Doctor Knows Best…But Not Necessarily

Memoir Mondays

What are you experiences with doctors?

When I was a kid, up to when I was a teenager, I had the same general practitioner as my mother. First it was a doctor who was well-meaning but occasionally a little scatterbrained (he once gave me an antibiotic that I’m allergic to and I reportedly got one hell of a rash), but I barely remember him because we switched doctors before I’d had too many reasons to visit one. The second guy was pretty great, to be honest. He was the type of doctor that figured a lot of things were best solved via exercise and proper eating, but he was also intelligent enough to understand that sometimes there actually is something wrong with you that requires drugs. I liked him a lot.

When I moved for my first post-university job, I didn’t have a doctor at first because they’re not easy to find in Nova Scotia (too few of them to be able to handle the aging population, never mind the rest of us poor schmucks). Luckily, the paper mill had a doctor who came right onto site once a week to allow us the chance to see someone if required. I spoke to him a few times throughout my time at the mill, although it was mostly just for simple stuff like a common cold or needing my birth control refilled.

However, eventually, I went to this particular doctor with a couple of complaints, and it mostly went downhill from there. I had a short list of things that had been bothering me, and without pretty much any preamble at all he concluded that I was depressed and handed me a prescription for antidepressants. I was a bit shocked, to be sure. First off, this guy is a general practitioner, not a psychiatrist, so the fact that he came to the conclusion of “depression” after a five minute discussion was more than a little surprisingly. Not to mention the fact that I was pretty certain myself that I was not depressed. I had bad days, sure, and there were the few things that I was complaining about, but “depressed” seemed like a major overreaction to me. I tried out the antidepressants anyway, because at the time I figured what could it hurt, but I didn’t find they had any kind of reaction what-so-ever, which helped cement my belief that I had never actually been depressed in the first place. Soon after I was planning on trying for a baby, so I just stopped taking the meds and didn’t think of them again.

After my daughter was born I had another frustrating run-in with that same doctor. At about four or five months old she had become constipated, which is always a big concern for new parents. After a few days had passed I brought her in to see the doctor and after confirming that she wasn’t apparently in any kind of pain or anything he told me to “just give her some prune juice”. A few days after that I brought her in again because she still hadn’t gone and he repeated the advice without barely even looking at her. The third time I brought her in it had been over a week since she’d gone and I was justifiably getting very concerned. He told me the same damn thing. I actually almost lost my mind and practically screamed, “She won’t swallow the goddamn prune juice, so what f*%ing good is it?!”

(P.S. She did eventually go on her own, in the middle of a Shoppers Drug Mart over half an hour drive from home, but that’s another story.)

Eventually I began traveling out West for work, and with that came a whole new team of medical staff because each oil sands site has it’s own med center in case of emergencies and the like. While at a job in Cold Lake I developed a bad cough and took myself up to the med center. The guy who saw me told me that I’d probably developed it as part of a cold, that it was viral, and that I’d just have to wait for it to go away on its own. This was a little frustrating since the major part of my job was talking on a radio to the rest of the crew, but I figured there was nothing for it. By a few days later I had all but lost my voice – I had to practically scream into the radio in order for anyone to make me out – and I began coughing so hard that I twice had to sprint to the bathroom because I was starting to gag and almost threw up all over the control panel. When I returned to the med center I saw a different doc, and this one was aghast at how horrible my throat looked. She told me it was basically raw, was definitely bacterial, and that there was no way it would have gotten better without a round of antibiotics. The first guy is lucky he’d gone on his days off because I was ready, willing, and able to murder him.

Around the same time as that fiasco, I’d begun to develop my stomach problems and anxiety. I’d always had minor stomach problems, but they’d begun to grow exponentially as a result of the anxiety, which was growing exponentially as a result of the travel situation for my job. Our camp was an hour (one way) away from the site, and the bus they provided us with was this crappy refurbished school bus…in other words, no toilet. I spent two hours a day on a bus, surrounded by about forty coworkers (ALL male), without access to a toilet. And it wasn’t as though we could just stop any time I needed to…about five minutes down the road from the site was a gas station, and from then on it was 50 minutes of wide open fields. There were barely even any trees on that drive, never mind somewhere with a restroom where I could get the bus driver to stop. So I started developing this major panic-attack reaction to the bus. Whenever I knew I was going to have to get on it, I’d wind up running to the bathroom three or four times, only to sit my ass on the bus and immediately feel like my innards were just going to come pouring out of me. I did this every day, twice a day. Sometimes, when we were sitting in the bus line waiting to leave at the end of the day, I’d actually have to get up, run off the bus, sprint to the nearest building, and then try to move as quickly as possible to make sure I got back before it was our bus’s turn to leave. Eventually my worst fears came true and I actually did have to ask the bus driver to stop in the middle of the road in the middle of the drive because there was simply no way I was going to make it back to the camp. I was extremely lucky that we just so happened to be right outside some of the only trees on the entire drive, so it wasn’t nearly as mortifying as it could have been, but believe me when I say it was still pretty mortifying.

