The Most Interesting Patient in the World

I love my current primary care doctor. In fact, I refused to go to another doctor closer to a former workplace because I love my doctor that much.

Why such loyalty? Well, they were incredibly easy to “break in.” Five minutes into our first meeting, they suddenly stopped asking me questions about the skin and the chronic pain, looked at me and asked, “You actually work in the health care field, don’t you?”

I allowed as how I had spent more than a decade as a medical editor and writer. And from that point forward, my doctor talked to me as an equal because they knew that I will understand them at that level.

And thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Granted, I am both very lucky and was able to bring a knowledge base to the table that few other patients posses. That being said, there can be little that is more frustrating (and sometimes frightening) than breaking in a new doctor.

I seem to recall reading an interview with famous British stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard, who sometimes cross-dresses. He talked about going to see a new doctor because he was suffering from bronchitis and needed antibiotics. The doctor was completely fixated on the fact that Izzard was a transvestite, completely ignoring the fact that he also had bronchitis.

Sadly, this is a shared experience for many patients with a condition that cannot be easily identified. We are suddenly “the most interesting patient in the world” for reasons that may have little to nothing to do with why we are sitting in a paper gown on an examining table.

Alternately, we may end up as the teacher, with the doctor as our student. I’ve reached a point where I can rattle off all the rejected diagnoses, tests performed (and their results),  and medications taken (and their effects). Once the doctor gets the “deer in the headlights” look, I know I have their attention that indeed, I know something about my own condition.

In some cases, we may also find that the doctor is so dead set on curing us that they ignore the trade-offs. I once had a pain doctor prescribe me some pills for my nerve pain. They made me so incredibly dizzy that I would literally have to sit in a chair, clinging to the armrests, for fear of toppling to the floor. When I mentioned this to the doctor, their response was “but did your pain get any better?” Well, yes, but did you pay attention to the part of *crippling dizzy spells*?

If we are lucky enough to find a doctor who “gets it,” either instinctively or through many rounds of being swatted on the snout, we treasure them dearly. They can be our greatest ally in our fight to be healthy.

On the other hand, doctors who refuse to see us as something more than just “the most interesting patient in the world” need to be summarily kicked to the curb. We deserve better.

This is also posted over at Anytime Yoga, where I’m guestblogging. Please do poke your nose in over there to learn how to incorporate yoga as part of your daily life, even if you suffer from chronic pain.

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10 Responses to The Most Interesting Patient in the World

  1. meh, sometimes they are so keen on concentrating on *their* pet peeve about you (the patient) that they ignore the condition you’re asking them to treat. Like my most recent couple of interactions – I’m complaining about joint pain (specifically my hip which was in AGONY) and once she’d seen x-rays that didn’t show the osteo arthritis she expected, she went off at a tangent, trying to sell me on the merits of statins, even after she’d been told that (a) my mother’s cholesterol levels had been normal before her fatal heart attack and (b) I had no intention of taking them if she tried to prescribe them.

    And today, looking at the results of the blood test she insisted I got (I took it to shut her up and prove my point), which showed levels within the (admittedly high end of) normal range – and low “bad” cholesterol levels compared with the “good” ones, she still tried to push them at me.

    • oh and BTW, I still have the joint pain – which she seems to have decided to ignore because it’s “due to my weight”. (you’ve seen me – I’m a few pounds over, but no way heavy enough for that)

      • glwilson says:

        Oh bloody hell. There’s been a huge attempt to push statins; recent study I saw shows that they have barely marginally better end results for heart disease than not taking them. The push is still on though. (My cholesterol is slightly over the limit, but I will never ever ever take a statin again. Side effect hell is a vast understatement. My new-for-a-year doc listened when I said I’d rather lose at least 10 years off my life than take one again.)

        She also doesn’t push weight, and I *am* overweight (CFS/ME, fibro, wrecked/inoperable knee, chronic bronchitis — what is this exercise of which you speak, and which ones can I do with those issues, and oh by the way I’m waaaay too far below the poverty level to be able to use the local swimming pool, and there’s no Y within 25 – 30 miles, except at the end of a $26/round-trip in off season ferry ride?). I still miss the doc I had six or 8 years ago, but she’d left the public health clinic I was going to. Dammit. She *got* fibro, and migraine.

        I’ve also got some ghodsawful joint pain, but can’t take Celebrex (sulfa allergy). Vioxx was a godsend and now it’s not being made. Can’t take naproxen any more, all I have is ibuprofen.

        [end whine]

  2. syona says:

    There are doctors I’ve met, and walked away from, thinking that Dr Joseph Bell would have sent them back to school after reading them the riot act.

    After all, he emphasised that the very first thing you do, is listen to the patient.

  3. glwilson says:

    Oh jeez. I like my new doctor, but the other one in that practice who substituted a couple/few months back? Aieeeee. He was so so fixated on the migraine situation, when I was in about blood pressure and problems with medications for it.

    And he meant so very well. Young guy, if I’d had kids at in my mid-thirties he’d be that age. And he was doing the “but have you tried this? what dose? (how the bleep do I remember something I was taking 30 or 40 years ago? jeez. I had no idea I’d need to keep records. *wry*)

    As for statins – I am quite willing to risk dying of high-cholesterol-related whatever, over ever ever taking a statin again. One of the listed side effects was weight loss; after three weeks on it, not being able to keep most food down, or in… yeah, of course I’d lose weight. *wry*

  4. glwilson says:

    Word. All of it.

  5. tassie_gal says:

    This is why I have yet to find a new primary care doc. I seriously want to transplant my old one – he got me, he respected me, my knowledge of my own body and symptoms and the fact that I knew enough about myself and my symptoms to go in and say “I think its this, but I am open to suggestions…”
    That and his secretary is amazing….
    There may also be the small fact that I am now in a small town and WORKING with most of the GPs in said small town…I don’t mix work and health. Which makes finding a primary care GP very difficult when only one surgery in town doesn’t host our students and they may be next year. Am seriously considering going out of town. I so get this post.

  6. RIOTTBABY says:

    Right the fuck on!

  7. Pingback: Make ‘em Laugh | Not Your Teachable Moment

  8. Sydney says:

    I’m between primary care doctors right now because a couple years ago when I told my prior doc “I am suicidally depressed and need help. Please refer me to a psych and make it a woman because I will not be able to bring myself to talk to a man” he decided to jump on a soapbox and lecture me on how any medical professional would be able to give me an equal level of excellent care regardless of gender.

    Asking for help took just about everything I had, and the level of insensitivity he displayed was like a punch in the gut.

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