It just seems so pointless and utterly sad that a doctor practice in a job where coughs and colds and sore throats are common place, if they have no interest in treating those patients.
Or that a doctor practice general medicine when they have no interest in patients with chronic conditions when chronic conditions affect so many of the general population.
Plus I am reading “Encounters with the Invisible” by Dorothy Wall (ISBN 0870745042) where she discusses how many doctors have lost the art of listening to their patients. Modern medicine is so focused on tests and such like that they listen to the science and the body more than the patient. That the majority fail to really hear what the patient describes to them about their condition and that is their described symptoms do not match the test results they dismiss them. Why is it, she asks, that doctors who are faced with a patient who suffers symptoms which do not fit with current diagnostics do not want to investigate, to try and solve this mystery of medicine – why is their curiosity dulled?
I also read an article this week asking why doctors are so fearful of prescribing pain medication long term to patients suffering chronic pain. Saying that those with chronic debilitating pain should have pain relief and suppression not “management” which so often means learning to “not focus on the pain”. She suggests that if doctors are so reluctant to improve the quality of these patients lives by giving pain relief and so fed up with paperwork perhaps they should pursue a career in pathology or some other kind of medicine. Just leave patients to see the doctors who actually want to heal and where they can’t heal help their patients.
All of which has me thinking that some doctors are just stuck in a job, like millions of other people – lost in a routine that isn’t their calling, doesn’t push their buttons, isn’t a good fit. The difference is that whilst they linger in jobs they don’t excel at – patients suffer.
Having had this cold with sinus and throat infection for three weeks now and having had a profusion of green snot followed by a discovery of white lumps on my tonsils I finally went to the doctors yesterday.
I’d done some internet surfing and a few sties including www.patient.co.uk which I know is used by my surgery suggested if your sinus problem hadn’t cleared up in 7-10 days, especially if you had green snot (a sign of possible bacterial infection) it was best to get your GP to check it out. Just in case you need antibiotics to clear it up.
Growler went to the pharmacy this week and saw the Lovely Friendly Lady Pharmacist who spotted he was still under the weather. After a bit of questioning about him and me she insisted that if we weren’t better by the end of the week we should see our doctor to get it checked out. After all, she said, it might be caused by something else that needs antibiotics. Oh, OK then.
The clincher for me was finding white lumps/spots on my tonsils on Wednesday. Yuck! I’ve never seen this before or heard of it – so I did a bit of surfing. The general consensus seemed to be tonsil stones which I had never heard of. But there was suggestion on some sites it could also be deep infection in the tonsils. I also read that if you get infection in your adenoids then it can be really serious – even needing hospital treatment. Since I had these white spots and wanted to be sure what they meant, and since my throat has been just weird for the last fortnight I decided it was time to get it all checked. Things felt (feel) swollen, heavy, sticky and irritated in my throat.
Growler managed to get just one appointment for Friday so he gave it to me. No appointments for my Lovely Doctor or even my Alright Doctor – only one on offer so he grabbed it.
Getting up and dressed is a HUGE effort at the moment as this cold thing is leaving me totally wiped from doing very little indeed. But I did it and I even had a wash so I wouldn’t offend the doctor! Growler drove me to the doctors surgery and all (!) I had to do was walk to the car and then to the office.
Lets call this doctor I saw Doctor Cow. Growler said that from the minute we walked into her office her body language was all wrong and she was clearly totally disinterested. Slouching back in her chair she looked like we were interupting her leisurely afternoon (she was running really late on her appointments by the way – the recpetionist apologised but not her). I gave a very quick run down of why I was there. I also told her about the spots or lumps on my tonsils.
I’m not going into blow by blow details but she her tone and manner was a bit off – totally disinterested. I found myself getting quite hyper trying to engage her interest.
She told me she couldn’t give me anything and it was just a virus and that these things take time. She asked me “what are you doing about it?” and I told her about fluids, decongestant, paracetamol. She was no help at all.
She did that sort of final sentence thing and turned away. So I asked a second time about the white lumps on my tonsils as that was the thing that was really concerning me. She said there was nothing it’s probably just mucus I’m seeing. I hear myself getting wound up and incredulous – telling her it’s not mucus or food and these things are not moving and they are not easy to see. She takes a second look. There’s nothing there she says – you’re seeing “frothy mucus“. Bye.
I was livid. Growler says “ok?” and I say “Well, she’s WRONG”. Oh dear. I was so upset. I felt humiliated – like she thought I was stupid. I think I know the difference between mucus and lumps in my own mouth.
When I look in the mirror in the car the largest of the lumps – the one closest to my tongue has gone. It must have dropped off in the night. Which means it probably IS tonsil stones. When I get home and take a look in better light I can see a pit where the lump used to be, an indentation. And if I look carefully I can just see the second one behind my tonsil and it’s 3 times the size it was 2 days ago.
What I wanted – even though she couldn’t see the lumps – was for this doctor to be interested and to listen to me. I don’t go to the doctors lightly – I go because I am concerned or it seems the right thing to do. What I wanted was for her to say something like “It sounds like it could be tonsils stones. You get that sometimes when you’ve had a lot of mucus and infection in your throat and/or sinuses. It’s just a build up off bacteria and nasty stuff. But they usually drop off – nothing to worry about.”. I know if I had seen my Lovely Doctor – even if she didn’t pick up in this I would have felt a lot better about everything.
I am left to self diagnose – something which drives doctors like Doctor Cow crazy. Do they not see they leave us no alternative when they are not curious or even interested enough to really listen? The photo on wikipedia is pretty much identical to the photos I took of my tonsils on Wednesday. Yuck. So I’m pretty sure that’s what it is but am going to have to monitor it myself now. Here is a friendly article on tonsil stones (no pictures).
A day later I am still angry and hurt and disappointed. It’s the kind of experience that puts people off going to the doctor – and one day, inevitably, something really serious happens and they won’t go to the doctors. By the time it’s gets unbearable, or they end up at hospital it’s too late. If they’d caught it early something more could have been done or chronic conditions could have been avoided. All because of lazy, bad doctors in the wrong job.
I’m not saying being a doctor is easy. It’s more a vocation than a job. So if you’re not good at it – go do something else. You might save more lives and give better health to a lot more people by not being a doctor and leaving it to the ones who actually give a damn.
Sorry if this grosses anyone out.
Some lovely pictures of my tonsil stone. The other one was just out of sight to the side of this one.
Click for bigger pictures.
If you look carefully in this next picture you can just see the pit where the tonsil stone was (sorry it’s a bit blurry). Another stone started to gather in that pit some days later.