When I was in my Grade 11 year, my Mom and I decided to make the trek down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota to be seen by some of the leading specialists in their regarded fields. I had been struggling with chronic headaches for 6 years at that point in time, and with no promises of finding and answer here, my Mom and I packed our suitcases to being this life changing journey.
Before I left for the Mayo Clinic, I was asked to keep a headache dairy (which I had done many times before) so the specialists there could determine if there were any cyclical patterns to my headaches. I kept track of everything: the number of hours I slept, what I ate, what exercise I did that day, the weather, my mood, how much water I drank, the characteristics of my headaches, any stressors I experienced that day, rating my headaches on the pain scale... I think you get the picture. I did this for almost 5 months before taking off on this new adventure, and I was confident that the neurologist I was going to see down there would have some answers for me.
I remember sitting in that exam room with my Mom, waiting for this neurologist that I hadn't met, but already admired. I held my headache diary in my hands, ready to answer any of the questions he had for me. I had already seen 4 neurosurgeons and 3 neurologists at this point in my life so I had a pretty good idea of what my appointment was going to look like.
We waited for well over an hour for this guy, which I regarded as something that was relatively normal since it had happened to me so many times in the past. When he whisked into the room he didn't bother to introduce himself, nor did he bother to make any small talk with me. His opening line was:
"So, what's wrong with you today?"
A little dumbfounded, I struggled to find my words. He sounded like he would rather be anywhere but in that exam room with me. I quickly explained my history to him, and told him that I was here because of my chronic headaches that nobody has been able to figure out. I remember handing him my headache diary, telling him I kept track of them for the last 5 months. He immediately laughed, and not like a snicker, but a full out laugh. He tossed the headache diary back at me, looked at me and said:
"You're such a Type A personality, I can tell you right now that's what caused your headaches. You've done this to yourself!"
Honestly, I couldn't even formulate words at this point. I was horrified. Humiliated. Angry. How dare he make those assumptions about me?! How dare he make jokes at my expense? It took me several moments to gather myself before being able to speak. I don't even remember what I said to him, but I do know I was trying to hold back my tears.
Throughout my appointment this neurologist took several phone calls, walked in and out of my room and rarely ever made eye contact with me. To be fair, I don't know what was going on in his life at this point in time. Maybe he was dealing with a terminal patient, maybe he had some family issues, maybe he was just having a bad day...we all have them, we are human! But how he was dealing with whatever was going on in his life made me feel extremely devalued. I felt like a file number, and not a patient. He was accusing me of causing my own pain?! Really? He made me feel like I wasn't being heard, he made me feel like I was just wasting his time... no person or patient should ever feel like that.
What 17 year old would electively choose to be poked, prodded, scanned and examined for almost 2 weeks while they could be at home with friends a family? What 17 year old chooses to miss weeks of school because of chronic pain, doctors appointments and tests? I know I wouldn't. He labeled me, before even knowing my story. He made assumptions, which drastically affected the quality of care he provided me. This. Was, Not. Okay.
I left his office that day feeling completely defeated. He honestly did nothing for me. Didn't give me any answers. He didn't even go over my MRI with me. He just told me "You're fine, apparently you need to engage in some stress relieving techniques." To be fair he did send me for an x-ray of my neck because he suspected the curve in it was "backwards".
My Mom was absolutely furious with the treatment I received, and took this issue to the physician who was overseeing my care. Within 12 hours I was booked in with a different pediatric neurologist, who was a complete 180 from the first guy. He listened, he empathized, he did every neurological test in the book, he took over 45 minutes to sit down with me and explain my MRI in detail. He was incredible.
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is, you're ultimately going to come across a health care professional (whether it is a doctor, nurse, paramedic, pharmacist, etc) who is going to treat you poorly. Unfortunately, it's inevitable. Not all medical programs teach compassion, and not every medical practitioner makes compassion one of their top priorities. But, what I'm saying is you have the power and the potential to change that! Take your health into your own hands and advocate for yourself! You know you the best, and if you know something is wrong find someone who will listen. Find someone who will empathize and understand. Find someone who isn't afraid to seek a second opinion, or run some tests. Find someone that you trust, because it is your health! You have all the power, you might just have to search a little bit to find your voice.
Have a good week everyone, and Merry Christmas!