Dear Medical Profession,
Hi, it's me–the curly-haired, pale-looking person who keeps making appointments with you. You've probably seen me in your waiting rooms, looking for a magazine to read that isn't on either hunting or beauty advice. I have a writing prompt on confrontation and you just popped right into my head.
At one time, I wanted to be an expert on world mythology. Later, I studied to become–at least in a small way–an expert on child development. I have many interests. However, without meaning to, I have become an expert on going to doctors.
Let me qualify that for you. Within the last four years, I have been to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, a sleep doctor, an allergist, a neurologist, two rheumatologists, a chiropractor, a podiatrist, and an endocrinologist. I have visited my primary care physician so often that we are practically joined at the hip. He is moving in May and I feel personally betrayed. It's a bit like being left by a lover. A lover with an encyclopedic knowledge of my complicated medical history.
I am also getting to be an expert at taking medications. I once tried approximately fifteen different medications, at different times and in different combinations, to get my allergies and asthma under control. Currently, I am taking a cocktail of medicines for my fibromyalgia and migraines which allow me to get out of bed and function, but which have robbed me of my short-term memory and forced me to use an online thesaurus to remember what I am trying to say.
I am an expert on getting medical tests as well. I have had an ultrasound of my thyroid and abdominal areas. They have X-rayed my chest twice and my sinuses once. I have had an MRI on my brain and an abdominal CT, which was one of the most hilarious experiences of my life. A sleep study was conducted. Blood enough to happily feed all of the vampires of Bon Temps has been extracted from my veins and analyzed. Urine has been taken. I have had spirometry and an echocardiogram.
Having spent one-third of the last portion of my life at doctor's offices, and seen the good, bad and the ugly, I would like to make a few comments on what doctors and their staffs could do to better help their patients. Strictly from a constructive point of view, you understand.
- I don't mind having to wait five minutes to speak to the receptionist during busy times at your office. I know this is outside your control. However, I would prefer not to spend that time listening to a symphony rendition of "Hey Jude" punctuated every thirty seconds by a reminder that my call is important to you. Shut-up and let me look at Facebook in peace while I wait.
- Stop weighing me already. You weighed me last week. I don't give a rat's ass what I weigh and I am dizzy. I am here to treat my medical condition, not because I can't afford Jenny Craig.
- Don't ask me if I have contacted a dentist to see about teeth grinding, or employed a variety of other strategies no one has ever suggested, as if I should know that these would be the appropriate actions to take. I'm not the expert. You are. That's kind of the point, right? I am busy surviving my pain, loving my children, and sucking the marrow from each lucid moment I have. Honestly, I'm not spending much of that precious time researching what's wrong with me. If I need to see a dentist, please tell me so.
- Stop asking me, when I am having trouble walking into your exam room without my husband's help, if I am able to get regular exercise. No, I'm not.
- If you are going to prescribe me something that will make me feel nauseated, lose all interest in sex, forget how old I am or not be able to feel my legs, a heads-up would be helpful. Honestly, I may still take it. I'm that desperate. But I'd love to know about this little detail.
- If I suffer from migraines and you prescribe a drug with a side effect of headaches, I have a great idea. Give my neurologist a call first. Since I have a history of asthma, drugs that can worsen breathing should be discussed with my allergist. You guys have the medical degrees. I'm just the poor asshole with all the medical conditions. I don't want to play "telephone" with a bunch of specialists.
- I know that you are sincerely trying to be nice, but please stop telling me that we are going to get this all figured out and I am going to feel better, that I just need to be patient. While I have been waiting for the next medication we are trying to work out, I have had to miss work four times. While I waited for a bunch lab results to get sent to my PCP, I spent three consecutive weekends laid up missing time with my family. All these fragments of waiting for one piece of information or another have now added up to a year and a half of my life spent waiting for something to work. That's long enough for two babies to be brought to term. It may be easy to tell me to be patient, but it isn't the most useful thing to hear anymore.
- Fax the motherfucking records. I shouldn't have to call you twice or walk to your office or fill out a special form so that I can get a copy of my own medical records to give to another doctor. Stop acting like I am stealing your favorite Pokemon cards.
- Train your office staff to act more proactive than observers casually munching Cheetos at the scene of a car wreck. If I walk in to say that I have developed hepatitis and need to see my rheumatologist, don't just tell me she has no appointments and go back to shuffling papers on your desk. If I am out of a medication right now that will cause withdrawal symptoms tomorrow, your staff should not insist that we have lab work done before the doctor will write a new prescription. That's stupid.
In summary, if you could remember that I am a real person with a real life, more than one major system in my body and limited time and resources, it would go a long way. A waiting room espresso bar would also be nice.
(Think of me as a mystery shopper for medical care.)
(Think of me as a mystery shopper for medical care.)