Monday, October 1, 2012

Shit Tactless Idiots Say To Sick People

So this “meme” might be “over”, but I couldn’t resist calling out some people on their shit.  These are things that have been said to me recently. 


And sometimes, rather than be upset about something and turn it inward, it’s better to let it out.  Because the reality is, it’s not me that has a problem; it’s the people who have said these things to me that are the ones with a problem.

“You made my job really hard” – Lab Tech

Context: This comment was made by a lab tech at the student health center after she stuck me twice for four tubes of blood and basically got nothing. 

My hypothetical response: “You make my life hard, and you don’t hear me telling you about it.”

“You made me work for my money today, and I don’t make a lot” – Lab Tech

Context: This zinger came after the lab tech above, from a different lab tech at the student health center.  She stuck me twice, and while she did get the blood she needed, she had plenty of time to tell me exactly what she thought about me and my veins. 

My hypothetical response: “Really?  That’s your effing job.  I don’t get paid at all to be a patient, and that’s a full-time job.” 

“I’m a little sick too, but doing well enough to come in” – Co-TA

Context: If the intent of this comment wasn’t asshole-ish, I’m not sure what is.  I was pretty much floored by this e-mail response to me telling my professor and co-TAs that I wouldn’t be in class.  I had several rebuttals, but ultimately erred on the side of saying nothing to the person that said it.  It just wasn’t worth it.

My hypothetical response: “I had a colposcopy today, asshole.  Look it up, and then tell me if you would have come to class.”

“So, aside from lupus and RA, you’re perfectly healthy, right?” – Doctor (won’t tell you which specialist it was, but it wasn’t my rheumatologist)

Context: This was said to me the first time I started seeing a new doc. 

My hypothetical response: Honestly, I don’t have a good response because this comment just doesn’t make any sense to me.  Being chronically ill and perfectly healthy just don’t jive with one another.  If she had asked if I had any other significant medical issues, that would have at least made a little more sense.  This comment feels kind of patronizing to me. 

“Come on, you really can’t bend your arm any straighter?” – Various lab techs

Context: I really hate this.  It happens nearly every time I go to get blood drawn.  I wish they could put a note in my file that every lab tech sees, telling them to absolutely not say this to me.  It really bugs me.

My hypothetical response: “No, I can’t bend my arm any straighter.  I have rheumatoid arthritis, thank you very much.”

“Your charts so big, I didn’t bother to read it” or “I wasn’t sure if I’d met you before, but then I saw the size of your chart and know I would have remembered you.” (and other similar versions) – Various Doctors

Context: This has happened to me several times.  And it is really frustrating.  Yes, I have a big chart for someone my age.  But I’m not going to apologize for it.

My hypothetical response: “Bigger is better, right?”

“As nurses, we hate when insurance companies deny prior authorizations because it’s so much paperwork for us and takes so long.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s my job, but appealing takes so much work, especially if they deny it again.” – Nurse from GI Doc’s Office

Context: This was said to me over the phone by a nurse from my GI docs office.  My insurance denied the prior authorization for Amitiza.  Unfortunately, because my prescription insurance changes on October 1st, there was really no point in trying to appeal because they probably wouldn’t be able to make a decision in time. 

My hypothetical response: “Yes, it is your job.  And your loyalty should be to me the patient, not pandering to the insurance companies because it adds extra work for you.  Think of all the extra work added to my life by being chronically ill.”

Ultimately, there are a lot of stupid and tactless people in the world.

The thing that I think frustrates me about of all these comments is that they all point to me, the patient, making ones job harder, whether it’s doctors, lab techs, pharmacy techs, insurance people, nurses, etc.  When in reality, the only person I really feel for is myself. 

I don’t mean that to sound selfish, but I’m being blamed for things I can’t control.  I can’t control my veins, the size of my chart, the fact that my insurance company is stupid, and all of the other comments being lobbed at me.  I’m the sick one.  

Thank goodness that I have a filter, because I would have reamed these people out otherwise.

Have you had similar things said to you?  If so, what are they, and how did you deal with them?

Please feel free to add your own zingers to the comments.  I would love to compile responses, and am thinking of making this the theme for PFAM when I host in December.


  1. People can be really thoughtless/clueless, but I have to say, reaming them out is sometimes exactly the reminder they need to get their heads out of their butts. You're certainly not the only patient they direct this attitude toward (even if it feels that way sometimes), and reminding them what it's like to be on the other end of the needle or phone call might help not only you, but those other patients, too.

  2. The worst thing ever said to me was by the chief md in the emergency department of a major teaching hospital. After intense treatment for SLE with nephritis, my nephrologist and I discussed timing for pregnancy. He indicated that NOW could be the best time given the response to med, improved kidney function and my age. He referred me to the chief of ob/gyne at the time and I had a visit with a specialist in high risk pregnancy. Despite this, I suffered a miscarriage at 20 weeks. Cut to the emergency room, where the ED MD is reading my chart, and then asks me, 'Why did your doctor LET you get pregnant with what you have?' The whole encounter was a nightmare, but his question made me absolutely furious, ignorant as it was.

