Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Doctor, Doctor: Give Me The News

You might assume by the title that I am going to spew another long collection of paragraphs about how I freak out when I see a doctor. And as interesting as that might be for a second, third, or thirteenth time around, it is not the case for today.

My dad is the pastor of a church that many of you attend, have attended, and/or vow to/never to attend in the future. You might already know that next week's service is out of the ordinary. Senator Bill Frist will be speaking, and I'm actually pretty excited about that. I'm not a political junkie, and I'm certainly not a Republican junkie (though if I was I'm sure I would hide the fact behind very expensive ties and discrimination towards lower-income families).

No, I'm not looking forward to this speaking engagement because he is a big shot D.C. guy with all kinds of political history and influence. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say because he is doing something important to help people. Of course, public service on either the red or blue side of the coin does something important to help people. I'm still nice enough to believe that politicians start their career because they want to make a tangible difference in the lives of those around them. Regardless of what school of thought they adhere to, I think that many of those in political service do want to have a positive influence in our communities.

Senator Frist has been involved the last few years in a group called Hope Through Healing Hands. I went to their website: to get this info (which is not copied by permission, just in case anybody asks).

Hope Through Healing Hands is a nonprofit 501(c)3 whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.

Through the prism of health diplomacy, we envision a world where all individuals and families can obtain access to a skilled, motivated, and supported health worker, within a robust health system-domestic and abroad. Specifically, we support partnership in service and training for sustainability.

Under the umbrella of health diplomacy, we include child survival/maternal health, clean water, extreme poverty, and global disease such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Strategically, we promote Global Partnership by working hand-in-hand with leading organizations who best address these issues in developing nations.

Pretty cool, right? And whatever his views on how such a plan would be carried out in our country, I think it is really, really great that he (and many other nameless people, such as their receptionist) is involved in an effort to help people with their practical needs.

So...what is this about? Well, in addition to having Mr. Dr. Senator Frist speak, our church is taking the opportunity to thank the medical professionals that attend our church. My dad also urged people to write their own caregivers just to say thank you, to let them know that you appreciate their work and service. He reminded us that it is really hard right now for medical personnel. They went to school using exorbitant loans, and spent many late nights eating Cup O' Soup and not having any normal relationships while they learned about the intricacies of catheter insertion disasters. Sure, they might currently drive a car that costs more than my house, but they also have to jump through all kinds of hoops in order to not be sued by people that don't know enough to not drink antibacterial hand cleanser. Their please-don't-sue-me-insurance fees are astronomical and they still often don't have any normal relationships because they have to attend weekend seminars entitled Doctors: Stop Smoking or Remember To Remove The Sponge After Surgery. Despite the very high importance our society places on medical professionals, and specifically doctors, they really don’t lead a life of wealthy leisure.

The idea of writing your doctor can sound sort of cheesy. Show Your Random Whatever How Much You Care Day isn't normally the kind of thing I jump on board with. When Pastor Appreciation month rolls around, I roll my eyes around. And that isn't very nice of me. But there it is. I do Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Female Appreciation Day (a lonely party, please join me next year) and call it done. But I’m going to do what my dad asked this time. He is just as shocked as you are.

I can get super frustrated with the current healthcare situation. It once contributed to my homelessness, and also contributes about twenty points to my blood pressure number. I'm still not sure if it is the top or bottom number, but either way...not something that eating oatmeal four times a day for thirty days is going to solve.

But then I thought about my doctor. And I thought about all of the other doctors and nurses and surgeons and psychiatrists that through their combined efforts have brought me to this day. And I was, in fact, grateful.

I haven't had cancer or a heart transplant. I haven't been hospitalized for anything more serious than having a baby. So why would I feel such sentiment towards my healthcare providers?

The human body is a fascinating and scary thing. After all the years of research and questioning and hypothesis, there is still so much that we cannot understand and unlock about the skin-covered shell in which we live. Amazing, isn't it? And yet, still scary because at times we know there is nothing…nothing to be done for a body that is ravaged with an invading tumor.

I am by nature a nervous worrier. I’m quite sure that it comes from my grandmother, although it might just be that grandmothers are, by their very nature, a worried lot. I (and the grandmothers of the world, apparently) rely on a nurse to tell us at four o’clock of the morning that our infant isn’t dying of a rare tropical disease brought on by smelling some fancy coconut candle at the mall. When my daughter went to Vanderbilt Children’s E.R., I could have wept when the doctor took charge and helped my blue-tinged toddler to breathe again. And let’s not forget my favorite job of all: the lowly receptionist. Poor things, they are the first line of defense for or against you. I’ve personally been guilty of asking the front office workers to please diagnose my child over the phone and could they please DO SOMETHING!?

