Friday, December 25, 2015

An open letter to doctors everywhere

It could have been a lot of things—you may have a bad day, or you may have formed an opinion about the patient beforehand. But it’s important to remember that doctor-patient interactions are human interactions. That’s important for both doctor and patient to remember.
Wednesday I sat in the specialist’s office for the 4th time for the same problem, because my primary care doctor wanted to be sure we weren’t missing anything. Rather than look for a reason why I’m still having problematic symptoms, this specialist chose to intimate I was at best exaggerating, at worse faking my symptoms. She also told me I’d gained so much weight that I was almost unrecognizable compared to the photo they had of me from my first visit. Then she proceeded to tell me that she no longer needed to see me, that if my doctor had any questions she could call—but it was no longer necessary for me to return to the office.
Almost five months ago I got a concussion at work. Despite rest, medications, and following all my doctors’ instructions I am not better. I still can’t drive. I have pain every single day. If I don’t recover I’m looking at a future devoid of many of my favorite things. It’s changed my life irrevocably. I can’t go to Disneyland with my family anymore—the crowds, the rides, it’s all done for me if I don’t get better. I’m a writer who can barely stare at the computer for more than a couple hours a day. I’m a mother who can’t attend her daughters’ concerts or her son’s basketball game. Car rides that last more than a few minutes are torture. Even the crowds at church freak me out, thanks to my new anxiety.
Beyond all of that, I’m a person. A fellow human being. But I wasn’t treated like one that day. I was treated like a problem. A dark smear in her otherwise perfect record. She made a point of telling me none of her other concussion patients had symptoms that lasted as long as mine, as if I was not being wholly and completely honest about my experience.
I wish I could have said these things to my doctor that day. I should have, but I was honestly so taken aback by her words that I just wanted to get out of there. I’m glad I don’t have to see her anymore. Apart from the visit itself, the hour long drive there (and then an hour back again) is miserable. At least I know that my primary care physician hears me.
I know the world we live in. I know too many people fake injury or illness to live off disability or workers’ compensation. I know there are people who defraud the system. But I’m not one of those people. If you knew how much this stupid injury has changed my life you wouldn’t doubt that I am in daily pain and misery. I’m failing my family every day. I’m on a ton of antidepressants for pain, and guess what? I’ve gained quite a bit of weight due to the medication and the fact that I can barely move. I can’t exercise without sharp, shooting pain in my head. I’ve tried. I try regularly. I want to be better, but after so many weeks of this my fragile optimism is fading fast.
The last thing I need is to feel like my doctor doesn’t even believe me.

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