I had a horrible doctor appointment today with a local well-respected Ophthalmologist. In order to see her, I had to complete a PRE-APPOINTMENT 30-Page “Patient Information Packet.” It included all the typical information but also demanded precise details regarding the medications I was taking, the eye surgeries I have had, CDs of any recent Head or Brain CTs or MRIs and a most accurate/succinct description of the reason I sought her expertise. I complied even though it was time-consuming and somewhat costly. But, I assumed my diligent efforts and investment would pay off with being the beneficiary of this physician’s undivided attention and sage advice. I was a SCHMUCK.
In short, I’ve had Severe Crohn’s Disease for 30 years and have had 2 Cataract Surgeries, an Ocular Migraine and Severe Dry Eye so bad, that my local eye doctor recently put me on the drug “Restasis” because he felt the time had come where the vision in my left eye could be compromised. That scared the crap out of me so I resorted to the above as I felt he was venturing into territory in which he was no longer qualified to travel or at least there were doctors who presumably specialized in eye problems experienced by patients with inflammatory-based autoimmune diseases. There are, so I made the appointment.
I arrived at the facility on-time and an efficient technician took various measurements of my eyes by rote. He asked me why I was there and after cutting me off before I could explain the possible pervasive aspects of my problem, he told me my Crohn’s Disease is something they don’t consider in evaluating my eyes. Huh? I had been CRYSTAL CLEAR with the kind folks who set up the appointment and they assured me this was the correct doctor to see given my carefully articulated concerns. When I tried to explain how my eye had been so dry in the past that I once cut my Cornea in my sleep as I slowly awoke and merely blinked my eye, he was unfazed and kept moving forward with the tasks for which he was responsible. I was like a pimple on his ass which wasn’t bothering him at the moment so he didn’t have a care in the world.
He walked out of the room not saying anything and then another doctor-looking person came in and escorted me to another ocular-exam-looking room. She placed me in the chair saying NOTHING. I tried to ascertain who she was and what I was doing in this new room, but she apparently had the personality of a handball since she could not speak. I understand that certain people don’t want to get “chatty” with the patients but when a patient is being moved from one room to another, by different people, and each looks at you like there is a palpable smell of “ass” in the air, I’d like some additional information. Call me crazy.
I waiting in the chair. Then I waited. Then the doctor walked in. I could sense immediately when she came in that the ass-pimpled technician and/or the human handball must have told her I was a “difficult patient” who didn’t belong at this particular Ophthalmic Practice. She smiled with the sincerity of the last man at the disco smelling from “Old Spice” and asked me what brought me to see her. I succinctly explained my predicament and that I was concerned my local eye doctor was in over his head and/or I hoped there were specialists for this sorta stuff and I was told she practiced within that specialty.
Her preconceived agenda was obvious as she interrupted me almost immediately to ask me how my vision was. I told her I wished she’d let me finish because my medical concerns were more about the future given the possible progression of my Crohn’s Disease and some possibly hereditary contributions. She didn’t listen to a word I said and instead interrupted me again and this time, in the most condescending manner, she took the opportunity to didactically “teach” me how to interact with a physician. She said something to the effect of: “This is a conversation; I may interrupt you; you may interrupt me.”
To myself I said, “You are a condescending a-hole. But unfortunately you practice the specialty of medicine I need to consult with in order to better understand my medical problem such that I could devise disease management strategies so I never have to be treated so inhumanely.” But I respect doctors so I thought I would appeal to her sense of “reasonableness” and I interrupted her and respectfully explained that I would appreciate her LISTENING to my succinct story especially since it is ALL SPELLED OUT IN THE 30-PAGE “Patient Information Packet” I HAD TO FILL OUT PRIOR TO THE APPOINTMENT and she hadn’t yet even TOUCHED THE DOCUMENT and its numerous attachments! She did not react too kindly to my suggestion and while moving back in her chair to exit the room she suggested to me that perhaps this was not a good “fit” and that I should see another doctor?
While I SAW RED IN MY MIND, I was quickly emphatic that I was not going ANYWHERE after her office staff confirmed several times SHE WAS THE DOCTOR I SHOULD SEE GIVEN MY PROBLEM and because I had spent a great deal of time and some money providing her with precise medical information about my rather unpredictable and complex case which she hadn’t taken the slightest interest in as evidenced by her refusal to merely LISTEN to me.
I think she was a bit surprised that I stood up to her so firmly and without one second of hesitation, so she finally started to listen. But she kept interrupting me and NOT ONCE DID SHE LOOK AT THE 30-PAGES OF INFORMATION I HAD SUPPLIED nor did she ask what medications I was taking. She then performed the same perfunctory eye exams that my local eye doctor had performed and proclaimed my vision to be very healthy. Her patronizing positive emphasis was made to make me feel as if I had just gotten a kiss on the cheek from Beyoncé and noticed a special gleam in her eye indicating that, just maybe, we had that rare connection. I was being played as she simply wanted to get through the examination without incident and I was getting angrier by the second. I respectfully asked her for her MEDICAL ADVICE in terms of how long to take the Restasis and her response was so safely legally generic it was as if I had asked the guy at the local Hardware Store what he thought. It was a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME.
The only positive occurred a few minutes later when I politely told the front office staff that I had just been treated like a piece of garbage by their physician. The office manager, Allison, took me aside and asked me about my underlying condition. She was genuine and interested. After a TWO (2) MINUTE CONVERSATION, she said this: “If you were my brother, I would send you to Dr. **** because all he does is specialize in Inflammatory Conditions involving the Eye.” THAT DOCTOR IS EXACTLY WHO I NEED TO SEE yet I had to sit through this bullshit charade. I thanked her profusely and she gave me this doctor’s business card and even wrote the phone numbers of his new offices on the back of the card.
I don’t understand why some doctors act so arrogantly and inhumanely when one day it is CERTAIN that they too will be patients. This becomes even more bothersome when I have the absolute privilege of meeting doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who LISTEN and want to help me and attempt to bring to bear their talents and experience to help solve or address my medical problems. Maybe the Hippocratic Oath and its corollaries should not include something seemingly simplistic and legally motivated such as: “Do No Harm.” Instead, the ENTIRE OATH should be: “Respectfully, listen to the patient and try to identify, and then, if possible, solve or manage his or her medical problem. If you cannot do so, respectfully refer the patient to another doctor who can.”