Thursday, September 22, 2016

Doctors Are Part Of The Problem, But They Can Also Be Part Of The Solution

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Who, me?  Why I’m not a witch at all.”

There are good doctors and there are bad doctors.  I’m not a doctor – well not that kind, anyway – but recent experience suggests that maybe I should become one.

On Saturday, I had a follow up visit with my primary care doctor.  To put it mildly, it went terribly.  He asked me one question, I answered truthfully, and he freaked out.  He basically told me that if I coped better with life, I wouldn’t be sick. 

Well isn’t that rich?  Is that your many-years-of-medical-school-medically-informed-opinion doctor?  Because if it is, you need to go back to school.  And if it’s not, you need to stop.  Just stop. 

You know, when he learns what it’s like to become chronically ill in his early 20s and lose his dad on his 29th birthday in a very traumatic way, then judge me.  But until then, don’t – and oh wait, he can’t because he’s already way past that.  All things considered, I think I’m doing pretty well.  And I am not perfect my any means, but I don’t deserve to have some doctor’s petty resentments projected onto me.  That’s not right and it’s not fair.    

I barely held it together in the appointment.  I should have stood up for myself.  Or I should have just walked out.  But I didn’t.  I sat there, trying not to cry.  Trying not to scream “You have no idea what you’re talking about!”  But I clammed up, I closed off, and I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to him again. 

This situation reminds me why I sometimes hate doctors, and why I sometimes go through phases where it all just gets to be too overwhelming and I have to take a break for a while. 

Whenever that happens, I get delinquent about doing the preventative things I’m supposed to.  And then things happen, and I’m rocked back into reality and the fact that I have a crappy immune system and all that comes with it. 

And maybe that’s because I’ve had a lot of bad doctor/medical professional experiences, not just the one I just described.    

Here is a case in point:

Not long after I got sick, I had a yeast infection. It was really bad.  I’ve never had one like that before or since.  My only choice was to go to the walk in clinic at student health.  I saw this nurse practitioner who was asking me questions and basically told me that since I had lupus and RA, why was I even thinking about having sex?  Like sick people can’t have sex?  I was so shocked, I didn’t really react or fight back. 

Honestly, I’m still traumatized by that one.

But then I have experiences like today, that renew my faith in the medical profession, and make me realize that there are good doctors out there, and that we need to work together to improve healthcare. 

I finally went to the gynecologist, after too long of not going (read several years).  And I had to see a man, which I wasn’t thrilled about.  But it went very well.  The doctor was very thorough in taking my medical history.  And he really understood the complexity that is my chronic illnesses.  He was very non-judgmental.  And his office staff was very professional.  I was very impressed.  I left feeling very good about the appointment, which you can’t generally say about the gynecologist.  And thought, why can’t he be my primary care doctor?  

I’ve learned that the office staff at a doctor’s office says a lot about the doctor.  So this doesn’t bode well for my primary care doctor. 

Aside from the situation I described, I received a notice that my new insurance had been billed for an appointment when I didn’t have that insurance, so of course they rejected it.  I’d called my old insurance, and they stated they had never even received the claim.  Getting anyone from my primary care doctor’s office to deal with it has been a huge problem, so in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so surprised about Saturday because I suspect that some of what went on was a result of having to basically fire his entire office staff.    

But regardless, if I’m having a bad day, I cannot treat my clients the way my doctor treated me.  So even if, as I strongly suspect, the behavior wasn’t actually directed at me specifically, it doesn’t make it okay.  It’s unacceptable. 

And if the billing issues that I experienced are such a widespread problem for this doctor, then I believe the doctor should have sent a letter out to all patients, explaining the situation and that they are trying to rectify it.  But rather than act responsibly, he decided to take it out on me. 

I’ve spent a long time feeling like improving healthcare falls squarely on the shoulders of patients.  But I think that doctors can help with this, too.  And they should.  Rather than taking anger and frustration out on an individual patient, talk to Congress.  Explain that while a practice manager used to be a master at insurance, the system is too fractured now and confusing, that it’s impossible to stay on top of it.  And not only does it make it difficult for the doctor and his staff, it also makes it difficult for his patients. 

For patients like me, who had to make seven calls to his office, only to find out that he fired his old biller, which seemed to be the standard line.  Five messages went unanswered, a call to a person told me that they would reach out to their outside biller and she would get back to me.  Weeks went by with nothing.  So despite my disappointment on Saturday, I mentioned it on my way out of the office.   I was told I had to speak with someone on Monday.  I spoke with someone yesterday, and I have been assured that the situation will be rectified.     

