My General Practitioner’s nurse called a few months back, and left a message saying that if I didn’t make an appointment with my GP that the doctor would drop me as a patient. She cited that since I had just gotten out of the hospital, I had to be seen for a follow up. She is a very aggressive sounding woman, and I’ve always questioned what led her to become a nurse in the first place, because she has none of the qualities that patients rely on from nurses. I digress. I called her back and told her that had no reason to see my GP. I was in the hospital for reasons related to my IBD, and therefore needed to follow up with my GI after I was discharged from the hospital, not my GP. She called back and said that I still needed to come in for a physical exam, so I scheduled an appointment.
So, yesterday I went in for my physical. I had a lovely nurse (the head nurse was missing in action…), but my doctor was unusually condescending and insensitive. She asked me how I was doing and I told her. I had made a list of the things that I had wanted to discuss with her, before going to my appointment like most professional patients do, and began to go through them. I knew I was only there for a physical, but she had asked me specific questions that led right into the topics that I had written down to speak to her about if there was extra time at the end of my appointment, so I addressed them.
After asking how I was doing, she asked me if I was still taking the Depro Provera shot. I told her that I was scheduled for my 5th shot on February the 15th, but decided not to continue with it, because it was not working the way it was supposed to and that it didn’t seem to be the appropriate drug for treating my PCOS symptoms. Her response was “Well it’s not like you really need to get a period anyway.” I was so caught off guard by how cavalier her statement and tone of voice was, that I didn’t even ask her to clarify the meaning of her statement. I am pretty sure that a woman still needs to get a period to have children, so to me that was a direct statement about me not being able to have children, and thus not really needing any type of birth control (Side Note: Patients with PCOS need to get a period to prevent uterine and/or ovarian cancer and the birth control is needed to regulate a PCOS patient’s periods, once they have given the patient the hormones needed to get her to start getting a period in the first place. The hormones in the pill also help to counter act the other symptoms associated with PCOS.).
Listen, I understand that I am 34, with no prospective husband in sight and that I have a lot of health problems, but plenty of women older than me have had children (my mother was 41 when she had me) and so have people with PCOS and people with IBD and people with a multitude of other diseases. It might be harder to get pregnant, but to just casually make a statement like that… I have asked doctors this exact question in the past and every one of them has said we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I have 11 doctors that I see on a regular basis and I unfortunately am a frequent flier of the ER and an occasional inpatient of the hospital. I have recently realized that insensitivity, among physicians is rampant. I have only one doctor who does not suffer from “Clinical Insensitivity,” ONE! I understand that they have a high pressured job and yada, yada, yada… They get paid quite well to do the job that they chose as their career. Does medical school just graze over the bedside manner part of the job?
Am I overreacting, or is that just not the way you tell someone that they aren’t going to be able to have children? There are so many things that I have lost in the last 18 years do to my health problems. At this point, I had assumed that I would never have children. But once a medical practitioner confirms your assumption out loud, the sadness and loss is felt on a much deeper level. The hope is gone. One would have thought that a female physician would have delivered that news in a different fashion.
When I checked out from the appointment, the secretary gave me the summary sheet; it basically just summarizes what was discussed during the appointment. Under the title “Reason for Today’s Visit” it said, “patient complaints.” I didn’t realize giving my symptoms or answering her questions was categorized as complaining. She should have written yearly physical exam. After all, they were the ones who said I needed to be seen for that exact reason, and she completed the exam. I was so infuriated by the summary sheet, that I stuck it directly in the shredder as soon as I got home.
I’ve realized over the last 18 years that doctors just do not know what to do with chronically ill patients, no matter what their specialty. They are fixers and chronically ill people can’t be fixed. We are a constant reminder of their perceived failure, and they spend less and less time trying to help us, because in the end, all they can do is manage our symptoms; if they can even do that. But we are human and we deserve respect and empathy, just like everyone else. I expect ignorance and insensitivity from employers, co-workers, professors, “friends” and family, but not from the people I am dependent on for medical treatment.
When I got home from my appointment, I tried to talk to my parents about it. I felt so defeated that I just wanted someone to validate my feelings and commiserate with me. My mom said, “I didn’t know you even wanted to get married and have kids. You never leave the house.” (I give her a pass because she has dementia, but it still hurt.) My father said, “Well then call her and ask her to clarify her statement.” He was in a rush and didn’t really want to listen to my experience. Again, two other cases of clinical and in this instance, chronic insensitivity.
Have you faced insensitivity from your doctor(s)? How did you handle/deal with the situation?