Do doctors realise patients are people too? [009]

doctorThis week I finally had my first check up at the hospital following my fall (and leg fracture) and surgery. Six week from leaving the hospital I was back there. Feeling better, definitely in less pain, a bit more mobile on my crutches and full of questions. Questions about the last 6 weeks, about now and about the next few months of my life.

X-rays done, and the doctor at the trauma and orthopaedics outpatient clinic informs me he’s going to proceed to a clinical examination. (Not that that makes any sense to me, but fine).

“Get up and put some weight on the leg. I want to see how much weight you can put on the leg.”

“Ehm, wait, sorry. When I left the hospital I was told I can’t put any weight on the leg before the bone has fully healed, as the metal rod I have in it could snap, and that would mean it’s all over for my leg. So I’ve not put any weight on. I’m not sure how to do this”.

Doctor, impatiently: “Put some weight on the leg. I want to see how much weight you can put on it”.

How much weight I can put on it before the metal rod snaps and breaks my tibia in a thousand pieces, you mean??

How much weight I can put on it before all of that happens, and I have to be hospitalised again so you can cut my leg open and try and fix what’s left of my bone??

“I’ve not walked in 6 weeks. I’m sorry – I’m not sure what I’m doing here”.

“Put some weight on the leg until it hurts. When it hurts you stop”.

Me: “It does hurt. Even the sole of my foot hurts. My ankle hurts, and my knee hurts when I put my foot down”.

Doctor, now VERY impatient: “I don’t care about that. As long as the fracture site doesn’t hurt, you’re fine”.

Oh, I’m sorry if my brain, in a fraction of seconds, can only grasp the fact that pain is pain and gets me into fight or flight mode. I’m sorry that I can’t immediately comprehend where exactly in my leg the pain is coming from!

Somehow, I did something, and he asked me to sit down again.

He then started applying some pressure on the leg with his hands, and although I was so shocked he was manipulating it with such force that I wanted to kick him with the ‘good leg’, the pain was limited.

So he started talking into his Dictaphone before proceeding to dismiss me with the instructions: “Start putting partial weight on it and come back in 12 weeks”.

Wait, wait, wait Mr.

Do you realise I’m a person here? That I’ve been waiting for 6 weeks to talk to someone competent about my situation again? Do you understand what I’ve been through – what’s that meant for me, my husband, my children and my extended family? That I have a 2-year-old at home that I can’t carry, or walk, or take anywhere? Do you understand I’ve not been able to drive and that all of a sudden we’ve had to make major adjustments to our lives? That you’re giving me next to no information and sending me away without a way to speak to a professional about this for THREE months? Do you know what that means? Are you telling me that there won’t be any change or any improvement to my situation for THREE months?

Do you understand that I am a PERSON? Just like you, except that my degree is in Languages and not Medicine and that you have two perfectly working legs, and I don’t??

You know, you may not know about my particular situation at home or my circumstances (because you haven’t asked me), and you know what? I can live with that.

But a little empathy wouldn’t go amiss, you know?

I have questions. A list of questions, in fact. I want to know why certain things are happening to me – like why I am just about now regaining control of my big toe and why I still have no sensibility to the right side of my leg.

I want to know if you’re going to give me physio, to help me regain mobility in my ankle and knee.

And I want to know why the sole of my foot is so sensitive.

“Sorry, wait Doctor, is there a chance I can come back here in 3 months without crutches, able to walk and put my whole weight on the leg?”

He looks at me puzzled.

“Let’s say 8 weeks then, so I can give you more guidance then”.

You call this GUIDANCE?!

And… I’m sorry. Are you making this up as you go along?

I waited 6 weeks for this.  You’re a doctor in a department that’s called TRAUMA and orthopaedics. I don’t know much about you, and maybe you’re having a bad day, and you’re not always like this, but it would be nice if you stopped for a second and realised there is a person attached to that broken leg.

It would be really really nice.

*Disclaimer: this post is not intended as way to say ALL doctors have no empathy or manners!!! It’s just the recount of ONE not-so-good experience…

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