But this isn’t how it should be.  This shouldn’t be what patients come to expect as normal.  Every visit shouldn’t become a fight.  Every appointment shouldn’t be approached with trepidation because of how much it might cost or how difficult it will be to make sure that the right amount gets billed to the right insurance. 

I shouldn’t avoid obtaining necessary healthcare because I’m worried about how a doctor will react to me.  Or if they won’t be understanding or compassionate toward my illnesses. 

I’m sick, but I did nothing wrong. 

Doctors spend years in medical school, studying and learning.  But clearly there are still things that aren’t being taught well.  Clearly the non-medical aspects of being a doctor don’t rub off on everyone. 

Next time, I will be strong.  I will fight back.  I will throw down.  And I will stand up for myself.  Because I didn’t ask to be sick, and I’m doing the best I can to live with it, but the fact that I’m sick, on its own, does not give anyone, including a doctor, a right to mistreat and disrespect me. 

It bothers me that despite the fact that I don’t have any years of medical school behind me, my eight plus years of experience as a patient still isn’t seen as being worthy of praise or esteem.  For some doctors, it doesn’t even grant me a seat at the table or even a voice in the exam room.  

I will continue to be outspoken when I find the courage to use my voice.  But doctors cannot remain silent.  They are 50% of the doctor-patient equation.  They must stand up for themselves and they must stand up for their patients.  Getting consumed in the greed and the bureaucracy diminishes us all.  It makes doctors focus more on the bottom line and less on healing and minimizing suffering.  And it cheapens the patient experience.  It makes us bitterer, angrier, and less compassionate, both for our doctors and for ourselves.     

Monday, September 19, 2016

Product Review: SunGrubbies Sun Protective Accessories*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know a lot about me, including the fact that I hate sunscreen.  Yes, I have lupus.  Yes, I have fair skin.  And yes, I hate sunscreen. 

This is a problem.  Part of me thinks I’m allergic to it, and the other part of me thinks I just hate it. 

But I have been walking to and/or from work since I moved last month (a post on that soon).  It’s only a mile and a half away, which isn’t too bad, but it’s a lot of direct sun. 

… I digress…What brings me to this post are some amazing products I was asked to try recently.  I received SunGrubbies Casual Traveler hat and Sungloves.  What’s great about SunGrubbies is that all of the products contain SPF!  In other words, that’s sun protection that you don’t have to lather or spray directly on your skin.    

So it was the perfect time for me to try sun-related products as I generally do my best to stay out of the sun, mainly to avoid having to use sunscreen – lame, I know. 

I am not a hat person.  Nope!  I hate hats about as much as I hate sunscreen. 

But I might be a hat convert now, or at least a convert of hats that look good on me and truly offer sun protection.  The Casual Travel hat is adjustable, which is great, because I have a small head.  It fits well, and I can still see out from under it.  It’s also pretty darn cute!    

But more than the hat, I love the Sungloves.  They are so lightweight and easy to wear.  It’s hard to describe the material, but they’re very comfortable.  And since they’re fingerless, I can still text and use my phone while I walk – do pretty much anything – but I know that my hands are protected.    

And this has always been a huge problem for me.  Even when I use sunscreen, the tops of my hands always seem to get burned.  I’ll admit, I feel a little Michael Jackson when I’m wearing them, but they are so worth it.  I can also still wear them comfortably with my jewelry on, so I don’t have to fiddle with that stuff or worry about it.       

Both items are also very packable, so I am able to just throw them in my purse, and don’t need an additional bag to transport them in.  Both items would also be great for traveling since they don’t take up a lot of space.

I like the fact that I was able to try these products and use them more for everyday than just for traveling, as I’m not sure I would appreciate them as much, as I don’t travel purely for vacation all that often.    

I know the summer is basically gone, or pretty much coming to an end, but unless the world ends tomorrow, the sun is going to be a thing, and you’re going to need protecting from it. 

Honestly, I have to say that these two products are some of the first that I’ve reviewed in a long time that I can actually see using on a regular basis.  And I have been.     

SunGrubbies has created a code specifically for my readers, so if you’re interested in any of their products, visit and use the code NOLUPUS10 for 10% off of your order.

Have safe fun in the sun, kids!

* SunGrubbies was generous enough to provide me with these products for free.  However, it was ultimately my choice to write a review and has to do solely with my personal opinion of the product.