I’ve come across a rash of examples lately involving people who've felt misled in conversations with their doctor. We’re not talking egregious medical malpractice here. But the choice of words in the course of discussing treatment left the patient feeling let down as things played out.
The first example came from a newspaper column that addressed this very issue from a doctor’s perspective. The patient had heard “perfect vision.” The eye surgeon apparently had been alluding to “near perfect” vision, and ultimately lost the trust of the man in his care. How often do you ask your doctor to clarify things? Do you ever repeat back what you just heard to make sure you’re both on the same page?
The next example was a burn victim (a motivational speaker whose inspiring story I’ll save for another post) who didn’t fully comprehend the meaning of “we’ll reconstruct your face” as she lay bandaged up after a horrific car accident. Have you ever jumped to optimistic conclusions only to be later disappointed by medical results?
Then last night over dinner, a friend mentioned her own recent experience: Her rather routine outpatient procedure was halted when a red flag came up in pre-op testing. Over the course of a couple weeks, she was sent for scan after scan, all the while being told “don’t worry, it’s probably nothing.” She finally confronted the doctor with a possible condition they were trying to rule out. Something a relative had died from. The doc finally ‘fessed up. Yes, that’s what we’re looking for, he said. To everyone’s relief, everything came up clear. What would you have preferred? The unblinking truth that something terrible was suspected? Or vague answers to keep the “what if” monster from coming out from under the bed each sleepless night?
Well, my job is totally consuming, my husband is working full time, we have a daughter living at college and a seventeen year old son that is finishing up his senior year and getting ready to begin college. There are all the end of year activities of his senior year and just trying to keep up with life. Anyone who has gone through the experience of your child graduating high school and going away to college knows the time and stress involved in this. The craziness starts around Feb. when the FAFSA (Federal Financial Aid) needs to be submitted. After that, the decision is made as to what college will get your child.
Around this time my mother started to complain about occasional pain in her upper arm and into her jaw. Knowing these are cardiac symptoms we quickly encouraged her to see her cardiologist. Within a month (in March) she went in for a heart catheterzation. Before she went in, we heard the patient in the next cubical had to stay because she needed to have open heart surgery. I silently bowed my head and said a prayer for her and was thankful that my mom was not in the situation. Within minutes my mother went in for the procedure and within an hour, little did we ever imagine, those words that were spoken to her neighbor were being spoken to her. Yes, my mother was going to stay in the hospital and have open heart surgery within 48 hours. I remember feeling numb and thinking, "No, this is not a good time." Soon I realized that there really is no good time for this. She went to her room and a parade of doctors came through her room and she had more tests than one could imagine. My brother came home to see her and stay with us for the long wait of surgery and beyond. Once again, our family was all together to deal with this crisis together. What a wonderful support system! I had memories of her hospitalization in 2007 when we thought we had lost her(see post dated Feb. 21, 2010). Going in to see her, the sound of the ventilator was very loud and all the tubes, gadgets and IV's were overwhelming, even for a nurse to see. What would be in store for us? Would she be able to breathe on her own again? Well, no time is the right time, but for some reason we manage to make it work because the power of love gives us the ability to do more than we can imagine. She is now home. Weak and recovering, but around those that love her the most-her family!
Some time ago, when a friend was expecting her first child, I came across a beautiful prayer online. I formatted it with a picture, framed it, and proceeded to make everyone at her baby shower cry. I’ve given it to every pregnant friend ever since. (What I don’t know is who wrote it. If you’ve got any information, please let me know.)
What a perfect thing to post on Mother's Day.
Then last week on Facebook, someone posted Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter. If you’re not one for irreverence, please click away about half way through this post. If you stick around, and if you have a daughter or a son, you just might find yourself laughing and crying all at the same time.
Happy Mother’s Day from PatientLovingCare.com.
Once upon a time there was a child ready to be born.
So one day he asked God: They tell me you are sending me to earth today
But how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?
Among the many angels, I chose one for you. She will be waiting for you and will take care of you.
But tell me, here in Heaven I don’t do anything else but sing and smile
And that is enough for me to be happy
Your angel will sing for you and will smile for you every day. And you will feel your angel’s love and be happy.
How am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me
If I don’t know the language that men talk?
Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear And with much patience and care your angel will teach you to speak.
And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?
Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray.
I’ve heard that on earth there are bad men. Who will protect me?
Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life.
But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.
Your angel will always talk to you about me and will teach you the way For you to come to me even though I will always be near you
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven
But voices from earth could already be heard,
And the child, in a hurry, asked softly:
Oh God, if I am about to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.
Your angel’s name is of no importance. You will simply call her “Mom.”
First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.
May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.
When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.
Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.
What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.
Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.
“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.
A fellow blogger, Carolyn, recently wondered aloud why so many people visit her blog, yet so few comment.
“…to me visiting a person's blog is like visiting their home. You always acknowledge the person for allowing you into their home and you should thank them for taking the time to host you. If you are really into the social do's and don'ts, you even try to bring a small gift to show your gratitude or appreciation for them hosting you. That's what comments are like to me...my way of saying thanks for taking the time to share your "whatever" with me.”
In response, this self-described “comment ho” got 118 comments! (If you're not familiar with the term, ask the youngest blogger you know - privately ;) )
I will admit I love to lurk blogs, and rarely comment. Since becoming a blogger, though, I've come to understand how commenting makes the world a better place, and I’m starting to do it more often.
So here’s a challenge for you – don’t be shy! We’d love to know if you’ve used the free Patient Loving Care doctor’s memo. How did it go? Did it improve your care? Did anyone on your health care team comment on it? (FYI, our blog is moderated and posts appear after a quick approval period.) If you’re not comfortable publicly commenting, please send us an e-mail.
We’ve also cooked up a great incentive for taking the time to introduce yourself to us. We are in the final stages of producing an extended version of the PLC Doctor’s Memo – it’s an e-book outlining in detail how to research, evaluate and choose a new doctor. If you’d like to be one of the first to have a copy by becoming part of our review team, please let us know. We are looking for folks who will respond to a few survey questions with detailed, constructive answers to make the book as user-friendly and useful as possible before we publicly launch the final product. We’ll be ready to provide more details soon, but please let us know if you’d like to be put on the list for a test-drive!