My Visit to the Doctor

I am really beginning to lose confidence in western medicine. I just got back from the doctor’s office and I’ve concluded that one of two things must be true. Either doctors routinely take shots in the dark when it comes down to figuring out what the hell is wrong with you and then try to steer you in the direction of the pharmaceuticals that are being peddled by the reps that just left the office in suits, in order to secure whatever perks are offered for prescribing their product, or poor people get the worst of the worst doctors, period.

I’ve had this new health insurance for about a year now. I’ve only seen my gyn. Didn’t have a need for the primary until today. I woke up with what I’m sure is good old fashioned pink eye, and since I spent the better part of last night wondering why this headache I’ve had for 3 weeks (since I was sick that time) has not really gone away, I thought maybe today was the day to go to the doctor. I picked this PCP for one reason and one reason only. I can walk out of my door from work, walk 15 steps and walk into the doctor’s office. Let me suggest, this is NOT the way to pick a physician.

It turns out that I’ve picked a walk-in clinic as my primary. There were a million people in the office by 10:00am, screaming babies, adults, elderly individuals. I swear I even saw a parrot in a cage waiting to be seen. OK, maybe not, but still, you can imagine the scene. Every last patient, besides me, was speaking Spanish to the Spanish-speaking staff. I have never in my life seen people dish out such large sums of cash at a doctor’s office before, so I’m assuming many of these patients didn’t have health insurance.

The chatter in the waiting room (since I do speak Spanish) was about the routinely infinite wait at the office and about how although patients start lining up at 10, the doctor doesn’t come in until 1pm; about how referrals are processed too slowly and someone could die waiting to be seen by a specialist, etc.

I left after I signed in and came back to the office. I told the medical assistant to call me when they got close to my name on the list. I felt like I was taking advantage of some kind of privilege by doing this, but I did it anyway, because I would have gone crazy waiting until 2:30 (when I was finally seen) in that zoo.

When I finally saw the doctor, I couldn’t understand half of what she said. Her accent did not suggest that she was Latina at all, though. Rather, she pronounced her w’s like v’s and such. After I told her about my eye and my headaches she shrugged her shoulders a few times and said:

Doc: I don’t know. Could be anything. Do you take pain medicine?

Me: Yes, Motrin.

Doc: Does pain go a-vay?

Me: Yes, but it always comes back and it’s unusual for me to have headaches.

Doc: Any history of migraine?

Me: Yes. I had migraines when I was 12 to about 15. I’ve never had one since.

Doc: But these are not the same, huh?

Me: No. These start in this one spot (indicate location) in the back of my neck and goes up along the left side of my head. It’s always the same. Always in the same spot and it hasn’t gone away for any significant period of time in three weeks.

Doc: Any congestion? Any (motions pen from nose down the side of her neck)?

Me: (Guessing she is pantomiming post-nasal drip) No. No post-nasal drip.

Doc: Could be neurological. Could be muscular…tension. Could be anyshing. Vat would you like?

Me: What would I like?

Doc: Do you vant referral? Do you vant pain meds or anti-inflammatories? I can vrite prescription for something time released. Ven you take Motrin does it go avay?

Me: Yes, but it comes back.

Doc: So, it’s steady?

Me: Yes.

Doc: Vell, it’s really up to you. Vat do you want me to do?

Me: If pain killers are the only answer, I can keep doing what I’ve been doing. I have a family history of brain tumors. I have no idea if that’s hereditary and basically I just want to know if I should be concerned about these headaches or should I make an appointment for a 60-minute massage/reflexology session?

Doc: There are so many kinds of brain tumor. I see vy you are concerned? I can make a referral to a neurologist.

Me: Is there any reason to think I need to see a neurologist?

Doc: You can have MRI or CAT scan. You might as well see what’s going on. Most neurological problems come from inflammation. We can treat inflammation. But could be anyshing.

Well, I ended up with a prescription for eye drops, a blood work order and a referral to a neurologist.

