Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doctors Playing Gotcha

I have never gotten along well with doctors.
When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the doctor’s. I felt healthy and energetic when I arrived. But when I left, I was in pain from a shot.  Later, I often got a fever and felt sick for days.  Lesson learned: doctors make me sick.


When I got older and actually wanted things from doctors, like birth control, they played gotcha.
The first doctor I went to for birth control recognized my name. He was a friend of my youngest uncle. I’d never had a doctor feel my breasts before and this conversation topic was not appropriate to my teenaged ears.


When I became even older, I found out there are more insidious versions of gotcha.  “If you want me to do X for you, I will insist that you do Y.”  Y is usually an unpleasant test that wastes time, costs money, hurts, and tests for something that can’t or shouldn’t be treated anyway.


I got caught on doctor gotcha again yesterday.


I’ve finally given up on a natural cure for my injured hip.  I’ve tried yoga, Pilates, Egoscue and Feldenkrais exercises.  They have kept me going for 19 months, but the pain has continually increased.  I slathered on wintergreen cream. That worked for about a year and a half.  Then I switched to DMSO.  Some days DMSO doesn’t work.  I took my first Tylenol pill in over 20 years last Friday.  I had to admit I wasn’t getting better.


My left leg is able to do less and less. Two weeks ago, I could no longer lift it high enough to get on my step-through bike.   One week ago, I was no longer strong enough to walk to the gym.  I’ve been taking the bus, and it’s difficult to climb the bus stairs.  And after I hoist myself up to seat level, I have to glare down the kids in the “seniors and disabled” seats to get them to let me sit.  I hate begging for a seat. I hate needing a seat. 


So, I went to see Sports Doc.  He sent me for an MRI.  His interpretation of the MRI was that I should see a hip specialist.  He was respectful. He have me options, and let me make the choices. 


The hip specialist said I needed a hip replacement.  Nothing else would stop the pain. He also gave me options – side or front incision, an assortment of implant types, a choice of dates for the surgery.  I was in a good mood when I left his office.   For the first time, I’d gone to a doctor, asked for something and not been handed ultimatums.


But I had to get a permission slip from an internist.  The seemingly nice surgeon recommended one who was conveniently across the street.  I figured they were probably friends.


The receptionist at the internist’s office led me to a room and ordered me to undress from the waist up and put on a cloth topper that tied in the back.  I asked why.  She said “Office policy.”  Not a good sign.


When the internist got there, he started out okay. Standard questions. Standard answers.  I do not take prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, or street drugs. I do take a few herbs: psyllium, aloe vera, eyebright.  He was puzzled that my heart rate was 86 beats per minute, which is kind of fast. I told him I’m anxious in doctor’s offices.  He asked, “What do you take for that?”  


I’d just told him I don’t take drugs.   Then I said, “What do I take for that? (Pause) The bus.” He smiled and said, “or your bike.”  I had hopes for this young fellow.  But then we discussed my 14 month old heart sonogram that showed I have “low normal backflow.”  He decided he wanted a new one.  Why?  Because he won’t sign my permission slip unless I get it.  Gotcha.  I want a real reason and I want a choice.  I do not want to be told – do what I tell you or I won’t do what you want. But I’d already paid for the visit. I’d already scheduled the day free for all this medical stuff. And if I was going to find another doctor to sign the permission slip, that would cost another day and another office visit fee. I agreed to the sonogram.


The sonogram office told me that they would call the internist and he would call me that evening with the results.  Nobody called.  That’s typical. They just want to run the tests. They don’t want to deal with the humans. I never wanted the test and I don’t want to deal with the doctor.


There are a few doctors who don’t play gotcha.  But they play with the ones who do.  
And the really bad thing about this hip implant is that I’ll have to get it x-rayed every year for the rest of my life.  I hate x-rays.  Giving up on natural healing, having to talk about how many more years I’m likely to live in order to select the right implant was bad enough. I was fantasizing about never seeing doctors again.  Now, every one my future years, I’ll have to see the surgeon. That is the biggest gotcha of all.

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