Friday, July 17, 2009

It Happens Too Often

I ran into my neighbor J. at the grocery store yesterday. She's not one of the Hoodie insiders, but she does live in the 'Hood. Over the years, we've gone from nodding acquaintances to "Hi, How are you?" to brief chats about gardening and the weather. I mentioned that I hadn't seen much of her lately. After a quick sidelong glance left and right, she said "Well..." and launched into the subject. (As I've mentioned, I have the kind of face that people talk to.)

Turns out over the past few years, J. has also been the victim of Doctors Who Don't Listen, which also made her the victim of botched surgery, among other things. I'll spare the details, but there were actually two separate health problems, and both times, she was stuck with doctors who ignored what she was saying and followed their own agenda. It was a horrifying, tragic tale, all the more so because most of the issues, if not all of them, were probably avoidable.

I can't criticize on this topic. I suspected for years that my GP was not a good listener, and I imposed on my gynecologist for all kinds of health care, in order to avoid going back to the GP. When my MM symptoms began and I knew I had to see the GP, I put up with her nonsense for six months, knowing in my heart that she was full of crap, and wasn't really listening to me. I kept telling her I thought I had cancer; at one point she turned and snapped, "Why do you keep saying you have cancer? You don't have cancer!" And then, I broke my back. An earlier diagnosis might not have made any difference in my treatment or in the progression of the cancer, but it might have saved me from the fracture that changed my life forever.

But the truth is... I knew she wasn't paying attention, wasn't listening, wasn't giving my concerns any real credibility, so if anyone is to be blamed for the delayed diagnosis, it's me.

And that's the reason for my rant here. If you think your doctor's not listening, give her one more chance. Grab her by the lapels, or take her hand, make some kind of physical contact, then look her in the eyes and say, "You're not hearing me."

Don't say, "I'm sorry, you're not hearing me." and don't say, "I think you're not hearing me."

Say, "You're not hearing me. This is what I'm telling you..." and then give her one more shot. Give her one more chance to pay attention and hear what you're saying.

Don't give her six more months or four more shots. And if you still have any qualms, if that nagging little voice is still concerned, then change doctors. Immediately. I know J. would agree with me: you don't have to explain or apologize - just do it. It may just save your life.

1 comment:

Susan said...

It's because the darned doctors are human, and I have always respected and sought their opinions as these Super Intelligent Beings who Have The Answer. No more. They are nobody special; just someone doing their job. Some of them even seem to punch a time clock, while some are exceptional. It all depends. You are so right, Nancy, my pal, to beg us to re-think the "Doctor as Saviour" position that so many of us still cling to... I am so incredibly thankful that your story has a Happy Ending. xoxo