Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dear Dr. S.,

I just want you to take a moment today to be grateful for your wonderful health. I could tell today that you have never spent a significant amount of time ill, or struggled with an illness that is difficult to diagnose. Do you know how I could tell?

Because you kept calling me sweetheart.

I am 40 years old. I don’t believe you are much older than 45, if even that. Granted, I look younger than I am. But I am not a young girl.

But something about our relationship made you think of me that way, and it is exactly the thing that I find most frustrating about most of the doctors I have seen in the last four years. You see me as a child because I am ill, and because I am paying you lots of money to help me find my way through this maze. Somehow, that makes you feel older than me, and makes you talk down to me. You forget that I am a whole universe, just as you are—-a complete person with passions, skills, intricacies, a sense of humor, opinons.

And, yes, fears.

One of which is doctors who make me feel ashamed or less than a whole person for being ill. Doctors who seem to think that a failure in my physical self indicates an immaturity or shortcoming in my actual self which, believe me, is not in any way the same thing as my body.

Nver, ever mistake a person's body for her real self.

But you’ll learn all this someday. That’s one thing I know for sure—everyone, even those who are so proud of their vibrant health as you are, will someday sit with their feet dangling off an examining table and feel like a slab of meat. And maybe you’ll remember us, your patients, when that day comes for you. Trust me, sweetheart, you’ll know this feeling someday.


Andrea R said...

You should send this to your doctor. You are their patient and also a consumer. You have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. I have learned from sad experience in the last 8 1/2 years of my life: DO NOT TAKE CRAP FROM DOCTORS. Not for one minute. You are paying them to help you regain your health. You deserve their respect.
Love you much,

Jennifer B. said...

I agree. Send it, anonymously even.

Anonymous said...

I think my vote would be not to send this to the doctor but rather to prepare yourself, next time, to say, "Please don't call me sweetheart." But even more than that my vote is for finding another doctor--because I hate that kind of confrontation. (AND because I'd want a better doctor.)

I hate, hate, hate trying to find good doctors, and I hate, hate, hate having to stand up to doctors when they are wrong. Philosophically I completely agree with Andrea, it's still hard for me to act that philosophy. In fact, I'm terrified of doctors, both because they've given me so much bad news over the years, and because I DO still need their help.

When I was first diagnosed with Grave's Disease (when Mabel was a baby) I initially felt bad that I didn't seem to be one of those who had the faith to be healed. But a few years later I decided that I *had* showed my faith. by mustering the energy to seek good medical help (and the even greater energy it took to reject bad help) over and over again, getting my blood drawn month after month, and taking all my medications faithfully.

Darlene Young said...

Oh, man, I wish I dared to do it, Andrea, but I still have to work with this doctor and don't want to alienate her. I hate how much emotional control these doctors have over me. I was reading about one chronically ill patient who actually debates when she is going to meet with a doctor whether to dress nicely with make-up (thus prompting comments about looking well and having them not believe she feels as rotten as she does) or to dress how she feels (and then not be treated with respect by the front office, or be talked down to). It's crazy that a person has to worry about this stuff.

I agree with you, Zina, about the incredible faith and hope it takes to keep engaging in this screwed-up world of medicine.

nurselynn said...

I'm afraid this is a too common problem. Your dad's doctor's office has a comment card available as we leave. Two visits ago we had a 'nurse' who called him 'sweetie' and 'honey' repeatedly. And when he made a remark she didn't understand (one of his little jokes) she began addressing all her questions to me. As if he was not able to comprehend her questions! When she was the one who was not competent. Yes, I wrote all about it on the card. When you are already feeling exposed and vulnerable, this seemingly small thing really does make a person feel diminshed and insignificant.
Your doctor was sitting in the front row in medical school when they taught the I Am God class. Sadly, it was a HUGE class because I've bumped up against many of them!!
I'm sorry you had this very unpleasant experience. Wish you could find some answers. We love you!

Cheri said...

You probably don't want or need advice, but I'm with Zina--gear yourself up to say, "Please don't call me sweetheart."

I have a friend who's having this same experience with her youngest daughter's school teacher. This mom has raised five other outstanding children. Her youngest daughter has struggled this year with an ongoing illness, and she has a teacher who's new to their family. At times when the teacher has been condescending, the mom just feels like, "You have no idea who I really am. You see the struggles with this one daughter, who you've only known for about 6 weeks, and you think you know something about us."