7 years ago · transitionalw · 0 comments
Twenty years ago I went to my primary care doctor for my annual visit. The young medical assistant, Georgia, who was fresh out of school, ushered me to the back room, where she took my weight, height, and blood pressure. I had always been healthy and active, so I expected nothing more than the usual inconvenience and routine results.
Dr. Robinson entered the room. A tall, slender woman about forty, she was a runner like me, so we chitchatted about our common interest for a few minutes. She had a knack for eliciting information about my health and lifestyle through friendly conversation, one reason I had selected her as my physician. Several days later, I received an unexpected call. Dr. Robinson told me the results of my pap smear indicated the need for further testing. She explained the results and recommended a specialist.
I was able to get an appointment immediately. Alone, I sat nervously in the small, dingy waiting room for what seemed like an eternity. I picked up a magazine and leafed through it, hoping the distraction would take my mind off my worry. With my birth mother having died so young from leukemia, I had always been afraid that I too would die young, leaving my children motherless. But other than colds and flu, with an occasional injury requiring sutures, I had been the picture of health.
But this was different. And I was terrified.
Unlike my primary care doctor, Dr. Chatham was curt and hurried in her examination. A small woman, she hid behind her frameless glasses. Asking me questions with little personal connection, she jotted my history in the chart. A brief but painful exam followed. With little explanation, she then told me I needed a hysterectomy. There was no, “Do you have any questions?” or “Here are some different options to consider.”
Stunned, I left her office with little understanding of my diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options. I had been reduced to a statistical medical diagnosis. She had the attitude that she knew all that was required to correct the problem. My questions and opinions never entered into the equation. Having a night to sleep on it, I knew I wanted a second opinion. I called several people I knew in the local medical community, explained what had happened, and asked for a referral to a different specialist. I wanted someone on my medical team, not someone who would make choices for me with little regard for what I wanted.
I was able to get an appointment with Dr. White within a few days. Instead of ushering me into an exam room, I was taken to his private office, where we talked first. He had reviewed my records before I arrived, making me feel confident that he understood my medical condition.
Holding out his hand, “Good morning, Mrs. Holmes, have a seat so we can go over your medical records. I am sure you have questions and I want to make sure you understand your medical choices. The more you know, the easier it will be for us to work together to get you healthy.”
His office was comfortable, with pictures of his wife and two children visible. A middle-aged man with a gentle and confident demeanor, he set me at ease. He took the time to see me, the person behind the diagnosis. He described in detail what was in the chart and showed me pictures and diagrams so I had a visual reference for what was going on in my body.
“This is your diagnosis, and here are five different treatment options to consider. I want to go over the pros and cons of each choice so you can make an informed decision.” Last, he said, “To do nothing is also a choice, and it might be the right one for you. These are the risks if you choose to do nothing.”
I left his office that day feeling fully informed and encouraged to make the best choice for myself. Same diagnosis, different medical approach. When looking for the best doctor for you, be clear about what you want in a physician and trust your own judgment.
Morning Star Holmes M.A. is a Transitional Life Coach, Family Consultant and author of the book, Transitional Wisdom, A Guide to Healthy Aging & Completing Life with Dignity and a companion Transitional Wisdom Action Journal. She works with individuals and their family members experiencing age related decline, life-threatening illness and life transitions.
For further information on Finding the Right Healthcare Provider and to sign-up for a complementary pre-assessment of your family’s needs please contact Morning Star Holmes ~ firstname.lastname@example.org