Sacramento, CA

Medicare patient undergoes three surgeries, requires fourth for nerve entrapment

Robert J Hansen

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Sacramento Dignity HealthPublic Domain

A couple years ago, Ken Pettingill had slight testicular and abdominal pressure which was misdiagnosed as a hernia and after three surgeries through Dignity Health, he is waiting to be scheduled for a fourth through UC Davis.

“The doctor was very honest and upfront and told me that testicular pain is very difficult to diagnose,” Pettingill said. “He wasn’t very optimistic about being able to cure it.”

Pettingill, 59, underwent his first surgery January 31, 2020, another in June that year and his third was February 3 2021.

“I was absolutely worse when I came out of the first surgery,” Pettingill said.

He said that he went to the emergency room six weeks later because he was bloated and in pain and had been complaining to Dignity Health about being in more pain since the day of the first surgery.

"It was Dr Morse, prior to the last surgery, that finally diagnosed the left testicle and scar tissue, ultimately recommending surgery to clean up scar tissue and removal of my testicle,” Pettingill said.

Each surgery increased his pain and the last surgery, he believes, fixed the scar tissue from the first surgery.

"We now know it was nerve entrapment, and this surgery too increased pain while not addressing the underlying condition,” Pettingill said.

Pettingill has been on disability since 2014 and has Medicare/Anthem and thought the quality of care from Dignity Health would have surpassed just standard Medicare.

Pettingill thinks the treatment options and timelines of care given to people with private insurance may be better than for people using Medical or Medicare.

“I feel I wait longer now on Medicare than when I worked and carried private insurance.” Pettingill said. "I may be wrong here, but rarely am I seen quickly.”

He remains unable to sit, bend over or eat a full meal.

“I really wish someone would have reviewed my file to identify what is putting pressure on my left groin causing much bloating and pain,” Pettingill said.

Pettingill said the surgeon wanted him to wait 90 days to “realize” the benefits of surgery. He is still suffering and wants someone to know how alone and desperate he’s feeling.

“It's very difficult to accept that after three procedures I'm still miserable,” Pettingill said. “Dr Swanson never felt my pain was from the hernia he fixed last June. Maybe he was right.”

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Ken Pettingill lying on the floor of his home on Sunday, August 22, 2021. Pettingill has lost 30 pounds in the last three years.Robert J Hansen

Pettingill doesn't think the doctors are bad people but that they see a lot of, perhaps too many, patients.

“They weren't bad but they treat Medicare patients, that's what they do,” Pettingill said. “It's doesn’t feel the same.”

Pettingill thinks the treatment and level of care given to people with private insurance seems better than the care that people with Medical or Medicare receive.

“They just can’t listen to you, they have too many other patients and they’re not set up to deal with someone who comes back and says it didn’t work,” Pettingill said.

Pettingill is losing weight and is unable to eat or drink and has lost 30 pounds in the last three years.

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Ken Pettingill before the surgeries.Courtesy of Ken Pettingill

“That may not seem like much to some, but I weighed 150 pounds when this began, and 30 pounds is considerable for a guy my size.”

“It will take Dignity three weeks to get surgery approved and another for UC Davis to schedule,” Pettingill said. "It seems unlikely I'll have surgery before the first of next year, if I wasn’t on Medicare and had private insurance would I be waiting this long?”

Though he would prefer not to, he is also taking pain killers because the pain is so unbearable.

“I know I don't have much life left and I don't want to mess it up by taking pills,” Pettingill said.

He said he doesn’t want money, only for the hospital and insurance to take care of him and for this to not happen to anyone else.

“I'm not doing this for money. I just want to be well and I want other people to not have to go through this,” Pettingill said.

His primary doctor, Sapna Patel, told Pettingill in an email that he may want to change insurance providers to perhaps gain access to a specialist.

“If you're seeking advice from another provider then you need to follow through with it,” Patel said. “If insurance is an issue, then you may consider changing insurances.”

Patel has recommended that he lay flat on my back with no bending and no sitting to reduce aggravating what we now know to be an entrapped nerve.

Pettingill’s most recent doctor visit was August 13 and is waiting for the next surgery to be scheduled.

“It will take Dignity three weeks to get it approved and then I’ll get a call from UC Davis,” Pettingill said. “If I wasn’t on Medicare and had private insurance would I be waiting this long?”

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento, CA
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