The new doctor
Friday June 25th 2010, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life

So there were little rumbly post-op things that had been bugging me for awhile.  It had become time to at least ask and get them out of the way.  I asked my doctor; he said go ask the surgeon.  So I made an appointment without pushing on the date, just, whenever.

One of the often-wonderful things about a teaching hospital is this: someone came in first who introduced himself as Dr. X, but the title was a rather new pair of shoes still being broken in.  He was very earnest. He began to take a history. (Didn’t matter if they had all my history already, this was a skill I imagine doctors spend their whole lives getting better at: how to ask a patient for details, how to observe them in their responses, what the questions should be.)

This guy was bright and he was good and I said to my daughter afterwards, I can see why he got into Stanford.  I told him that since making the appointment two weeks earlier, the symptoms had eased; we chuckled together at that. It’s so often so true.  I told him that you doctors cure things simply by being there for us and ready, and there you go!

He was someone I knew I could say that to.  I say he was good, because I knew from the moment he walked in that it didn’t matter who I was, he wanted the very best outcome for me and he would do everything in his power to make it so.

And he was perfectly comfortable telling me when he didn’t know something (yet, I would add) when I asked him a stoma question.  I thought, that ready humility will serve you and your future patients well.

He was thorough; for instance, he wanted to know how my hearing loss came to be.

I told him about the baby aspirin incident. I felt, by his interested *Huh*!, that I was bringing his textbook learning to life. And again, when I told him about the LE cells in my biopsies eleven years ago at the Crohn’s onset.

He asked me how long I’d had lupus.

I took a deep breath.  So many stories behind a simple question.  And told him simply this:  I’d had symptoms since I was 13; I was diagnosed at 31. In between, there were a lot of “are you sure?” and it must be all in my head reactions, so, “I learned to shut up fast.”

He bowed his head a little and shook it, grieving, and said quietly, “Bad medicine.”

“They didn’t know,” I comforted him. And it’s true; it was much easier to diagnose when it all hit pretty much at once, rather than in bits and pieces scattered across the years.

The surgeon, whom I quite like, came in later, and it was interesting to me that the dynamic changed when I was in that gown now and the surgeon was standing as he talked to me.  Which is how it had to be, no quibbles there.  I didn’t want to waste his time.  I figured that what he wanted to know, besides any questions he asked me directly–since I have seen him at his own question-asking best and know he’s good at it too–he’d just gotten from the other guy.  I was keen not to make him late for his next patient sitting in the waiting room without even my pink-shawl knitting project for entertainment now (one elderly fellow had been quite taken with it), keen to deal with the most specific issues at hand and get them out of the way.

But I wondered afterwards whether I’d done that part as well as I might have or not. I don’t know. Could I have asked more questions? Oh, sure, always.  But he did a good job of taking the time to examine and observe and set my mind at ease.

So what I do know is, I came out of there very reassured that no, the Crohn’s is not back, and I have nothing to worry about.

And that one young new doctor was keen to learn from what I, too, had to offer him in my small part of his Stanford experience.

Well done, sirs.

12 Comments so far
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And who knows when that bit of experience you imparted will spark in him, and save someone else?
Well done, Alison!
When I went for my mammogram (all clear, no worries) there was an older woman who spoke more loudly than she knew and said to her daughter “Knitting! You don’t see many young people knitting these days! It’s good!” They left soon after and I exchanged an delighted smile with her daughter, letting her know I had heard, and liked it.
At almost 48, I may not be called a young person for many more years!

Comment by Diana Troldahl 06.25.10 @ 11:53 pm

First, so glad your concerns were put to rest. Your post was very interesting as, of course as you already know, I work at a teaching hospital. I had a similar experience recently where the young and very new doctor came up with an idea as to what could be causing the consistent pain in my leg that I had not heard before.

Comment by Joansie 06.26.10 @ 4:06 am

It always sets the mind (and heart) at ease when you get a good doctor. I’ve had symptoms of MS since 2001, and am still trying to get a dx, anything to explain what’s happening to me. I have a brain MRI next Tuesday. I expect it to be clean again. Like you said, symptoms ease or go away as soon as you have the dr’s appt.

I’m glad that your Crohn’s is not back. That is wonderful news.

Comment by Mary 06.26.10 @ 9:06 am

I will send the link to this post to my daughter, a second year resident. I think she is going to be this kind of doctor, too (already is, actually), but that is also the type that is willing to learn more.

Comment by twinsetellen 06.26.10 @ 9:32 am

Well now that was a bit of a switch. I have read in times past about doctors who are in too much of a rush and don’t give their patients enough time to ask questions, or intimidate the patients into remaining silent. Fortunately that has not been my experience. But you are thoughtful enough to not take too much of the doctor’s time.

Humor —

The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

Comment by Don Meyer 06.26.10 @ 10:22 am

Phew! And well done in terms of your gentle education of the new doctor. He sounds like a good one and meeting patients like you will make him even better.

Comment by Lene 06.26.10 @ 10:28 am

And very well done, Milady Alison! I know it can be hard to have patience [I actually unintentionally wrote “patients”] with the young-uns, but I am usually happy to be part of their education. Paying it forward, as it were. I recall saying, way back when I had fibrocystic breasts,”Umm, if you want to feel that lump you’ll have to use more pressure.” to a very startled young woman. Her response made me laugh, “Ahh, I get it.”
My most recent sweet young thing was taking a history, said to me “There’s no such thing as Armour Thyroid.” I said “I said I’d been taking it for almost 50 years, Look it up.” He pulled his little book out of his pocket and said, “Learn something new every day!” I hope he also learned not to tell a patient they were wrong LOL! It was one of those moments when age is an advantage — I don’t think I would have said that 20 years ago and a teachable moment would have been lost.

I’m more pleased than I can say that the surgeon’s verdict was good!
Carol in MA

Comment by Carol Telsey 06.26.10 @ 1:38 pm

I love that good news!

And I love doctors who understand. I once went to my Dr. A. with a sore throat so painful I could hardly speak. It turned out I didn’t need to. Dr. A. answered my unspoken question with those beautiful words “easily curable.”

Comment by RobinM 06.26.10 @ 3:06 pm

Good doctors are gifts. I’m glad you’re on the receiving end of goodness for a change!

Comment by Channon 06.26.10 @ 5:41 pm

I know exactly the feeling you had when that doctor was actually listening. 😉

Comment by Amanda 06.27.10 @ 9:57 am

I recently had the exsperience of doctors telling me my CT Scan said one thing and then I got a copy and read it and they hadn’t read it at all and I need a sonogramy.
I learned to ask to see the test results from now on and to get a second opinion when what the doctor says doesn’t make sense with what my body is telling me.
It was great that the doctor was listening intently to what you said open minds open doors:)Hugs Darcy

Comment by Darcy 06.28.10 @ 10:22 pm

Yeah for you that you made the appointment and got the answers!

I too deal with residents at the family medicine unit I go to for my non urgent needs. They are affiliated with one of the best universities of the province and I’m glad I can help them become better doctors.

Comment by Suzanne in Montreal 06.30.10 @ 6:59 am

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