Saturday, November 20, 2010

Things You Hope To Never Hear From Your Health Care Providers . . .

Or If You Can't Say Anything Nice . . .

In the past two months I’ve had my share of appointments with doctors, physical therapists and radiology technicians and all I can say is somewhere along the way medical and training schools have definitely dropped the ball when it comes to what we used to call “bedside manners.”

Here are just a few examples of what, in my humble opinion, definitely could have been left unsaid.

When my physical therapist was studying films of my lower back and asking me about my symptoms and type of pain I was experiencing he said, “Well, considering what you’ve told me about your pain and how it is affecting your daily life and what I see here as the state of your back, you are doing extraordinarily well. I have other patients in wheelchairs with this type of lumbar situation.”

Like I needed to hear this.

Then there was my regular doctor who called me in the evening (you know it’s going to be something you don’t want to hear when they call you later than normal office hours, but anyway . . .) to tell me that the MRI she ordered for my lower back pain showed severe arthritis, nothing we weren’t expecting. But then she said, “It also showed you have some enlarged lymph nodes and so I’m ordering a CT scan to get a better look.”

OK, that wasn’t so alarming, but THEN she said, “Now you should know that I wouldn’t order this unless I thought it was absolutely necessary because CT scans emit a lot of radiation.”

Did I need to know the amount of radiation given off by a CT scan was higher than most radiological tests so there could be something else to worry about?  No. Or the inference that SHE was obviously worried about the enlarged lymph nodes or she wouldn’t be ordering the test?  No, again.

Sigh . . . and believe me, she’s always been the best when it comes to knowing what to say and what not to say. Hers was a mild gaffe comparatively speaking.

Much worse was the ENT (ear nose and throat) surgeon who called me in the early morning (before I was even out of bed so again, I was sure it was something I didn’t want to hear) with results from my lymph node biopsy. He wasn’t the doctor who did the actual surgery (he was out of town) so I guess I should give him a bit of a pass because he really didn’t know my case. But even so, do I really want to pick up the phone and have a doctor start out by saying, “I’m sorry but I have some really bad news”? And in the next breath say, “Are you sitting down?”  Luckily for me I was still in bed at the time, but CRAP! Is that what you want to hear at 8 in the morning, before you’ve even had coffee?

I don’t think so.

And lastly, there was the very chatty radiology technician who was administering the CT scan I had last Friday. Lots of banter back and forth while she got me up on the gurney before sending me through the radiation-zapping machine, and injecting me with an iodine infusion for one last picture. Then she made this conversational faux pas. As I was collecting myself thinking well, at least that’s over, and after she told me I should drink plenty of water to flush the iodine solution out of my overworked kidneys, she said cheerfully, “Well, we’ll be seeing a lot more of you here.”


“Oh yes,” she continued, “You’ll be getting these scans pretty regularly. Oh and drinking all those yummy banana smoothies.” She was referring to the barium liquid they have you drink when they do CT scans of your stomach, intestines and bowels, which gave me a great case of diarrhea the last time I drank it. I was homebound for the rest of the day and evening.

When I balked at the thought of going through this on a regular basis and questioned why, she said, “You have lymphoma, yes? Well, CT scans are really the only way they can follow the progress of the disease.”

Well, didn’t that make my day? Just what I needed to know. The only thing that kept me from fuming about that for the next couple of hours was the horrendous traffic on the way home from the medical facility. Mental road rage took over.

My dear mom used to say this but in a much more genteel way. Here's my version: If you can’t say anything nice, why not keep your bleeping mouth shut?


Judith said...

Bedside manner has gone the way of - well - manners! When the high-end SF neurologist diagnosed our baby with cerebral palsy 28 years ago, it was like a slap in the face that we are still reeling from! And obviously it's no longer just neurologists who lack the social graces...

Scarlett said...

You are grace and light and joy and wide open eyes seeing all there is to love in life, and helping everyone around you see it too. Just read your blog, top to bottom, and I'm overflowing with gratitude and a kind of awe that someone as clear-eyed and open to the natural universe appeared in my lifetime. I bless the day you walked through my door, Bobbie Altman.