Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Letter #1

I'm very encouraged to hear so many of you agree that Megan has thought of a wonderful project, and plan to help out by contributing. Letters can be sent directly to her at megankmd@gmail.com If you'd like your letter to be posted here for others to read (and why yes, I'm nosy enough that I love reading them) you can use my e-mail link on the right under "Ways and Reasons to Contact Me" --- please note my low tolerance for online pharmaceutical solicitation. :) Or, more simply, I'm at kristieokc@cox.net

And now, it gives me great pleasure to present our first letter, from Katie, who is most certainly the winner of our Speedy Fingers Award. She had this letter sent to Megan (and was kind enough to cc me --- again, with my nosy-ness issues) in like, three and a half minutes after I posted the request.

Thank you, Katie! I know Megan appreciates it also, and I hope many more of you will follow suite. Again, who is considered a suitable candidate to write a letter? Pretty much anyone who is BREATHING, because I know at some point or another, you've seen a doctor, or taken your child, or spouse, or parent, to see a doctor. Or taken your dog to see a vet, and just pretend. So compose your note and (one last pitiful plea because I'm so .... er .... inquisitive) send them to my e-mail as well!


Dear Future Physician,

First, I'd like to sincerely thank you for all you do. Your profession is one that has certainly cost you both time and money, but is also one that allows you to make a difference in many lives. Without your dedication to your patients and science, there's no way to know what our future would be.

As a patient with a somewhat rare but serious medical condition (Arnold Chiari Malformation, type 1), I have been around my share of doctors. My Chiari was diagnosed by an Opthamologist who read me my radiology report and told me that couldn't explain to me what Chiari was, but that it was serious and that I needed to "get to a neurologist as soon as possible." After living through that experience and the insanely scary two weeks thereafter trying to get into see a neurologist, I have come to realize that one of the crucial traits a doctor needs is the ability to admit it when they're out of their element. There was nothing wrong with the fact that my Opthamologist wasn't well versed in Chiari, retrospectively I'd have been more surprised if he had been, however, his inability to admit that he didn't know what was going on fostered more anxiety and left me without any resources. It's okay if you don't have all the answers, but then it becomes important for you to find someone who does.

The last few years since that diagnosis have been a whirlwind of activity bouncing from doctor to doctor, seeking pain management, second opinions and finally settling into a watch-and-wait phase. When my condition worsened to a point where we could no longer just wait and see, we decided to proceed with the surgery. One of the neurosurgeons we saw, who is hailed as the best neurosurgeon in the city, spoke to me like I was a total idiot. Well, that's not true, most of the time he didn't talk to me at all, he talked to my Fiance who is a medical student. As a doctor it is undeniably important that you treat your patients well. Talk to them, not at them, and don't assume that they're totally unaware of what is going on. I had legitimate questions for this doctor and I was well-informed, but he didn't even give me a moment to ask them, instead he assured me that my hair would grow back nicely and offered my Fiance a spot on a neurosurgical rotation. In no way does our knowledge compare to yours, however, respecting us and the care and time we put into our own healthcare will get you far.

We did find a great neurosurgeon who did a fabulous job. He, in some ways, was the opposite of the Opthamologist. He's an optimist and as such, sometimes doesn't take concerns as seriously as I might want him to. It's not that he's not listening, it's that he's trying to protect me from the anxiety and the realities that could be ahead of me. It's a noble idea, but one that doesn't work in real life. Bad things happen and sometimes it's best to just hit them head on. Sugar-coating has its place, but honesty does too and when it comes to health, it's important to take patients seriously, even when the problems seem simple to you. What is clearly an issue of benign suture rejection to you, is stitches shooting out of the back of my head to me. Taking the time to think of the concerns from the perspective of a patient can be a big asset in giving them the best medical care. Understanding and listening to their concerns, no matter how small, can foster an awesome sense of trust between a patient and a doctor which is needed when your health is at stake.

Physicians have an ability to help masses of people and that job doesn't come without its share of challenges. Knowing your limits, listening to patients and taking their concerns seriously may seem like small things, but to a scared, sick patient, they can mean the world.

Suboccipital Craniectomy, C-1 and C-2 laminectomies and Synthetic Duraplasty, November 27, 2007


chiari Mama said...

Have you been to www.asap.org . great bunch of people like you and me. Hope to see your there. Roz

Katie said...

Ha, speedy fingers (ironic since one hand isn't working). I just really really really didn't want to study for my exam tomorrow.

Thanks for letting us be in on such a cool project!