I filled the prescription for the eye drops and I think I’m about to make an appointment for that massage.

No one asked me about my medical history although this was my first time at this doctor’s office. No one weighed me or took my blood pressure or temperature. No one asked me about family history. I brought that up myself. She didn’t ask about allergies or problems with sinuses. There were no forms that asked for this information. And I’m off to have my head irradiated?

I take pharmaceuticals as an absolute last resort. This headache has kicked my butt to the point of taking about 6 doses of Motrin in the past 3 weeks. This experience today bothers me a bit.

What do you guys think? Massage/Reflexology or MRI?


12 thoughts on “My Visit to the Doctor

  1. I would go with massage or acupunture. They work for me.

    Doctors irk my nerves. My doctor is special and I’m hoping he live as long as I do because I’ve already told him I’m never letting him go. He’s from Africa. He’s a DO. And he believes in alternative and preventative medicine. Love him.

    I hope you feel better!

  2. Can you switch doctors? (My primary is the one who prescribed the wrong antibiotics.)

    Do you want me to call an advice nurse for you?

    Today, I was asked what day/time I wanted to make my dental appointment. Accustomed to taking the first available appointment for GYN or my primary, I didn’t know what to say or where to start. That was odd. Your story is scary. You were asked to diagnose and prescribe for yourself!

  3. Is this the kinda health care one gets in the first world?!??! I will stick with my very lovely spoilt rotten service here in banana republix R us. I’ve heard about PCP’s but I thought it was a joke..

  4. Dear God in heaven, you MUST get reassigned to a new primary. Do it ASAP.

    Most of their patients are probably there to score drugs, and Dr. Imbecile is happy to dole out whatever the reps have provided.

    Do not go back there. But go somewhere. A headache that persists for 3 weeks could be so many things. She was just passing the buck by suggesting MRI, neurology, etc.

    I once had such a headache and went to a walk-in clinic in Nashville. The doctor said, “Oh, you probably have a brain tumor.” Again, no history was taken, nor any kind of examination performed. I must have looked stunned because she added, “Or maybe you had a stroke.’ Oh, much better.

    I think you’re probably reacting to stress, but we need to know for sure. Please go to a real doctor, Lex, and I hope you feel much better soon.

  5. Oh, I forgot. What I had was an atypical migraine as opposed to the typical ones I was prone to.

    I’m sure yours is also not life-threatening. Just painful and frightening untill you know what it is.

  6. Poor thing. I hope the headaches have gotten better.

    Side note: took daughter to an uri-care Sunday for sinus problems. We pay for TWO insurances, and I still had to dish out $75 for the visit. Can you tell I am still bitter?

  7. I have an excellent doctor at Washington Hospital Center. his name is Dr. Chary…a bit out of your way I know, but get this… he actually treats his patients for their illnesses and gives sage medical advice and –hold on to your hats—offers reasonable options for treatment!!! Whatever you do, don’t go back to that quack and hey get the MRI–it’s a great way to stick it to your insurance company and at least you will have peace of mind knowing that you don’t have a tumor

  8. Why was my offer funny?

    I call an advice nurse, who tells me what I can do at home or with OTC drugs, and I get to decide whether to try that or to just make an appointment and shell out a $30 or $40 copayment.

    Nurses rule.

  9. Lex,

    I think you have a lingering sinus infection, but I know probably about as much as your quack doctor. Have the MRI and the massage though. You’ll feel better. And take a full course of antibiotics. Prescribed by an actual physician. Who went to medical school. And graduated.


    Your offer was probably funny because Kwesi most likely thought you had to be joking. You kind of have to know somebody to seek medical advice on their behalf. I didn’t think you were serious either.

  10. Oh. I thought maybe it was funny if you read/heard it as sounding panicked. It wasn’t advice that was too personal (i.e. too much information, but I might still have offered. It’s free. (Or already paid for, I guess.)

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