Know Your Doctor

Crohnically Ill

“How have you been feeling since your last dilation?”

“Not good. I’ve had pain, bloating, and more diarrhea.”

“Hmmm. That doesn’t sound right. I didn’t think you were having pain with this scar tissue stricture.” He shifts his stance, cocks his head, and narrows his eyes at me.

What does he mean “that’s not right?” But I AM having pain. And tons of bloating. I looked friggin pregnant the other day.

Oh. Well I’ve been bloated a lot lately.” As my confidence gets sucked through my IV…

His hands come out of his pockets, gesturing two stop signs. “Okay hold on. Take me back six months. Describe your symptoms when all this started.”

Wow, didn’t realize I entered a court room drama.

“Okay. Well, my bowel movements were very up and down…”

“And then we did the first dilation.”

“Yes.”

“And then what happened?”

The cross examination continues with me detailing my bowels, pains, diet, etc. etc. until present day, the day of my third scar tissue dilation. In a half hour he would be sticking a camera up my bum. But right now he’s scaring the crap out of me with all these questions.

“Well that doesn’t sound right. You shouldn’t be having these symptoms with a scar tissue stricture.”

I really should be more confident as a person, but after an awful night trying to hold down prep, no food, burning stomach, and exhaustion, I thought he meant I was wrong to say I was having my symptoms. No, I should have understood he meant “gee looks like Crohn’s is back let me take a look.” No, I didn’t think that for one second. I sit back on my bed, unable to hide my pouting lip and glum eyes. He awkwardly takes his hands out of his pockets, then shoves them back in.

“I know it seems like we’ve been speaking in tongues here, but I don’t worry. I think we understand each other, and I think I know what I’m looking for.”

Do we? Because I feel like I’ve just had an entire conversation in Russian! He walks off, leaving me to let the waves drown me in utter depression. Nurses bustle in to ask more questions, and I just can’t keep the tears out of my eyes anymore.

“Excuse me, but is it too late to use the restroom?”

“Sure honey, let me just unhook your IV.’

Nothing sexier than running down a hallway full of people gripping the edges of a hospital gown in one hand and an IV bag in the other. I didn’t have to use the bathroom one bit. As soon as I shut the door, mascara floods my cheeks. Why the heck did I put on make up that morning? I don’t know how long I sat in there crying, then yelling at myself for crying, then crying all over again because I was that wuss that was crying right before her procedure. What’s wrong with me?

Settling my breaths, I take a good long look in the mirror- at someone who had just finished a week long bender- eyes red, puffy, and majestically disgusting. I’m certain the crew was ready to take me back, so better to get it over with…

I wake up to my doctor standing awkwardly in the corner of my recovery room. Must he always appear so stiff around people?

“Well, it seems like every time we go in I find something interesting. You have active disease on the other side of your scar tissue stricture.”

And I burst into tears like an absolute nitwit…

The moral of this story is to not to make you hate my doctor, because in truth he is excellent at his job. However, not all doctors are created equal under the sun. They are people too, and not every person is great at what they do. No offense to doctors here. In order to protect the privacy of the medical profession, I will refer to my current and past GI’s as doctors 1, 2, and 3. 3 being the most recent.

Let me call Doctor 1 to the stand. He did not specialize in Crohn’s Disease, refused to take my illness seriously by continuing to treat me the same way regardless of my lack of improvement, lacked people skills (he winced when he gave me my diagnosis), and did not promote advocacy of my condition. He saw my disease as a mild, treatable condition, and was confounded with me, the patient, when I did not get better. So I moved on to Doctor 2.

Doctor 2 had the advantage of also having Crohn’s, was incredibly friendly (even called me from his personable number to check on me), and of course was knowledgable. I will say, he was an unorganized man, but still kind and easy to talk to. I felt comfortable explaining my symptoms and having at-length conversation with him. His appointments with me also made him run over into appointments with other patients (oops!). But he had to move, leaving me in the care of Doctor 3.

Doctor 3, while socially awkward and difficult to speak to, is incredibly thorough, knowledgeable, and focuses 100% on treating the disease. This focus, however, makes me sometimes feel like a grand experiment instead of a person. While in the beginning I misread his 20 questions as being confounded with me, I learned he’s simply gathering the data to better understand how to treat my illness.

The crux of the matter is, when selecting a doctor for your IBD, (or any doctor), the most important trait he should have is the ability to treat your illness. If he isn’t thorough, or up to date on the latest treatment options, then he may not be the right doctor. Yes, friendliness and bedside manner make some doctors more appealing, but as long as the doctor is also knowledgeable and thorough in treating the disease. Certainly, if a doctor is treating YOU as the problem and NOT IBD, then a second or third opinion is needed straight away.

A final piece of advice is to bring a trusted family member or friend with you to your appointments, if possible. Going into a doctor’s office while feeling sick, grumpy, and out of sorts makes it difficult to judge a doctor’s character and abilities. I left my first appointment with Doctor 3 hating him, while my mom couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved him. And, heaven forbid it’s a worst case scenario, your loved one can be your advocate when dealing with a not so pleasant medical team.

Never be afraid to speak your mind, and never be afraid to get a second opinion. Your health is far too important.

As for me, I will strive to cry less in my hospital gowns and behave not as neurotically around my medical team.

Happy Doctor Hunting!

K. Z.

 

 

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