Wednesday, September 11, 2013

don't assume i'm wrong about this

My recent medical experiences have made me a bit cranky. 

Today, I called to find out how long it will take to replace my port, since someone has to come pick me up. At the beginning of the call, I clearly explained that I was having my port replaced and that I needed to know how long it would take.

Medical professional: "Are you getting a port or having one taken out?"

Me: "Both."

Medical professional (Sounding incredulous):  "Both?"

Me: "Yes, I already have a port and it has stopped working. I'm having it removed and a new one put in."

Medical professional: "Have you talked to someone about this?"

(This is where Tim, when I was relating this, said, "No, it was just an idea you had. You thought it would be fun.")

Me: "I have talked to C. Many times."


Me: "The procedure is already set already set up. I just need to know how long it will take."

Medical professional: "Well, putting in a port takes three hours. Taking one out usually takes half an hour."

Me: "OK. Thanks. I'll say that they should pick me up 3.5 hours after surgery."

Why did that have to be so hard? Why couldn't she just answer me? 

I'm starting to become very annoyed with questions that are pretty much irrelevant to the medical professional involved. Just like the nurse who insisted that I couldn't possibly be on Herceptin, the questioner did not need to know any details. The appointment is booked. I'm having the procedure. Just tell me how long I can expect to be there.

I know this sounds a bit pettty. And I do want to say that 90% of the medical staff I've dealt with over the years have been excellent. I've just lost patience with the ones who don't even seem to try.

I wrote a list of "Do's and Don'ts for Medical Professionals" a few years ago. I know that it's been included in at least one package for medical students. Here's another I would like to add:

Don't assume that the patient is wrong.

Of course, common sense is required here. It's best to double check before running a test or administering drugs. But even that can be done in a way that acknowledges that the patient knows something about her own body, medical condition and experiences. 

When I first met my surgeon last year, he asked me why I had asked for the MRI that found the tumour. I explained that 30% of women with Her2+ metastatic breast cancer go on to develop brain tumours. 

The doctor turned to his student and said, "See? That's why I say we can learn from our patients."

Now, that's what I'm talking about.


The Maven said...

I find I have to deal with a lot of this when talking to medical professionals about my children. Yes, I am informed. Yes, I do pay attention. Please don't assume I don't know what I'm talking about. Just answer my questions because navigating the medical system is frustrating enough.

Apparently I also needed to vent.

Sue Breen said...

Is it just the change of season, the shorter days, the fact that the equinox and the full moon are a mere two days apart next week???? Or is it possible that some of these people truly are idiots. I'm sorry for saying the latter might actually be the case but I am going for the benefit of the doubt (today), only because TODAY I was heard and had a smooth appointment :) hearing you loud and clear.

laurie said...

I think this bugs me especially because there is no acknowledgment how hard this stuff is. These people make it harder - and not just for us.

Bob said...


Michael said...

If you live with the assumption that most people are toxic incompetent assholes life becomes a lot easier.

You also treasure the non-assholes a lot more.

Andrea said...

This makes me so angry. And it's all too familiar.

laurie said...

I really hesitated to write this post but it seems like I've struck a nerve with a lot people. Thanks to you all for "getting it."

JoT said...

Before extensive dental surgery, we explained in great detail that Gillian had the tendency to have very bad breathing post-op. We strongly (cannot emphasize that enough) recommended that they be ready to with a respirator in Recovery. Sure enough, they come running in to the waiting room, "Please come, she's not doing as well as we'd like."

There's the anesthesiologist sitting giving her O2, looking very nervous, Gillian looking like shit, hardly breathing. I told the doc they should get her on bipap ASAP. "oh, well we've had to order it - we're waiting."

Needless to say, Gillian ended up intubated in ICU and that doctor (and each one I spoke to later) got an earful about actually listening to parents of special needs kids instead of assuming we're all hysterical idiots.

Joanna said...

I have been on Herceptin for five years. This is not at all rare for Stage IV cancer. My port failed and had to replaced. Again, this is not unusual. Where did that medial "professional" get his or her training? It is perplexing to me how you were treated.

laurie said...

Thanks all. Once again, you make me feel less crazy. And Jodi, it would all be a million times scarier if it involved my child, instead of myself. That's just terrible.