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Posts Tagged ‘doctor’

  1. Doc, I’ve Got This Thing…

    December 14, 2014 by Diane

    Portrait of senior male doctor with documents in hospital

    “Can you eat apricots?” the doctor asked.

    This is the doctor who decided that I might have a tumor in my neck. That slight bulge under my carotid artery, “It might be a tumor,” he said. “But don’t worry about it.” And he leaned back in his chair, looking pensive. “Can you eat apricots?”

    Wait. A tumor?

    And he wanted to know if I could eat apricots?

    When I go to a doctor with a thing, I want to know exactly what that thing is. I don’t want to hear “could be,” or “maybe,” or “probably.” I want that expert in the white lab coat to utilize his vast knowledge of the human species, his years of medical training, to offer a solid scientific explanation for what’s occurring in my body. After all, I did my part: I dragged my body to his office, and paid large sums of money to keep him available on a moment’s notice to diagnose and treat whatever the heck that thing is.

    Doctor Apricot, though, seemed to be on the tail-end of his professional career. He looked like the kind of old-timey doc who happily carted a black leather bag from house to house in the countryside and sat around  kitchen tables discussing dried fruit. In his defense, he had felt my neck–which I, in my infinite number of hours on earth, had also felt, prodded, and poked, reaching the same dire conclusion on my own. Without medical school.

    A tumor.

    As I sat across from him, stunned, my head swimming, he turned his worries to my diet. I’d mentioned all of the foods that I avoid due to sensitivities, or allergies, or whatever response my body chooses to communicate, and this age-old doc, after examining my neck, propped his sagging face onto one finger and asked, can you eat apricots?


    I never saw him again.

    I did, however, schedule a scan of my carotid artery, a procedure that involved shooting me with a contrast solution which…oh…“could kill you,” the nurse said as she stood over me with a clipboard, “so will you please sign this paper first?” I blinked at the nurse, and called my stalwart protector into the room (my advocate whom I had dragged along with me), and my advocate suggested that I “suck it up” and get the scan.

    So I sucked it up.

    I got the scan.

    The nurse injected me, a radiology technician slid me into a cold, indifferent scanner, and my heart surged and raced. I mentioned the surging and racing afterwards, and the technician said, “Oh, that’s from the solution. We didn’t tell you.”

    We didn’t tell you.

    And the tumor? There was none.

    Unless they’re not telling me about that, too.

    “So what’s the bulge?” I asked my new doctor, who shrugged. “Probably the weird way you’re made.” An expert diagnosis if ever I’ve heard one. I wanted to ask: “Did they teach you that in medical school?”

    Because really, what do they teach?

    Certainly not good hygiene. I can’t tell you how many doctors insist on shaking my hand before washing theirs. One doctor had mustard under his fingernails. Mustard! Or what looked like mustard. For most of the appointment he sat in the next room conversing with another doctor on the phone while I lay sweating on the exam table. As I listened to his muted voice, I was thankful that at least he wasn’t examining me with mustard fingers.

    And what about examinations? I had one doctor who must have skipped that lecture, because he didn’t examine me at all. I sat on the thin crackly paper while he asked a series of questions and then pulled a medical tome from his shelf, ran his finger down several entries, paused to read, snapped it shut, and told me I probably had an infection. Probably. The spiderwebs in his waiting room, and the lack of a receptionist, should have tipped me off: this guy was not rich with patients.

    Do they teach bedside manner in medical school? Evidently not. I had a consultation with a surgeon who was overweight, reeked of cigarettes, and had a nasty attitude. He strode into the exam room wearing scrubs that he must have dug up from the bottom of the laundry basket. And he was going to slice open my body? Uh…no. Obviously, he missed the lecture on healthy habits.

    So what do they teach in medical school?

    My guess, based on my vast experience in doctor’s offices, is this:  do not, under any circumstances, admit to a patient that you’re clueless. Instead, use the words “probably,” “maybe,” or “could be.” Or change the subject. Talk about apricots.


  2. Have You Ever Gone to the Hospital Wearing Your Own Pajamas, and Come Home Wearing Someone Else’s?

    December 7, 2014 by Diane

    Retro hospital

    Have you ever woken up at 2 a.m., your heart beating five million times faster than normal, and no amount of deep breathing, or walking back and forth, or reminding yourself that it’s highly unlikely that the human heart is capable of beating five million times faster than normal, calms it down? So you call 911. You’re alone, after all, with your wild thoughts and even wilder hair, and four paramedics show up. The best-looking four in the universe. One of them casually searches your room for empty pharmaceutical bottles and finds one on the night stand–not because you swallowed the pills, but because you ran out–and nods knowingly to his cohort, who then notices your shelves of medical tomes, the book of symptoms, the…well, you get the picture…and asks if you’re feeling anxious.

    Do you deny the possibility?

    Of course you do. You’ve lived through anxiety episodes before.

