How To Break a Perfectly Good Patient

Once upon a time, I was a good patient.

I was respectful of my doctors, and their expertise. I trusted their decisions about my health care, and assumed they had my best interests at heart. I tried not to waste their precious time with nonsense, and listened to their counsel.

That was 35 years, and 22 surgeries ago.

Most people make it through life without much surgery. I envy them their luck. But before you read further, a few facts about me.

  1. I LOATHE surgery. Being sliced into is not something I enjoy. Each time I need one, I feel like I lose a bit of my humanity.
  2. None of the surgeries were “elective”. As far as the insurance industry is concerned, ALL surgery is elective. My definition of elective surgery is a nose job. A tummy tuck. Something you have done because you want to…not because you have to.
  3. None of my surgeries were cosmetic. Each one was to correct something that had gone wrong, gotten damaged, or had not worked properly.
  4. I have very close to a phobia about doctors, hospitals, and oh yeah…SURGERY.
  5. I have woken up during one. NOT recommended.
  6. I have had botched surgeries…a gall bladder removal where there was “spillage”. That means they missed a few stones, which then remain in your body, and show up on xrays for the rest of your life.
  7. A sloppy scrub nurse forgot to cover the “instrument tray” for one…and as I was wheeled in, suddenly realized they were going to use POWER TOOLS on me. This did not induce a zen state.
  8. Some of my surgeries were caused by OTHER surgery.
  9. When you have that much surgery, mistakes get made, large and small. Veins get blown. Small things magnify the pain, stress, and overall horrible nature of medicine.
  10. Despite it all, I TRY to be a good patient. I do.

Which brings us to today’s topic. An Ode To Dr. Dickhead.

Hi Doc.

I know I am new to your practice, and that your time is very valuable. But when I showed up in your office three weeks ago, and showed you that weird lump in my gut, the size of a softball, that hurt when you poked it…well…I was really sort of hoping for some help.

You did poke it.

“Likely a hernia” you said.

Ok…so what do we do with it?

“Nothing…unless it gets worse.”

Ummm. A hernia the size of a softball seems pretty bad to me. I could see it and feel it myself…hence the reason for the visit. It felt different than the rest of my gut. Round, and kind of firm? And it hurt.

But I will bite. Define “worse”.

“If you wake up during the night in really bad pain, go to the ER.”

Now Dr. Dickhead…I suspect you have no idea what your casual dismissal means to a patient like me. The same way that you don’t grasp how difficult it is for me to even come see you, because simply stated, I have been through the damned wringer with you guys.

I didn’t WANT to be there. The fact that I was is a strong indicator that I really needed your help. And you blew me off.

Fast forward to last night. I spent the last three weeks uncomfortable, feverish, and in pain on and off. I woke at 2 AM, and yup…I hurt. Since I have been in ER’s in the middle of the night, I decided to wait until the local urgent care opened. ER’s are awful places…and at 3 AM, they are soul destroying, god awful pits of despair.

They were wonderful at the Urgent Care. In all of fifteen minutes, they decided that I needed help…and sent me off to the hospital, where they had better diagnostics.

So…getting a bad feeling about all this.

An hour later, I have been stripped, bled, poked, and hooked up to an IV, awaiting a CT scan. My Christmas was uncomfortable, and the ER staff wanted to know why I waited so long to do something about this bulging lump in my gut. Why had I waited so long to show it to someone? And that, Dr. Dickhead is when I lost it. Angry tears, because actually I had shown it to someone. It was the same size three weeks ago, when you sent me off to play in traffic.

But it didn’t impress you. It wasn’t important. You needed it to get worse to be worthy of your damned attention.

I understand that you did not make the hernia happen.

I get that you are not to blame for the fact that I will in fact, have another surgery.

But Jesus CHRIST, man…a little compassion? Instead of making me feel stupid for even bothering you with it? And then to have to explain to more medical staff that no, I am not really an idiot. I HAD done the right thing.

The trouble is…you didn’t. You contributed to the breakage of a perfectly good patient. It’s a small thing…just sending me on my way. No tests. No studies. Yes, it was in fact, a hernia…a damned BIG one they are going to try to fix in the next day or so.

And all you did was not a damned thing. You are just the latest in a long line of medical professionals who failed to treat me. I get that the Oath says “First, do no harm”…but it does suggest you do something.

So six months of your care means I need a new PCP. I am sure you aren’t a bad person. But you sent me away with a bulge in my gut the size of a softball. So I am not exactly wowed by your skills, your professionalism, or your power of observation.

I have a good friend who thinks I am just a pain in the ass about doctors. He believes I should chill, and just get over the mistakes and boo boos, and mulligans that have made seeking medical help a genuine horror for me. He misses the point that I DO still seek help when I need it. I just have lost all hope that the doctors are really in it to help me.

So Dr. Dickhead, I shall not darken your door much longer.

Oh…and I hope you enjoyed the cookies I made you, you insufferable prick.

Happy New Year.