Thursday, March 18, 2010

doctor talk

I confess...I feel like a one-trick pony. All I talk about these days is the pain. I annoy even myself.

I've written in pieces before about doctors. I'd really like to write something longer one day, something aimed at the medical world to tell them my thoughts. I'd be sure to set the context. I'm a doctor's kid but the doctor was non-custodial and I didn't see him much as a youngin'. Nevertheless, being a doctor's kid means you know from an early age that doctors have lives outside the examining room, that they are human and fallible. I've also battled several chronic ailments and injuries. I was the type that got an annual case of strep throat and every cold known to man. But I've never been seriously ill, I have nothing life-threatening. I prefer to avoid doctors when I can because I believe my body knows what to do. But life has conspired against me and I've seen more doctors in 32 years than many see in a lifetime. I've had 5 surgeries.

Which means I've met some truly awful doctors. During the saga of getting diagnosed with endo, I saw an afterhours doc and needed a pelvic exam. The nurse, dutifully brought in the room since it was a male doc, tried to be friendly. She remarked about how she always hates these exams. The doc glanced at my chart and said "Nah. She's used to it." Okay, I have had a LOT of exams. It's still no fun. I doubt the hamster likes having to run through the maze for his treat, even if he's done it before.

There are others but the real heinousness award goes to the first GYN I visited in Quincy. I was in my lovely paper gown and doing my verbal rundown of my history. This included years of pretty bad pain from the endo and the fact that the "treatment" (in quotes since it really doesn't fix the issue or the pain entirely) of continuous birth control pills is not very libido friendly. The doc, a male whom I'd met moments earlier, remarked "Wow. And your husband married you anyway?" Yeah, if I weren't in a paper gown, I'd have walked out. He was my doctor, not a friend at a bar (and even then it would have been too far).

BUT, I have also had some docs truly say the right thing. Another GYN (I promise, the next one won't be girl-parts related) was seeing me as a referral since he was known as an expert on endo pain. He said, "We may never know exactly why you are in pain and we may never fix it." This angered my husband...I think his protective male type instincts kicked in. But I loved the honesty. It was refreshing and true. He made no false promises. He did do another surgery but was open about the chances of success and he let me make an informed decision about that surgery. He put the chances of helping at 30%...he did end up helping, but it wasn't a cure, And he'd never promised one. I valued that. I'm a big girl. Talk to me like one.

The truly best example of saying the right thing came from my current spine doc. He told me that my spinal problem was, in a purely medical sense, quite minor. It is likely treatable (without surgery) and not nearly as bad as it could be from the doctor's viewpoint. And then he added, "But I know it's still scary, because I had it myself and was scared even though I know the medical stuff. And I know it still feels like you were shot in the back." This was perfect. He reassured me that we will get through it but he didn't belittle the pain or the fear. He knew (I'd told him) that I felt like a wimp and that I was frustrated and upset. He showed me that he heard that. Too many docs brush aside things that aren't medically troubling but that have a very real and very severe impact on the patient's life. I can't even say how much his words, the fact that I felt heard and respected, meant. It still hurts like hell. I'm still scared. But it helps to have the doctor say that's okay.

I need a conclusion here. Really, this carries beyond doctors. It's about listening and hearing people. It's about appreciating someone's "come from" place. It's about being human.

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