  3. "I wish I could lose (x) pounds" -- said by many a nurse who knows full well that I have Crohn's disease and am well below a normal healthy weight.

  4. I was feeling awful, for several days very dizzy it was bad enough I went to my Rheumatologist thinking it had something to do with my RA. He sent me home with pills (because we all know a pill is always the answer). Turns out RA patients have a 30 percent greater chance of having strokes and a 40 percent greater chance of heart attacks. Well you guessed it I had a stroke a few days later. The one Doctor that should know the symptoms and the risk RA patients are at, didn't care his comment was "you worry too much".I could have died, later I let him have it maybe he'll think
    twice next time.

  5. Thank you for this post! It helps to hear someone speak up about these things (even if only hypothetically). I am sure I could add multiple examples... Maybe when I'm in the mood to let off some steam I will come back and share some. Sometimes it's too tiring to even think about this stuff after it has happened and there's nothing that can be done! But I do agree that it is important to let out our frustrations!!

  6. Oh, the bullshit comments by healthcare providers I have fielded.

    Chart size/too long to read,"You're too young to be this sick", "C'mon can't you move (or) bend that wider?", "It's not that bad","You don't need pain meds, you have tattoos. You're a strong girl",etc.

    All of it makes me cringe so hard I could start to shake just thinking about the rude and downright cruel comments I've been subjected to. So, mostly i don't.
    I'm a trained counselor so when I have a bit of extra energy I opt for confronting them directly as I might if they were in therapy "Who's needs does that comment you just made serve?"/"That comment could be considered very offensives, what made you say it?" etc. I try my best to remain calm.

    Usually a simple question is enough to prompt the realization that their comment was out of bounds. On days when I am exhausted and don't have enough energy to create teachable moments I just mock their rudeness in my head. It doesn't do much for solving the problem but it sure as hell does amuse me.

  7. We patients are the job. Without us, there wouldn't be any work, any pay, any of the other "problems" we create.

  8. I don't care what anyone says, it still bugs me when medical professionals say "I thought RA only affected old people. You are too young to have it."

  9. Agreed. Yes. I intentionally made my veins really small and hard to find so that I can enjoy the endless poking and prodding of lab techs like you.
    My favorite response from a physician who neglected to look at my chart before he walked in the door so I had to resort to pulling out my own medical file: A girl your age (mid-twenties) should never have a file this thick. Clearly something is wrong with you. My hypothetical response: Of course, you idiot. Why do you think I'm here?
    Sometimes I don't say anything. I just give the doctor/nurse/technician/receptionist the look. Doctor: Besides this breast pain, the overwhelming fatigue, and all your other documented symptoms, how are you doing? Me: the look that means How do you think I'm doing? Doctor: Right. I bet your mood is going way down. Yeah. I guess that's understandable.
    Another favorite: Receptionist: Do you know how to order this pregnancy test? I can't figure it out. Hypothetical response: You guys won't believe me when I assure you that I'm not pregnant since I'm on my period and I'm extremely single, but you appeal to my "expertise" to know how to do your own job???
    Sigh. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

  10. Oh yep, herd a few of those. I just love it when the doctor tells you "so, looks like you've gained a few pounds, eh". Well no flipping crap-you put me on stuff that makes me gain weight, and by the way doc it looks like you've been to a few all you can eat buffets so isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black!!?? I'm not eating more, I'm just taking pills and to flipping sick all the time to go take up marathon running! Such idiots!! And drawing the blood-I tell them up front my veins are hard to find then they act like super tech's "oh I can find it" and I tell them I'm allergic to needles, then they dig like they're trying to find China and I'm ready to puke and pass out and they tell ME I'm being difficult?? EXCUSE me but I warned you my veins were deep and I faint and your the one digging in my arm not me!!

  11. Oh, there are just so many thoughtless, ignorant, cruel comments I can think of. Of course there are the multiple "but you're so young!" comments from nurses and other medical staff. They should know better. Then there's the comment from a pediatric hand surgeon about how I shouldn't complain about the pain because the olympic gymnasts (this was during the summer olympics many years ago) were competing with even worse injuries. I should have pointed out that they did it by choice and I didn't! But I was 16 and intimidated by that jerk. Then there was the coworker who commented on how lucky I was to be able to park in handicapped parking spaces. I told her I'd rather have the ability to park elsewhere and walk and to not need the handicapped parking. That shut her up fast. Then there was the nosy neighbor who commented too many times on my weight. I kept brushing her off, telling her I was fine. Finally she asked if I was anorexic. I got really angry and told her that I was quite ill, that I worked hard to keep my weight up, and that her constantly commenting on it was not helping things. She never mentioned it again. Of course, those are just a few examples. After more than 20 years of symptoms, I have more examples than I care to remember.