Friday, February 22, 2008

Doctors are supposed to help, right?

Back at the start of November I got ill. Very ill. Can't-get-out-of-bed, can't-eat-due-to-severe-pain ill. It turned out that I'd come down with a nasty case of tonsillitis, so I saw a doctor for the first time since I broke my arm 10 years ago. She was sympathetic and patient, she listened to my concerns and symptoms, gave me a quick once-over and prescribed me a ten day course of penicillin. This particular GP has a long waiting list of patients who prefer to see her, and she must've been busy, yet I couldn't have hoped for better treatment at such short notice.

Fast forward to today. Since my tonsillitis was treated I've had a persistent cough, at one point coughing up thick discoloured mucus for a period of at least 2 weeks. I've had aches and pains, suffered lethargy and disrupted, irregular sleeping patterns, and have been much paler than usual. I'd been working in a pharmacy over Christmas helping people with common winter cold and flu related problems, which may not have been great for my weakened immune system but gave me a fairly good grounding in the basics of what is and isn't normal, and from my personal knowledge of my own health I knew this wasn't a normal cold - they used to be the only health problem I'd have, getting them once a year, and I'd have shaken it off in, at most, a fortnight. This was my first long-term illness; yet still I was prepared to leave it for as long as possible in the hope I'd fight it off unassisted. However, today I finally gave in a saw a GP. Not the same one as last time. He was also a busy man, of course, and I understand that he has many patients to see - but this didn't warrant his interrupting me as I listed my symptoms to 'remind' me that he had house visits to do, as if I'd just popped in for a chat without making an appointment. I was instantly made to feel like a nuisance. My sleeping problems were brushed off with standard advice that I'd seen before - 'try reading, don't use the computer near bedtime, cut down on caffeine,drink something warm and milky, gentle midday exercise, warm baths' - which I'd tried before, but felt so belittled that I didn't say. I wish I had. He looked a little put out when I explained that no, I wasn't a student, nor was I undergoing any stressful points (or at least, not for the full 3 months!). I guess I he realised I wasn't so easily brushed off. My cough was diagnosed, after some chest-hearing, as a viral cough - these are fairly common after an infection like I've had, and can take a while to go away, and I was advised to come back in another month if it hadn't subsided. This is fine, I understand this, but the way it was delivered just made it sound more like he was dismissing me as a hypochondriac than as someone who has a very slim medical file and no history of such complaints who has a very good reason to be worried. On the plus side, my paleness and lethargy was plain to see and he ordered some blood tests done - I suspect anaemia (like my mother has) or some other deficiency, I'll find out when my results come in next week.

This reminded me of another case I heard. A friend of my mother once came in in a fury and said, "If your daughter becomes a doctor, make sure she doesn't become a pompous git!" Her own daughter is away at university and had been suffering from a variety of stress-related and other health problems, and eventually went to see a GP. He basically looked down his nose at her and dismissed her concerns as 'women's problems' and that he 'suspected you girls get these complaints all the time'. Seriously! She has problems which she hasn't had before, goes to see a doctor as any concerned person would, and is told she's overreacting and a silly little girl!

Why are so many doctors - and I hate to say it, but the majority of such complaints I hear seem to be about male GPs towards female patients - such condescending arseholes? They are trained and paid to help all their patients without making them feel like they're stupid or making stuff up. No WONDER the first GP has such a long waiting list, when some of the others at the practise are so unsympathetic. 'Women's problems'? How about, instead of packaging up all sorts of complaints into these two words (which seem to have become short-hand for 'unimportant time-wasting matters'), the doctors explain to the patients the possible causes for their complaints and, if it IS possibly related to hormonal changes in a woman's body, help her to understand what's happening and give ways to help cope instead of dismissing her? We don't get a lot of readily-available information about our bodies aside from 'you'll grow breasts and have periods during puberty. This may hurt a little. Try not to get pregnant or infected if you must have sex. Eventually you'll be unable to have children, so remember to have plenty when you're young or you'll regret not contributing to our already oversized population and following the urges you must have if you're a real woman.' A lot of the changes caused by hormones and the possible discomfort this can cause is ignored, so when women DO experience them it can be worrying or even frightening, so WHY DON'T DOCTORS UNDERSTAND THIS? More to the point, why do we have to go so much out of our way to find out about such things?


[UPDATE: All this 'medical rape' stuff recently just got me even more riled. Men and women across the medical establishment are ignoring their own patients. All these stories are coming from women - that is the one common factor in these tales so far, it is WOMEN who are feeling that they have been truly violated, although there are men who are also having their concerns and voices ignored. Where is all this arrogance coming from? Why are doctors, nurses and midwives ignoring the need for their patients to consent to any and all procedures, failing to see how traumatic it can be to have ANYONE force ANYTHING upon someone who's already in a vulnerable state? Are doctors also carrying out prostate exams on men whilst they're repeatedly told to stop, or are they only forcing things into women 'for their own good'? WHAT'S GOING ON?]

1 comment:

  1. When I was younger every other day the room would spin and I would vomit and pass out. Movement made it worse, and it could happen at any time. On the school bus, at work, etc. It doesn't sound that bad but it's the most terrifying horrific experience, and every time I thought I was going to die. Because it happened so often and movement made it much worse, I was terrified of going out of the house incase it happened and I had to be driven home. I kept going to school though, it just completely killed off my social life.

    I went to the doctor, and he accused me of making it up to avoid school, and that IF it was true, I'd grow out of it.

    Thanks for that, doc!

    If it hadn't occurred to my mum to try acupuncture, I don't know what I would have done. I know that my depression would have been a whole lot worse, and I probably would have tried to kill myself more times than I already did.

    And I didn't grow out of it - it still comes back sometimes.

    So, yeah. Be a nice doctor.