OF DOGS, DOCTORS, AND DOUBT
Have you ever had one of those nights where the dog insists it’s time to get up–at 4am?
There are times when it takes effort to remember that there are countries where you’re awakened in the middle of the night by machine gun blasts and bombs going off. Compared to that, a dog licking you in the face is a minor inconvenience.
I started on a blog about fractured medical diagnoses, deciding to keep that one for another day. Though it can be cathartic, I’m not in the mood to make fun of incompetent doctors at the moment.
There are incredibly insightful, caring and competent health care professionals in the world. At present, I have the privilege of seeing several who fit snugly into that category: An endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, 2 neurologists, a PCP, a nearby university hospital/clinic/dental school, and an optometry school in another state.
Some were easy to locate. Others were stumbled across as I tried to find that irritating needle in the haystack of life that kept poking at me.
There are times when it takes effort to reflect on the fact that people in other countries suffer with parasitic worms in their brains and intestines while I simply have a brain and a gastric system that doesn’t work quite right. In comparison to the rest of the world, I live in a light rainstorm while others continually experience the cat 5 hurricanes of life.
From 6 decades of experience, I offer the following “fractured insights” for those of us who don’t have to wait 2 days in an African village to see a doctor (i.e., we don’t live in a 3rd world country):
Doctors are human. They use the toilet, too, and I guarantee the bathroom doesn’t smell any different after they use it than after you do. Being human, doctors can make mistakes, too. The good ones will admit it.
A good “family doctor” (PCP) will not only honor your request to see a specialist, but will often suggest it before you ask.
If the walls, brochures, and note pads in the exam room have the names of a specific medication on them–and the doctor wants to prescribe it to you–go to another doctor for a second opinion. A good place for a second opinion is a university clinic (more on that below)
If you’re a woman, you find yourself in a room with a doctor is from (insert unspecified-countries-that-treat-women- like-crap here), and your first instinct is to run. RUN! That said, two of my best doctors were from a country like that (and the first to admit that M.D. was not an alternate spelling for GOD). It was the guys who looked at me as if I were an inconvenience the second they walked through the door that were the problem. These were the ones who would start out the conversation with, “I am the doctor and you are going to do as I say.” That never ends well.
If you feel you need a specialist, INSIST! This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s your life. For example, a PCP from the middle east insisted my stomach problem was lack of fiber and raw vegetables. I insisted that when a person can’t “eat” anything but Ensure for over a month, lack of fiber isn’t the problem. With the help of someone who also had gastric problems, I found an excellent gastroenterologist. I can guarantee that fiber and raw veggies are the last thing you should give to someone with Gastroparesis.
If your doctor is one of many in a large clinic and you’re not satisfied, demand a different doctor–in writing–and state the reason you’re dissatisfied (like I did with middle east guy). Don’t go off on a tangent–state facts. No clinic director in his or her right mind wants a paper trail showing a doctor under his/her watch killed a patient with his incompetence.
If the private sector seems inadequate to your needs, get an appointment with your local university hospital/clinic. I’ve had a few bad experiences, but far more good ones. Universities will generally have state-of-the-art equipment and personnel who are more interested in learning than in making a living.
Compared to what people in 3rd world countries endure, people who live in the Western world have been exceedingly blessed. However, as long as there are still choices available for health care, I’m going to make them. I’m not a doctor, but I sure as hell know when it’s time to ask for advice from a health care practitioner. And it doesn’t take a doctor to know when it’s time to look elsewhere for health care advice.
Doctors scare me…
Don’t you know you were the catalyst for this recent shakeup in my brain? You have The Girl Who Gives You Courage. She’s learning how the system works and she’s there with you in spirit, if not in body.
After your recent Nightmare on get-an-appointment street, I thought of the ways in which I had to proactively seek out the right health care professionals for the lame-ass conditions I’d never heard of before walking into their offices. 🙂
And sometimes, no matter how good or caring the doctor and all staff may be, things just don’t work out. But at least you know in your heart that they tried and that they did their best. They didn’t just push you aside with a shrug.
Absolutely true. I make it a point to tell doctors who are that excellent that it’s not their responsibility to cure me when there’s no cure for the problem. It’s my responsibility to do what I can to minimize the effect it has on my life now that I know what the problem is. I’m grateful for what they’ve done to help me, now it’s my turn to do the rest. It’s enough to know what the problem is.