Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open letter to medical specialists

Dear medical specialists, particularly those in non-emergency offices,

I need to see you sometimes because in consultation with my other doctors, more specific expertise is needed to treat whatever might be ailing me. It’s usually long-term, and relatively pricey, and because most of you are so busy, it means I have to suffer the condition for many months while I wait for an appointment.

That means that when I stare straight ahead in your office and slowly embed splinters under my fingernails by scratching deliberately on the arm rest, it’s not because I don’t value your opinion or the overhead cost in getting new office chairs. I just understand that flying into a screaming rage when you make me wait for hours is in a social ‘grey area’, so I choose instead to ruin something small and non-essential of yours.

Also, when your receptionist treats me like a lazy third-grader asking for more time to do their homework, I get annoyed, particularly because you’ve had three whole months (sometimes more) to get ready for my arrival here in your office, so there’s no reason for condescension. Asking how much longer after my original appointment time will I actually see you is a valid question, particularly when others go ahead of me while people at work/school/home/life outside my illness wait patiently for me for far longer than I told them.

When I get into your office to discuss my condition, don’t interrupt me. This is particularly relevant when you ask me a question and I attempt to answer it. Don’t guess, don’t talk over me. I know your expertise in the science of medicine is germane to my recovery. My expertise lies in living with my illness for long periods of time. I promise, I have relevant and useful information to exchange with you.

If you try to push prescription drugs on me and I say no, believe it or not, that means no. You see, there are other experts out there and though it may sound ridiculous, I consult with them and give their opinions the same weight as yours. I’m very pleased you want to introduce new drugs into my life, but when I tell you I already know about/have tried/have made a decision about a new medication that you just love to bits, you’ll have to learn not to take it personally when I stick with what I know already works.

I hope these small bits of advice assist you in remembering that you, like your patients, are a person and subject to social norms that all of us agree on. So is your receptionist. So is your technician while I’m at it. Let her/him know that if
I ask a question, it’s not because I’m being ‘argumentative’, it’s because I have a vested interest in what is happening with my body in your office.

Good luck reconnecting with your human side and may every single one of you who administrates medicine remain healthy for the rest of your days so as never to have to experience the stress and humiliation intrinsic to consuming basic medical care.