After that incident I went to see my GP again – the same antidepressant-and-prune-juice guy and explained the situation and how my guts had been reacting as of late. The main thing he told me? “Well, you’ve clearly got IBS, and it’s just something you have to learn how to deal with. Don’t worry, I’m sure the bus driver will stop for you whenever you need to.”

Yeah…sure. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of that drive is wide open field without so much as a road sign to hide behind. Never mind the humiliation of a bus full of coworkers knowing exactly what’s going on. Never mind the fact that, a few months later, it would pitch black during those bus rides and we were driving through bear country. Yeah, never mind all of that.

I had a similarly tear-jerking situation when I went to see a gastroenterologist about these same stomach issues. After extensive testing he concluded that there was physically nothing at all wrong with me and that my problem was that I was panicking myself into stomach issues, and that I should just learn to calm the hell down. It’s really quite amazing that I managed to step out of that particular meeting without blood on my fists.

Since then I did manage to get some anxiety medication out of my GP, although in the end I found it did me more bad than good (ironically, it seemed to be negatively affecting my digestion), and I’ve had several smaller annoying run-ins with different doctors in the outpatients department at our local hospital. Long story short, one of them scolded me for not blowing my nose enough when I got a sinus infection (at the time my nose wasn’t stuffed, so what the hell was I supposed to be blowing?), and three separate doctors all tried to give me antibiotics that I’m allergic to, despite the respective triage nurses always being careful to write that info in the admissions forms. I’ve come to the conclusion that all the doctors at that particular hospital have gotten together and are actively plotting my death.

So, you see, over the years I haven’t had the greatest luck with doctors. I was very lucky during childbirth…although none of the regular doctors were available at the time I ended up getting one who really knew what she was talking about and was very skilled with the forceps, which prevented me ending up with a Cesarean section…but that was the exception to the rule of “try to screw over Tracey as much as possible and/or make her cry tears of pain and rage”.

So you might understand why I’m not particularly looking forward to the appointment I have with my GP later today. See, lately I seem to be like a strange science experiment, ridiculously prone to infections. Since August I’ve had eight of them; four different types, with two of them being recurring. Antibiotics help, of course, but they come with their own sets of problems and shouldn’t be overused due to the possibility of developing antibiotic resistance. So the short version is that I’ve got to figure out why I keep getting infections so that I can stop them instead of just constantly treating them. And that’s a conversation I have a bad feeling about, since antidepressant-and-prune-juice GP loves to jump to conclusions within the first two minutes of the appointment.

The funny (frustrating) thing is that the docs who first diagnosed the first infection I got back in August are really awesome ladies. They work at the med center at my current job on the oil sands, and they’re super smart and super good at what they do…but, unfortunately, the med center isn’t equipped to deal with everything. They have painkillers, stuff to wrap cuts, some equipment for monitoring purposes, and that’s about it. In a real emergency you have to hop in the ambulance and head off to town, which is not something you have the choice to do when it’s non-life-threatening. So, long story short, there’s nothing they can do for me there, other than suggest things that I should do when I get home. The question is, when I go in to my GP today and tell him I need these tests, is he going to go ahead with that or try to shove another totally random prescription at me? I guess we’ll just have to see, but I have to tell you, at this point my hopes aren’t all that high.

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4 thoughts on “Doctor Knows Best…But Not Necessarily

  1. Wow. That sounds terrible! My first GP was very similar. Shoved xanax at me when I was 19 and said I was just anxious. I moved to Australia 6 years later and saw doctors who all said my stomach problems were anxiety based. Because I’m a woman. It wasn’t until I was nearly 30 when I finally got a doctor who said it wasn’t normal. Tests confirmed I have gastritis, a hiatial hernia and PCOS. Since then a dietician also diagnosed me with IBS. But it took a great deal of whining and complaining before I got to that point and only because of my insistence that they test me. I hope they will listen to you!

    • Yikes…that’s pretty horrible, but good on you for keeping on top of it and making sure that you got the care you required! I wish I was half as confident and insistent. @_@
      As it stands though, I did manage to get an order for an ultrasound and an x-ray, which are two of the things the doc out West told me I should get, so…progress! 😀

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