My Doctor Fantasy (Spoiler Alert: Nothing to do with Dr. McDreamy)

Thinking about what my blog topic might be today as we near the end of Sjogren’s awareness month, I began to make notes about the guilt of being ill, missing out on events, letting others down and the self-loathing that may accompany chronic illness of any sort, both physical and mental.

Shortly after making my notes, my son arrived with the mail which contained a letter for me indicating a date for a follow-up appointment with a specialist in the city closest to where we live. Unfortunately, it is not close. The hospital that I go to for specialist appointments is three hours from our home. I have a Rheumatologist, Cardiologist, Dermatologist, Neurologist, and Heptologist / Gastroenterologist all at the same hospital.

The letter from this particular specialist had a triggering effect. Emotions I thought were long dispersed bubbled to the surface; lava out of a dormant volcano.

I saw her for the first time last July for a consult after I had been for an overnight emergency room stay at our local rural hospital. I’d previously been seen in this particular hospital out-patient clinic by a kind, compassionate Nurse Practitioner, in whom I had the utmost trust and confidence. I guess that is why when I went for the appointment with the specialist herself I was expecting the same type of person. I was wrong.

The specialist began by asking me questions, and then refused to let me answer. Next she sat up perfectly straight and leaned forward, telling me how things were going to proceed, stopping only to ask if I had questions about she had just told me, but once again not actually answering my questions or addressing my concerns. I became frustrated and started to cry momentarily. Because I’m polite, or felt guilty, or maybe just because I’m Canadian or some other bizarre reason, I apologised for crying.

I could tell she had no clue why I had come to tears. From her response it was obvious she assumed I was upset about the diagnosis and the incidents that had occurred at the rural hospital. Of course, I was also not pleased about that, however what briefly turned my water works on in her office was her arrogant demeanor and total disregard for anything I said or attempted to say in between her “telling me” what had happened, and how it would be going forward.

After only a matter of minutes in the exam room with her, I realized trying to say anything to her whatsoever was an exercise in futility. She had an agenda and she was going to just run it right over me, back it up and do it all over again. So, I decided to stop speaking to her. She looked pleased.

I’m sure she assumed I was now listening to her every word implicitly and that my silence indicted utmost agreement. What actually was happening was I was engaging in a fantasy. I was imagining grabbing her by her hair, throwing her out of her chair, slamming her head repeatedly onto the linoleum floor, saying “Shut up, and listen to me for five seconds, bitch!”

Okay, there goes any image anyone ever had of me being sweet, innocent, or polite. I don’t think in that moment I have ever been so frustrated in my entire life. As I then glanced down at the floor while she spoke, I examined her fabulous four inch stiletto heeled black pumps and envisioned her in the Three Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale story – a white-coated, black spike heeled / hoofed goat. Clip-clop. Clip- Clop across a foot bridge, intimidating everyone in her path, even the trolls.

Mr. Wanton was present at the appointment, but he was silent throughout. Soon enough she dismissed us. Stopping once we were a distance away down the hall, I turned to Mr. Wanton, asking what he thought of the appointment. He just shook his head. Asking why he had not said anything, he replied, “There was no point.” I was in agreement. I then told him what I had been fantasizing when I gave up trying to have a discussion with her. Mr. Wanton’s eyes widened. We’ve been married for quite some time, he has never heard me speak of anyone in that way. On the drive home I said, “I never want to see her again.”

Today as I read the letter I re-lived that appointment. My first reaction was that I was not going to see her again. Mr. Wanton reminded me I didn’t have to, I could get another doctor. But it is not that simple when the city you go to for specialized care is small. There are a limited number of specialists, especially those who specialize in a particular group of patients. Today for the first time, I had the thought perhaps something had happened in her life before we arrived at the appointment that day which was difficult for her. I have the urge to humanize her. I want to believe she just had a bad day, and took it out on me. I told Mr. Wanton I will give her one more chance. This time, I won’t be blindsided.

