Hear Me, Doctor

Katherine Marple

| Feb 26, 2012

During my 14 years with type 1 diabetes and my time spent interacting with the diabetes online community, I constantly hear the same theme: Doctors aren't listening to their patients, and their bedside manners are deteriorating. Every day, it seems, I hear about people who have been treated as if they are simply a number or dismissed as uneducated in their own health conditions.

On one occasion, a doctor misled me about an issue in which he didn't have any experience. Instead of admitting that he didn't have the answer and would follow up with me after he got one, he told me wrong information. The result was that I became severely sick and required hospitalization. Another doctor blatantly blamed me for a miscarriage that was not my fault. She could have researched my file or learned more about my condition before blaming me, especially during such an emotional time, when I was already laying unwarranted blame on myself. I've had doctors tell me that they don't have an answer and leave it at that, offering no guidance and leaving me to find answers on my own. I've even had doctors accuse me of lying. Some have completely ignored my concerns. Others have simply not listened to my inquiries at all.

A few days ago, while I was in a local store, a woman approached me. I had never met her before, yet she told me of a very troublesome time earlier in her life. At that time, she had extremely poor circulation, which made her lower body swell. Doctors told her that she had only two months to live, but she was young, with small children to raise and a future to enjoy. The countless specialists she saw told her that the issue of raising her children was "not their problem," then sent her on her way.

Without my background knowledge and firsthand experience, I would have assumed that she was exaggerating the doctors' responses. But because of what I know, I believed this stranger. She recounted her struggles to figure out what she could do on her own to survive and get better. At the end of her story, some thirty minutes later, she said with a smile, "That happened twenty years ago." She knew what I know: that some doctors lose their regard for human life and don't allow themselves to become entangled in what may seem like a lost cause.

I recently overheard a medical professional recount a story to some friends. She told of a patient of hers with Alzheimer's disease who asked, "Where's my wife?" every time she entered his room. Having read his file, she knew that his wife had passed on many years before. One day, she became fed up and bluntly stated, "She's dead." When I heard her tell this story, my heart ached for the man, who had to relive the pain and mourn his deceased wife all over again.

I understand why some doctors become this way. They deal with people dying on a regular basis, and they spend their days fighting illnesses that may never be cured. But if doctors don't allow themselves to become an integral part of patients' lives, leading them toward ways to live well despite their illness, then maybe they are in the wrong profession.

As patients, we employ doctors. We pay their checks and keep them in business. If they are not helping us, then we should fire them and seek help elsewhere. I understand that doctors may not have all the answers. But, when we ask questions about our health, which ultimately determines the outcome of our lives, the least we deserve is consideration, empathy, and honesty.

Over time, I have found my way to doctors who exemplify what the profession should strive for. My current endocrinologist knows me by name. He put his arm around my shoulder and handed me a tissue when I was overwhelmed by having a chronic disease. When I told him that I wanted to try metformin to help with my insulin resistance and antibodies, he initially responded that he couldn't authorize it because I have type 1. A few days after my appointment, however, he called me to say that he had researched metformin and had filled my prescription. He asked me to call him if I needed help using the medication or had any questions.

My current OB/GYN called the medical board when I asked which insulin was safe to use during pregnancy. She held my hand when I cried in her office because I was afraid and mentally drained from worrying over my own life and that of my unborn child. Even though I ended up having a cesarean section, she fought for me to have a natural birth as far into labor as she could because she knew that I was terrified of infection. Knowing that she understood what I wanted, I was able to trust her when I was the most vulnerable.

To doctors, we may just be another patient, another number. But we have families and people who care about us. We have futures and dreams to fulfill. We've got this one life, and when we are looking for medical solutions, we seek out doctors to guide us. If nothing else, they should feel honored as each of us walk through their doors, because out of the millions of doctors out there, we chose them to help us. There are great doctors in this world--I know, because I go to them. But they are too few and far between. I beg the professional medical field to raise their standards of patient treatment, and I encourage our community to tolerate nothing less than what we deserve.


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Categories: Bedside Manners, Cesarean Section, Diabetes, Diabetes, Doctors, Insulin, Metformin, Patient Treatment , patients, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by James Richard Bailey on 27 February 2012

I can certainly sympathize with your frustration over doctors who mostly work by by the book. Same complaints, same answers. Three choices: write a prescription, recommend a procedure or say nothing can be done. Since I have been the victim of misdiagnosis or poorly done procedures, I watch out for myself. I do lots of homework, which is much easier now that so much information is available online. (I'm 62, so it wasn't always that way for me.) A brief example: I tore the meniscus in my right knee. My family doctor said I'd need surgery, because it wouldn't heal up in someone of my age. A surgeon concurred. I did research, and learned that with physical therapy and the frequent application of ultrasound, professional athletes heal such an injury routinely. I got my own ultrasound machine, did the PT and patiently did appropriate exercise. Now a year later it is completely healed. I've amazed my doctor by completely reversing congestive heart failure. Gone. Nutrition, detoxification and exercise did it. I sometimes joke that I never want to switch to a new doctor, because they are so hard to break in and train. Mine is just now catching on to so much. Be well, Katherine, and do your homework. It's easy to know more about your own health than any doctor.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2012

No doctor will every truly know you like you do!

Posted by jlnhjm on 28 February 2012

I too have been a victim of incompetent and uncaring doctors, as well as doctors who are so full of themselves, they think they do not need to take any precautions during touchy surgeries. So, I have no thyroid, no parathyroids, no left kidney, and I do have diabetes (hormone shots), diabetic neuropathy because no one here could recognize diabetes. I finally diagnosed myself. I could go on and one; however, I have since become my own advocate and my own expert, all made possible today because of the internet. I live in a backwater where there are no "best" doctors, and I constantly lose the ones who might become so, as bigger and better possibilities beckon them away from here. Maybe I ought to leave too?

I would say to any medical care professionals who might read this: if you are in medicine for the money, which is in ever shortening supply, I suggest you go to work for the government, where callous and uncaring people are the norm.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 July 2012

My primary care physician has caused me more headaches than healing. I have type 2 diabetes. My daughter-in-law who is an endroconologist advised me to talk to my Primary Care Physician about having me on Metforim. He
became so angry with me and literally screamed at me saying "you need to choose between me & your daughter-in-law. I don't want anyone telling me what I should do". This is the very same doctor who was so careless in monitoring my blood count although I was going to see him every three months and blood test were taken at every visit. He never bothered to look at the tests and finally when it dropped too low, he called me to his office and then rushed me to ER. I am so fed with putting up with his bigger than God attitude. He is rude & uncaring. Patients cannot talk to him. You just have to say "Yes" to everything he says. He is nothing but a insecure, arrogant bully.

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