My name is Jessica, and I'm not going to shut up anymore.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ignorantia juris non excusat.

Please Please Help!

Answer me this: How many times did a doctor dismiss your questions or concerns about what your "next step" would be? How many times did you have to psych yourself up for an appointment because you know you'd be answering the same ole questions again or getting the same ole answers? How many times did you end up in the ER only to be treated like you're a crazy person, a drug addict, a nuisance?
When I originated my blog, entitling it "You Aren't Crazy: endometriosis is real," I had hoped that this made enough sense to readers, to women who have endometriosis. Because throughout my experience, I've never felt more anxious about knowing my own body than I ever have before. And I have to wonder: How did I end up like this? I'm a confident young professional. When did I start second-guessing myself so much?

Here's a common scenario for me:
It's a Monday morning, and I'm sitting at my desk. I've been thinking about calling my doctor since I got to work because the nagging pain in my lower right side is there. Again. I reach down for my cell phone from my purse, and I'm instantly shocked by the stabbing pain that shoots throughout my insides. I sit back and remember: "Deep breaths." In a few minutes I'll be calm enough to pick up the phone and dial the number for the doctor's office.
I get through after a few attempts.
"Hi, I need to make an appointment for later to--"
"--Hello, can you hold please?"
Finally the receptionist returns to our conversation and takes-down my information.
"Ok, Jessica. We'll see you at 3!" she chirps, cheerfully.
They know me so well by now that I think they have my birthdate memorized.

Three o'clock can't come soon enough, but I manage to get through the better part of the day without secretly lying underneath my desk. The shooting, stabbing nature of the pain has subsided somewhat, but I'm too afraid to move around or sit with my back straight in a chair for fear that it'll start again. Or get worse.

In the examination room, I'm perched uncomfortably upon the examination table. I find that, if I lie back on the crinkle of the sanitary paper table slip, I feel a little bit better. I close my eyes and try meditating to manage the pain. Concentrate on a body part that doesn't hurt. My little toe. Breathe in and out, slowly. My little toe. Notice the parts of your body that feel fine. My little toe.

"Hello, Jessica. Can you tell me why you're here today?"
My first inclination is to sit up at full speed, and I do.
"OOOHHH. Ugh. Ow."
Dr. S steals a glance at me between typing away on her computer.
"I'm in pain again. The lower right side." I try to be cheerful, pleasant. I like Dr. S.
"What has your OB/GYN been doing for your pain?"
"I have a prescription for Tylenol with Codeine."
"Does that work for you?"
"Sometimes. I mean, I took some this morning."
She jots down more notes.
"Jessica, I think you should continue treating your pain with the prescription your Dr. gave you. This is not my area of expertise."

Finally, after having seen my regular doctor for years regarding lower abdominal pain, she tells me that she can't treat me any further. This is not her area of expertise.

Ignorance is NOT an excuse.

Lately I've been wondering what it's like to be a doctor, the person who is responsible for calling the shots,  as well as patient health and wellness. It's so incredibly easy to criticize those whom we cannot identify with. After all, isn't being a doctor one of the most difficult professions? To be fair, these individuals (doctors, nurses, etc.) devote and dedicate their lives to caring for every one else. Can you imagine cleaning up someone elses' poop everyday? Can you fathom working a 48 or 72 hour shift with surgical tools and life preserving (or potentially fatal) drugs? Can you wrap your mind around literally holding someone's life in your hands? It's incredibly overwhelming just to think about it. In defense of doctors, I believe that I have (almost) no right to criticize them while they're trying to improve the quality of my life. The gift medical professionals give us, patients, is the chance at understanding our bodies and how they work.

So when is your doctor at fault for not trying to find you answers? 
The truth is, I don't know the correct answers to these questions. But I do know that allowing your patient to suffer is not excusable, even if your area of expertise is limited to Family Medicine and you don't feel comfortable treating someone for women's health problems. I get that. But I don't understand the logic behind allowing your patient to feel like they have no where else to go when their Dr. is clearly not providing the care that the patient needs, that I needed.
 When should you be concerned that a doctor doesn't take your needs or questions seriously?
You should be concerned if your doctor does not take you seriously if they continue to treat you in the same manner as your symptoms progress. YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. So listen to it! Bottom line: if you're not getting answers and you are starting to feel like a fool, see a specialist! (preferably at a reputable hospital or clinic which specializes in endometriosis, ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, etc.)  

I know Dr. S means well when she tells me that my uterus is out of her comfort zone, and I appreciate her honesty. But if I would've have insisted on seeing someone who DID specialize in lady parts, I probably wouldn't be typing this today.

1 comment:

  1. I, too have been dismissed by doctors when faced with treating my endometriosis. My OB/GYN, that helped me through both of my pregnancies, refused to prescribe me Percocet (I will comment on that in your Percocet post) and just told me to "rip everything out of there" after my second son. I was aghast that he would suggest a complete hysterectomy to a 32-year old woman and I educated him on the facts that endometriosis is not cured by removing the sex organs because it is found in other pelvic organs. I had endometriosis removed from my bladder in my 3rd and 4th laparoscopies. I was finally dismissed with a pat on the paper gown-covered knee and the words, "You're issues are too complicated for me."


    I chose not to pad his paycheck with annual visits and pap-smears and I took my vagina elsewhere.

    I love your line "Ignorance is NOT an excuse." I believe that if a person chooses to specialize in a field of medicine then it is their ethical responsibility to educate themselves on ALL matters pertaining to that specialty. Don't become an OB/GYN just to catch babies and decide to ignore the many other facets of the practice that affect women.

    I think your blog is awesome. Thank you for your candor and your intelligence.