I wish I could say this is the only time I have been disappointed by a physician, but it is not. It is heart-breaking to me that patients are all too often treated with so little respect. Being a physician is without a doubt stressful and difficult, but so too is being a patient. I’d like to believe we could meet each other halfway, with compassion and empathy. I’m not so sure.

Recently I began reading a new book by Danielle Ofri, M.D. called “What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear.” Dr. Ofri cites a research study showing, on average, doctors first interrupt patients within 12 seconds of the patient speaking. Equally disturbing, yet another study showed results indicating physicians “re-directed” the conversation from the patients primary concern in less than half a minute (again on average) into the visit. The fact a physician is bringing the topic of doctor-patient communication to the forefront is an encouraging sign. I can only hope better days are ahead, and I will never have doctor abuse fantasies again.

12 thoughts on “My Doctor Fantasy (Spoiler Alert: Nothing to do with Dr. McDreamy)

  1. Love the Billy Goat Gruff image. I went to the ER in a hospital in Edmonton many years ago. The British female doctor was a twin to Ms. Gruff. I had the worst headache of my life. She accussed me of drug seeking and said if I needed a procedure she would give me an enema. As I drug my way out of the hospital the security guard stopped me and said I looked too ill to leave the hospital. When I got home my head pain was so bad that I blacked out and awoke on the floor. If she had checked medical records at that time with having migraines for 20+ years I had received hospital treatment maybe a half dozen times. Snip-Snap-Snout the tale is told out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I mentioned earlier, I find it heart-breaking to know so many people have had these types of experiences, both people I love and care about like yourself, but also strangers who have also done nothing whatsoever to justify such treatment at the hands of docs (or other medical professionals). Exactly as you said… had she checked your hospital records she would have known. Therein may lie yet another problem. I have discovered that very serious, pertinent medical information has not been inputted into my electronic health record and / or that certain hospitals / clinics do not have access to it. The universal access to our medical records “sold” to us by the previous gov’t – “Netcare” – is not all-encompassing as they have led us to believe. So more frustration for patients (and doctors) because of that.


  2. You might be interested in my foul-mouthed rant “F***ing Arrogant Ignorant Doctors!” 😜. It’s so frustrating finding Dr’s who know enough and care enough at the same time. I hope you have a better experience next appointment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I sure hope this appointment goes better for you, Suzanne.

    Tracy was in emergency a couple of weeks ago because she had an infection on her incision, and she knew she had one.

    The doctors didn’t even look at it. They gave her an x-ray, an MRI, blood and urine tests, and took two sets of blood to grow bacteria with. And after 8 or so hours, we left, being told there was nothing wrong.

    Two days later her infection grew worse, and upon visiting her family doctor, she was placed on an extreme dose of antibiotics.

    Quite unbelievable.

    I’ll be thinking of you. Hugs.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave. Yes, Tracy had told me a bit about not being believed about the incision infection. Truly should be malpractice if docs would not even look at it. 😦 Breaks my heart knowing people, lots of people, have these types of experiences. Take care. Hugs to you too.


  4. A good read about a very difficult topic… I once had a similar appointment with a specialist who told me that my on-going sinus problems were “ALL IN MY HEAD”… it is the only thing he said which made sense!!!!!!!!!! he never heard a word of what I said… needless to say I never went back to him ands when I told my family Doc about it he was angry and thank me for advising him as he would not be making future referrals to this “A_HOLE”… I agree totally, there has to be mutual respect… I find my current family Doc a very good listener and SHE does not get upset when I don’t agree or question her… As you said, most of us don’t seek to be a patient… so lets listen to each other on as level a field as we can. Love, Dad

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Suzanne, my initial reaction to this story is to offer that you take me with you to your next appointment so I can hold her down while you beat her with her stiletto’s. But of course, that would probably make both of us feel rotten after the rush of adrenaline wears off. My second reaction was absolute respect for your ability to think about her, and what she might be going through. It speaks volumes about the type of person you are and the compassion that exists in your heart. I wish you luck at your next appointment. Please know that if she once again begins dismissing you, I support you 100% to stand up for yourself, by whatever means. One bad day is understandable, but after that, she is quite frankly just being an asshole. Go get her! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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