In all of these situations, I know that it is highly possible that the nurse, the doctor, the receptionist, or whomever is helping me, will leave my crazy presence to return to a break room full of mealy cantaloupe cubes and burned coffee. And in that break room, various medical workers will chuckle and roll their eyes at my stupidity and fear. They will wonder why, with no symptoms or problems, I brought myself to their office to hear that everything is “A OK Mrs. Cagle…here’s your paper go check out at the front desk see you at your next visit remember to sneeze into the crook of your arm.”

What I’m getting at, slowly yet hopefully surely, is this: regardless of their feelings towards my excessive use of WebMD’s symptom checker tool, they treat me. They hear my fears, answer my questions, and tell me what I can expect for a given query. It seems obvious and simple, but the reassurance and knowledge they give is invaluable to me.

Some doctors just suck. I know this, you know this, and they probably even know it. But we aren’t talking about them. If you don’t have a doctor that you like…find a new one! Or complain and call until they are forced to give you the attention you need in order to keep yourself healthy and sane. (Note: Beatrice Blount does NOT condone excessive shows of frustration and/or stupidity, such as blowing up a doctor’s office or kidnapping a nurse.)

The best doctors give you knowledge paired with a great gift: dignity. Asking a nurse why you pee in rainbow colors is really, really embarrassing. And I’m sure it is really, really hard for said nurse to answer without his or her mouth twitching. But if they are still held by the ideals that once captured their young hearts, they will be able to answer you while remembering that you have feelings that need to be handled with care.

I could just copy and paste each of my doctor’s names into a pre-written letter that says something like this:

Dear Dr.__________,
Thank you so much for your continued efforts to make me not afraid of touching doorknobs during flu season. I realize that you might have to have an extra cup of coffee or smoke break before I come to your office. I just want you to know that the kindness is noticed, and I’m grateful that you haven’t told me the lie that you are closing your practice to patients who cannot meet certain criteria. Thank you for answering my frantic calls about heart murmurs and tapeworms. Just so you know, my husband has blocked all medical websites from our computer, and this should cut down on my learning about new diseases and conditions that probably will never affect me.

Yours sincerely,
Beatrice Blount

I’ve been lucky to personally receive amazing, dignified care on numerous occasions. I’ve also been fortunate in hearing other’s stories about health care workers that treat disease, fear, and uncertainty with the greatest of compassion. I don’t want this blog to get too long, so I’m going to put those stories in a separate post this afternoon. Also, my 3 year old is demanding computer time and won't be put off a second longer.

For now, let’s just say I appreciate my doctor, and my nurses, and the lovely pharmacist who didn’t chastise me when Sabra yelled an inappropriate word. You keep this nervous lady from being institutionalized, and I love you for it. Except for the one doctor who threatened to send me to the crazy house. I don’t love you and I gave you bad ratings on the Rate Your Doctor website.


Pastor Austin said...

if you appreciate those docs who help calm your fears, just think how much your husband loves them! Well written, Bea.

Lori Buck said...

Love, Love, LOVE our pediatrician. It makes my heart warm and fuzzy just to think about her. I should write her, but I am constantly telling her how much I love and appreciate the role she plays in our life, so I don't want her to think I'm becoming crazy stalker lady.

And I just cannot say enough good things about Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, either. When I remember, I pray for that entire hospital and those wonderful doctors and nurses (and receptionists) who take care of my daughter's not life-threatening, yet still aggravating, medical issues.

I know you and I are on opposites sides of the political aisle, btw you better watch those cracks you make about Republicans, or I'll have to start cracking on the libs in my blog ;), but I know we both pray for God to guide our legislators to make the best decisions for our healthcare. I never thought much about it until I had children. Now all those crazy tropical diseases (and the swine flu) keep me up at night. God bless the healthcare workers of the world!

(BTW, my word verification word was fisituda. I like it. I think I shall make a definition to go with it and use it.)

Tracy said...

"If you don’t have a doctor that you like…find a new one!"

Enjoy it while you can. You won't have that option under a universal health care system. =(

Talitha said...

Well said! Hooray doctors. Boo insurance.

Kristi said...

I for one could write an infomercial script for at least one doctor's office as they have so often rescued me, my children, and my mental health.....all without ridiculing me for my 1000 questions. And I'm sure these doctors and nurses hear many more complaints than they do words of thanks. Well done!