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I love my current primary care doctor. In fact, I refused to go to another doctor closer to a former workplace because I love my doctor that much.
Why such loyalty? Well, they were incredibly easy to “break in.” Five minutes into our first meeting, they suddenly stopped asking me questions about the skin and the chronic pain, looked at me and asked, “You actually work in the health care field, don’t you?”
I allowed as how I had spent more than a decade as a medical editor and writer. And from that point forward, my doctor talked to me as an equal because they knew that I will understand them at that level.
And thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Granted, I am both very lucky and was able to bring a knowledge base to the table that few other patients posses. That being said, there can be little that is more frustrating (and sometimes frightening) than breaking in a new doctor.
I seem to recall reading an interview with famous British stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard, who sometimes cross-dresses. He talked about going to see a new doctor because he was suffering from bronchitis and needed antibiotics. The doctor was completely fixated on the fact that Izzard was a transvestite, completely ignoring the fact that he also had bronchitis.
Sadly, this is a shared experience for many patients with a condition that cannot be easily identified. We are suddenly “the most interesting patient in the world” for reasons that may have little to nothing to do with why we are sitting in a paper gown on an examining table.
Alternately, we may end up as the teacher, with the doctor as our student. I’ve reached a point where I can rattle off all the rejected diagnoses, tests performed (and their results), and medications taken (and their effects). Once the doctor gets the “deer in the headlights” look, I know I have their attention that indeed, I know something about my own condition.
In some cases, we may also find that the doctor is so dead set on curing us that they ignore the trade-offs. I once had a pain doctor prescribe me some pills for my nerve pain. They made me so incredibly dizzy that I would literally have to sit in a chair, clinging to the armrests, for fear of toppling to the floor. When I mentioned this to the doctor, their response was “but did your pain get any better?” Well, yes, but did you pay attention to the part of *crippling dizzy spells*?
If we are lucky enough to find a doctor who “gets it,” either instinctively or through many rounds of being swatted on the snout, we treasure them dearly. They can be our greatest ally in our fight to be healthy.
On the other hand, doctors who refuse to see us as something more than just “the most interesting patient in the world” need to be summarily kicked to the curb. We deserve better.
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