Saturday, June 22, 2013

Catch-Hell Blues

 Confession of the day: I haven't had a regular doctor since I had a pediatrician. This fact never ceases to drive my husband absolutely up the wall, as he's big on visiting the doctor and regular check-ups, for obvious reasons. He's been on my case to find a primary care physician since around the time we got engaged, when he somehow decided he was semi-responsible for keeping me healthy. I have not made finding one even close to a priority, because I, like the vast majority of the population, enjoy relatively good health. I don't get sick often and when I do, I usually just medicate myself with whatever my mom tells me to pick up from the pharmacy. Failing that, I've been known to make a trip to the nearest urgent care facility. This methodology hasn't failed me yet.

     That said, I finally gave in last week and accompanied my husband to his doctor's visit to have his INR tested. He goes in at least once a month, sometimes more if something feels off, and the office staff already knows him, despite his only being a patient there for maybe six months. My husband insisted that I go with him so that he could introduce me to his physician and see if I wanted to make him my physician as well. As it turns out, I liked him very much and he was accepting new patients, so I signed up for my first physical since my ill-advised attempt at running track in seventh grade.

      While we were in the exam room, waiting for the doctor to come in, the nurse who had taken my husband's vitals and confirmed his current medications asked if he had any questions that he wanted the doctor to address. My husband had a less-than-pleasant experience the last time he had to go to the emergency room and he's been having a similar problem at his current pain-management doctor's office. It's a deep enough issue that I'm okay with saying it warrants an entirely separate entry, so I'll spare you the details just now, but it was something that my husband and I both thought important enough to bring to his doctor's attention.

     Truthfully, though, we were both so hesitant to actually bring it up, because we both know how much bitching doctors and nurses have to put up with on a regular basis from patients who either haven't the first clue what they're talking about or have WebMD'd the hell out of whatever it is that they're seeking medical treatment for in the first place. My best friend and his wife are both pediatric nurses and I've heard my fair share of stories about well-meaning, but utterly clueless parents who really just get in the way. During my many, many trips to the emergency room with my husband, I've overheard countless doctors and nurses trying to explain to the patients and their family members why they're doing what they're doing, even though they don't really have time to play 20 Questions.

     Let me be clear - I certainly don't expect people to just nod their head in assent to whatever the doctor tells them to do or medicate themselves with. God knows, they're not all-knowing and they make mistakes, though with potentially more dire consequences than when you or I make a bad judgment call at work. What I am saying is that the vast, VAST majority of people do not know enough about what's going on with their bodies or treatment to be able to reasonably question what's going on. These medical professionals have had years of training, both in school and on the job and they generally do a damn fine job.

     Of course, everyone is quick to point out this one story they read about how a doctor amputated the wrong leg, or how someone was given Tylenol even though they had a known acetaminophen allergy. Yes, I'm aware, badness happens. And yes, as I mentioned before, when a doctor makes a mistake, it could potentially be fatal and so the margin of error is much, much slimmer than the one most people operate with. Truthfully, I believe that's a risk that someone assumes when they choose to go into the medical field, but that's neither here nor there. (See how quickly I can go off-topic?) As I was saying...

     My husband had some concerns that he wanted to discuss with his doctor about the treatment plan (or lack thereof) that his pain-management doctor had put into place, but he was so hesitant to do even that. He's spent so much of his life in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices and even though I haven't experienced that aspect of the medical profession as extensively as he has, my mother has worked in the medical field for most of my life and I've seen enough to know that for every arrogant doctor who thinks he knows everything, there are seventy-five others who just want to help people. Nurses are kind of the unsung heroes of the situation and I feel for them, too. My husband and I both have a pretty deep respect for the medical profession and so it was a delicate situation in that exam room.

     His doctor is awesome and wasn't in least offended at the questions posed, just explained what he thought was going on with the situation we'd discussed and said he'd be happy to refer my husband to a new pain guy if he'd like to see someone else. My husband made sure to convey to him that he really wasn't trying to be a pain in the ass and nor did he think that the doctor in any way didn't know what he was doing; it was just that he wanted to see if someone else might have a better, more proactive treatment plan than the one his current doctor seemed content to be following.

     So we walked out of there with an appointment for me, a referral for my husband and a sincere hope that we hadn't inadvertently become those patients, the ones who question everything and hop doctors like there's no tomorrow, searching for the magician who can make every hurt go away before it begins to ache. That guy doesn't exist and I pity the ones who think he does. Instead of searching for what can't be found, a better plan might be to be thankful for what you've got and ease up on giving hell to those who are, by and large, only trying to help. 

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