor”

While I was staying at the Peppin Heart Center, my attending doctor was Dr. Vasco Marques.  He was the first one who took the time to describe in detail what was happening to me. He told me that I had a DVT that stretched from just above my left knee up to my inside groin and that it was so old that it had become calcified. He told me that because he wanted to explain why he couldn’t go in and “root out” the DVT (kind of a ”rotor-ruter” type operation inside the vein, which cleans out the clot).  He told me that if he had been able to get to it when I was first diagnosed with the problem, then it would have been gone years ago. He took the time to lay out the potential procedures that we had to handle the problem and gave me his information regarding his private practice so that I could continue with his care after I left the hospital.

When I left the hospital in Nov. 2009, I felt much better. I was actually going to get the help I had needed for so long.

The first office visit, I believe he gave me an EKG and set up a time for me to come in and take a sonogram of my legs. He explained what I was suffering from, Post-thrombic Syndrome, and again explained why he couldn’t “clean out” the old DVT in my left leg. He also explained what was happening in my right leg (DVT in my left). He said this was another condition similar to what was happening in my left leg and it was called Venous Reflux Disease. He explained how it is basically setting me up for another bad situation and that we should probably do something about it.  He told be that if my symptoms and condition does not improve, then the two options that I had was a filter in my left leg to prevent further pulmonary embolism (I don’t know if anyone ever survived 3 of them) and a bi-pass type procedure in my right calf to fix the Venous Reflux Disease. I set a time to come back for my sonogram of my legs.

I had a doctor and a plan to fix what was effectively killing me.

Now this is an important part of the story which I have left out till now.  Sometime after my first pulmonary embolism, I applied for disability. It took over two years to get a hearing which happened in October of 2009. During those years I tried several times to work and each ended the same way; I was let go because I was unable to keep up. One work attempt in a cabinet shop had me limping around everyday for hours. That job lasted about a month.

I actually received the notice of full approval while I was in the Peppin Heart Center that November. I thought it was good news… turns out I was wrong.

You see, while I was unable to work I had applied for health assistance with the Hillsborough Healthcare system. It was and is a good system. The first embolism I had put me in the hospital for 8 days in 2007 with no insurance what-so-ever… I pay off that bill, $27,000, $40 bucks per month now.

But when I was in the Peppin Heart Center, I was fully covered by the Hillsborough Healthcare System. It was great, they paid everything and any tests my doctor’s needed, Dr. Marquez needed, was covered… no questions asked.

I was still covered under the Hillsborough plan on my first visit to Dr. Marquez’ office. That’s when we talked about all the potential procedures that he could do and the need to do them as quickly as possible.

But then I got Social Security Disability and along with it… Medicare.

When I went back in for the sonogram, I could tell there was a noticable difference. A hasty sonogram performed in Dr. Marquez’ office led the good doctor to tell me everything was just fine, and that I didn’t need the blood thinner I had been on for years and that I should just come back in 6 months for a follow-up exam. Bloodwork showed that I didn’t have a predisposition toward clotting.

That was it, I was out the door. No more talk of a filter… no more talk of a bi-pass in my right leg.

Hillsborough Healthcare covered everything… Medicare covered less than half and I had no supplemental insurance.

6 months passed.

Two days ago I went back to see Dr. Vasco Marques, a cardiologist here in Tampa, Fl. for my 6 month follow-up and this is what I told him…

  1. I had seen a general practitioner who gave me a EKG and noticed that something was up with my heart (I had not told him about the Peppin Heart Center nor that I had been given a stress test and failed it)
  2. I had been experiencing the same kinds of chest pains that I had prior to my first pulmonary embolism in 2007 with an increasing regularity
  3. I had walked to an autoparts store to fix my mothers car and during the walk I felt lancing type pains moving up through my left thigh into my groin area, that my leg was regularly painful and even painful as I was talking to him,
  4. My left arm gets numb occasionally and was even trembling after I cut the grass the other day, while the rest of my body and my right arm were fine.

My doctor, knowing my history, then went on to explain to me that the EKG means nothing because he ordered a better test for me in Nov. of 2009 and that said my heart was ok and that since my blood work from 6 months ago showed no predisposition for clotting, everything was fine.

He smiled, ran through the motions of listening to my chest and squeezing on my legs, took my pulse near my ankles… and that was it. He told me to make another follow-up appointment in 6 months and out the door I went.

He didn’t spend much time typing on his computer as I told him my current symptoms, in fact, I doubt he even recorded them into the record.

He sent his patient out into the street with no EKG, no sonogram to check the DVT… nothing.  His patient, with a history of heart trouble, massive DVTs, and pulmonary embolisms, who told him that he was suffering chest pains, leg pains in the same area of the known DVT, and pains and trembling in his left arm… was sent out into the street as if everything was just fine.


My case here is not unique.  This is just a small example of that it means to attack the social safety net of our nation. But remember, I paid into this, I paid of this “insurance” as it were, for 30 years straight, just to have a doctor decide to deny me healthcare simply because he won’t make AS MUCH money from his services as he would were he guaranteed full coverage, by say the Hillsborough Healthcare plan.

In fact, I am paying $110 per month right now for Medicare which I haven’t used at all since I got it, save the two useless visits to the good doctor’s office.

30 years of paying into a system which has been so undermined for the benefit of the private insurance industry that it, in essence, has condemned me.

No, a doctor doesn’t want to work for half-price. I understand that. But neither does a carpenter or an auto-maker, yet in this time we face, jobs that paid 24 an hour just 3 years ago are being offered and filled for 10. That is the nature of neoliberalism.

But doctors are different I suppose. They deserve something better perhaps.

I write this story because I can… because so many others in my position don’t have access to an audience and their stories go unheard and unrecorded.  They suffer and they die and they aren’t even on the “uninsured” lists.  Medicare is not causing this depression and Medicare is not the “healthcare” plan it was designed to be.  Now it is almost an affliction in and of itself, in the same vein as the “better than the alternative” lie that got us Barack Obama.

Not all doctors are like Dr. Vasco Marques; doctors who would turn their backs on their own ailing and suffering patients for a percentage, but there are certainly enough of them and the list is growing every single day.

This is my story but it is not about me.

This article was originally published by American Everyman.

One Comment »

  • Janda Fussell said:

    I am so sorry you feel that Dr. Marques didn’t take care of you as you feel he should have. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my story about my experience with Dr. Marques. I became his patient in early 2014 with a DVT spanning from my knee to the base of my calf and almost encapsulating the entire vein. This was caused from being dormant with a back injury for 12 weeks. A friend of my sister’s who didn’t know me, called Dr. Marques and their office made a space for me the very next day not even knowing if they accepted my insurance. My insurance is through Medi-share which is actually not considered insurance so many doctor’s won’t take it and sometimes it delays procedures I need done because Medi-Share won’t commit to pay anyone anything until they receive a bill and have time to investigate the procedure. Dr. Marquess accepts this insurance knowing he might not get paid when all is said and done. I have been with him since 2014 and now in 2016, he is doing a vein ablation procedure on me (Venus reflux disease)knowing that my deductible isn’t met and I will have to pay for this along the way.(His office has graciously offered to work with me to help me afford this procedure) He also is handling this very carefully so my insurance won’t reject the procedure and it can be applied to my deductable. I trust him completely and he has taken excellent care of me. Once again, I am sorry you don’t feel that you had a good experience. Good luck to you and I hope you are getting the care you need.

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