After waiting for several days for my neurologist to return my requests for a phone call, I have been forced to “step up my game”. I contacted his office manager to get her involved which got my hopes up when-his assistant called me back with a promise of a follow-up right away, but it never happened. At the same time, I recruited my general physician to seek a doctor consult on my behalf. Nada. Now, I need to consider additional action such as calling back his office manager to insist more strongly that something be done, and perhaps calling the public relations department of Johns Hopkins. (If you think it would be easier for me to simply find another doctor, consider this: The normal waiting time for a good neurologist is 5 to 6 months easy, plus my case is c-o-m-p-l-i-c-a-t-e-d!)
However, I don’t hesitate to be assertive regarding my health care. I have learned, as long as I am respectful and problem-solving oriented, it serves me well.
Being my own advocate, didn’t come to me naturally; I learned how to do so only after being treated like an idiot:
When I began to have those awful electric bolts, burns and sizzles back in 2005, that would later be diagnosed as Trigeminal Neuralgia, I was shocked when the first doctor I my first doctor had no idea what it was, and had to refer me to another one. (Up until that time, I naively thought that most anything could be quickly diagnosed!)
So, during my three week wait for my next doctor, I began to keep a daily check list to see if I could find any clues about my pain, hoping to find something that would him diagnose it. I would note what kind of pain I felt, when and where it occurred, how badly the pain felt on a scale of 1 to 10, what I was doing when the pain occurred, etc.
Through my analysis, I believed I found one consistency. Whenever I worked-out at the gym, I was sure to suffer worse and more frequent pain. This led me to believe that my pain was impacted by either an increase in my heart rate, or else by the actual physical “jarring” of my body.
When I arrived at my appointment, I was eager to share this information with this new doctor. He listened, but did not seem duly impressed. However, when his examination did not reveal any problem, or elicit any pain, I had a “bright” idea--would he let me jog around his medical office park? I was confident pain would result and then he could see what I was dealing with. He reluctantly agreed.
Of course, I had not dressed for jogging, however, that was not going to deter me, nor would the 90 degree temperature outside. Without a second thought, I left his office, and began to lightly job around the parking lot dressed in black capris pants, a white cotton sweater, and silver sandals.
After about two laps, I saw the doctor’s head poking out the back entrance of his office. “How are you coming?” he shouted to me.
“Nothing yet!” I called back, feeling silly, but determined.
“Can I try a little while longer?”
“Okay…just a little while though,” he answered, his voice expressing his reluctance, as he glanced down at his watch and shook his head back and forth.
Picking up my pace, I begged the pain, “Come on! Why won’t you come now when I need you to!”
I felt nothing but sweat as it streamed down my neck and under my arm pits. After another lap, I resigned myself to the fact that I was out of luck… plus my feet were killing me. Rather than walking back to the office’s front entrance, I chose to go through the back entrance, from where he had called to me, since it was closer.
I opened the door, and found myself in the office’s break room, where several staff members were gathered together laughing, as one of them, whose back was turned to me, was animatedly telling the others about “the crazy patient running around the parking lot”. Startled, I stopped dead, as the door closed behind me with a resounding “clank!”. All eyes turned towards me, and I felt like a geeky high school freshman who had just dropped her lunch tray in the school cafeteria before a bunch of popular seniors, as they tried to contain their laughter.
I walked away, returning to the examining room where I had been seen by the physician. Finding it empty, I hunted down a nurse who directed me to his office. He barely looked up when he saw me at his doorway, but that quick glance told me that he too saw me as some kind of idiot who had wasted his time. Without bothering to look up at me again, he coolly suggested that I be seen by yet another kind of doctor. Then, he swiveled his office chair away from me--case closed.
As I backed out of his office, I actually thanked him for his time, my voice tone dripping with apology.
As I got in my car and headed toward home, I felt like the idiot he and his staff decided I was. Shame enveloped me as I gripped the steering wheel, and imagined what I fool I must have looked like to them all, and to anyone else who might have seen me!.
Then, the Lord who lives inside of me, spoke reminded me of who I was:
He reminded me that I was no idiot. Instead, I was a very sane woman who found herself in an insane situation. I was seeking help, as anyone would try to do in the same situation--shame on them for not trying to help me! I then wondered how many others who struggle with pain face such condemning attitudes.
Of course, now I know the answer…far too many.
So, that doctor did me a favor in the long run, as God works for good in all things when I seek his way. (Romans 8:28) He helped me to begin to see that I would need to be in charge of my own health journey. It took a while for me to become savvy about being my own advocate, but it was well worth the humiliation it cost. I can now count it all for gain, and the humbling did me good anyway. Who do I have to please but my Lord?
Until Next Time, I am Praying for you
Fellow Sojourners and Sojourners--
Fellow Sojourners and Sojourners--