Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Doctor Visits

I had 2 doctor visits in 24 hours. Not as a patients advocate, helper or observer, but as a patient this time. There is probably nothing I dislike more than going to the doctor.

I have been suffering with allergies for months. Stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, it just was not getting any better!

Last night I went to an allergist and was tested to learn I am allergic to almost every tree, plant and flower imaginable, my dog and probably some other things I lost track of. I entered the doctor’s office to be greeted by a large sign that told the patients how much doctors are paying for medical malpractice insurance. I wanted to walk right out since this doctor obviously felt that reading about his (their) high cost of medical malpractice insurance was my priority while I struggled to breathe, but instead I continued with the visit, that was interrupted by phone calls, conversations and a very distracted young doctor trying to answer everyone’s questions. She examined my arms, wrote some notes and prescriptions and told me to come back in a month. I don’t THINK so.

I’m surprised that some doctors act as if they are doing us a favor when in fact, I think I brought my business to her and wrote her a check!

This morning I kept my appointment with an ENT to see if there were other reasons for my chronic stuffy nose. How I found this doctor is really probably not written in any of the patient safety books……………….At a meeting of about 10 women, I apologized for my stuffy nose when one suggested I see this doctor. Upon hearing his name, many of the other women said they too use him and think he’s wonderful. So, ‘I must go see what he could do for me’ I thought and made an appointment.

I was uncomfortable that I could hear the conversation in the room next door clearly but it was a young child and I could hear he spoke in a genuinely loving manner to the patient and whatever family was in there with him.

I asked the doctor to tell me what he was doing, and each move he made, he explained it. The exam, x-rays and testing were all explained in detail and upon the results, he said he was going to make sure I understood what he said. He showed me diagrams, wrote down information and practiced “teach back” allowing me to try my new nasal spray. We went through my medications, options and even last nights prescriptions from the allergist so he could compare what he was recommending compared to these.

Little did he know what “baggage” I carried with me into his office. His office was right next door to the hospital where my son had his tonsillectomy that killed him years earlier. I saw the restaurant where we got coffee and breakfast during the surgery and the driveway where I rushed back with a bleeding child in my arms. He used the same “scope” on me that led my son to begin the downward spiral of medical treatment that would soon lead to him leaving us forever and my pain, so great, would cause me to spend the years that followed helping others understand how medical nightmares begin and that sometimes, they never end.

I was a “good” patient. I asked my questions and listened intently apologizing in my own mind for judging this kind and gentle doctor before I ever came to see him. I want so much to just go to the doctor like other people, ask my questions, be treated and leave. But, that could never happen. Forever I will be on guard, probably suffering from post traumatic stress that has not been recognized following a medical error.

Instead of just suffering, I use my experience and the experiences I have learned from the people who work in healthcare, patient safety and quality management and others who have suffered but so graciously share their experiences to try to help change the way healthcare is delivered and the way people are treated following an adverse event.

No, I don’t recommend doctors but I will keep my appointment with this one. I hope he will keep me as a patient! And maybe, his gentleness is what I need to get me through the trauma of a stuffy nose.

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