    So they load you onto a stretcher and unload you into an ambulance and you’re unwilling to let go of the hand of the tall paramedic who joked about politicians. It’s your last chance to back out, but too late–you’re sealed in, with a stranger, who presses a stethoscope to your naked breast. You’re sealed into that ambulance, your blood pressure climbing, and you’re willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, you are feeling a tad bit nervous. Okay, anxious. You’re feeling anxious.

    Now, when you get to the hospital, is the staff having a party? Is it the one night when someone is retiring, and the cupcakes and the hot coffee are waiting?

    Yes, it’s that very night.

    And you are the one person who is interrupting the festivities.

    A nurse hooks you up to an IV while her sidekick hooks you up to a blood pressure monitor and then they both disappear because those cupcakes are calling. And when the IV bag is empty and your bladder is full and no one heeds your calls, do you rip out the IV and lumber down the hallway to the restroom in a daze (they slipped you two benzos, remember?), and then lumber back, and find the nurses stripping the bed because what was left in the IV has puddled onto the sheets? In the process, does anyone notice that they’ve scooped up your pajama top along with the sheets? Of course not. No one cares about what you were wearing when you arrived. No one gives a rat’s ass until it’s time for you to leave, after two doctors have discussed your situation thoroughly in the hallway, within earshot.

    “She’s having an anxiety episode.”

    “I don’t think so. I think we should run some tests.”

    “It’s anxiety.”

    And you pray for the tests because you have a feeling it isn’t anxiety that’s making your heart race, or those two Ativans would have cured it. In fact, you have the sneaking suspicion that the racing heart is a result of going off a beta blocker too quickly. But instead of a lab technician who shows up, it’s a psychiatrist, who pulls over a stool and asks you how you’re doing. “Have you had anything to eat?” he says. A cupcake would be nice. But he sends for scrambled eggs and milk instead. “You need protein.”

    And six hours later, does a male nurse show up, unhook the IV, roll the blood pressure monitor away, and sit on the edge of the bed to commiserate?

    “I get anxious at times too. Here’s a voucher for a taxi.”

    “Where’s my pajama top?”

    “I have no idea.”

    And does he search in the bio-hazard bin? Without gloves? (As if you’d wear anything that came out of the bio-hazard bin.) And then disappear, to reappear twenty minutes later with a pullover he dug up in the laundry, something that went missing when a previous patient checked into the hospital?

    I ask you: have you ever gone to the hospital wearing your own pajamas, and come home wearing someone else’s?

    Because it happened to me.

    I wonder who’s wearing mine now.

  3. The Sport of Complaining

    July 6, 2014 by Diane

    champion banner

    Somewhere in the history of humankind, complaining became a sport. A game. And I’ll admit, I play it. Willingly.

    It starts innocently enough.

    Someone asks, “How are you?”

    And I reply, “Oh, so-so.”

    I believe in honesty. Why pretend I’m feeling chipper when I’m in pain?

    If, for example, I’ve just had a second cortisone shot in my hip, and the doctor slid a long needle deep into my inflamed bursa, and then moved that needle around before the cold numbing spray took effect, and my hand shot out for her wrist and she asked, “Have you had enough? Should I stop?” and I squeaked, “No. Keep going,” and she continued grinding the needle around, and my hand continued grasping air, and she repeated, “Have you had enough?” as if she wouldn’t let up unless I yelled UNCLE!  If I’ve just endured an afternoon of torture in the doctor’s office and someone asks how I’m doing, I say, “So-so.”

    And the other person commiserates. “Yeah, me too.”

    That’s not what I want to hear. I want to hear, “Let me buy you a chocolate truffle.” And so I elaborate. “I just had a cortisone shot from hell, and let me tell you…that doctor did things with a syringe that should be illegal.”

    Do I get a sympathetic clucking? No. The other person one-ups. Pulls out an even more painful scenario—a torn rotator cuff—and the game is on.

    “I can barely hobble around,” I say.

    “I need surgery,” she says.

    And on it goes until one of us backs down…usually the other person…because I’m hooked, I’m seething, I’m determined to win this match if it means I have to admit that I’m at death’s door.

    I’m exaggerating of course. But I’m well aware of the game, and aware, sometimes, that I’m playing it. Especially when I start hauling in evidence to back up my opinion.

    “Studies prove that cortisone can damage…”

    This is not a wise tactic, because the skilled player will fire off five studies via email that contradicts the point I’m trying to make, and list five experts that she personally knows (or invented) to back her up.

    There are degrees of complaining. Some people have a Master’s. There is no winning with a Master Complainer. I’ve tried. Oh yes, I’ve tried.

    I can choose not to engage. I can look at the bright side. I can say, “I survived a needle. It’s a good day,” and leave it at that. But the truth is, I’m in pain. And I’ve got to share it with someone, like a weather report from my own personal universe. “I feel rotten,” I whine, as if whining will make me feel better. And someone who doesn’t play the game may respond, “Good for you!”

    “Huh? What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “If you feel pain, it means you’re alive. Congratulations!” and they’re gone.

    Game over.

    Yes, I admit…I’ve played the complain game. And I’ve won. I’ve conquered. And then I’ve looked around and there was no one left to conquer. Everyone had vanished.

    And what fun is complaining if there’s no one to hear?