Saturday, January 24, 2009
Until yesterday, I had not been to a gynecologist in ten years, although I have continued to be a woman all this time, so I made an appointment for a check-up.
The doctor I saw is one of five or six in her practice, none of whom I had ever met before. For several years I have been seen by their nurse practitioner, but my various test results were sent to one of the doctors.
When I called, I told the receptionist that I would like to actually see a doctor this year. If Dr. X is my official doctor, I thought we should at least meet each other. I know, it's a novel idea.
The doctor did not shake my hand when she walked in, nor was she even slightly friendly. She barely looked at me and mumbled something about my having seen Irene, her nurse practitioner, in the past. I said that Irene is lovely but that I had wanted to meet one of the doctors.
She gave me the most perfunctory examination I have ever had, and when she palpated my breasts she hurt me. I winced several times and even said, "That hurts," but she didn't adjust the pressure. She also did not have me sit up so she could check them for symmetry as other doctors have always done. Apparently it means something if they are not symmetrical but since it didn't come up, I have no idea what that might be.
She answered my questions as briefly, even grudgingly, as possible and I was dismissed. It felt as if she had one foot out the door the whole time she was with me.
I can only assume she was furious that I had had the temerity to challenge the system by asking to see an actual doctor when she had more important things to do. It's possible she felt criticized. Or perhaps I bored her because I have no serious diseases or abnormalities. (And I'm symmetrical.)
Although her credentials are excellent, it was a most unpleasant experience and I won't be going back there.
I may be unclear (or naive) about the concept of professionalism, but this is not a person I would want to entrust with my life if the situation demanded it. If I were ill, I would not want her anywhere near me.
I wonder if this is a peculiarity of the profession. Years ago when I lived in Nashville, TN, I had a bleeding problem and sought a gynecologist who could cure it.
The first doctor was unable to make eye contact with me. As he ran down the hall he called back over his shoulder that his receptionist would give me a video about hormone replacement therapy.
I was so angry that I drove home much too fast and got a ticket.
The next one I saw was a Chinese woman. I absolutely prefer female gynecologists, and I also hoped she would know something about Traditional Chinese Medicine. She didn't, but she did perform an endometrial biopsy, which is an extremely painful procedure, after assuring me that I would only feel a tiny pinch.
When I finally fell off the ceiling she informed me that she hadn't gotten enough tissue and would have to do it again. No way was that going to happen. Now that I knew she could do that, it would have been walking into an ambush. I took my toys and went home.
The third doctor told me that my problem was God's will and ordered me to go home and be a good wife to my husband and a good mother to my children because a good woman does not question God's will.
I got another speeding ticket.
The fourth doctor made a pass at me.
I drove home so fast that the highway patrol couldn't see me, and did not get a ticket.
The fifth doctor insisted that I have surgery. I resisted because I had just had reconstructive surgery on my right hand middle finger after cutting all the tendons, which provided a permanent installation for obscene gestures.
She told me it was possible that I had cancer and we would only know if I let her operate.
Her reasoning could not be argued with, so I agreed. I did not have cancer but a uterine polyp, which she removed. She even showed me photographs. My polyp was sunset-colored and the size of a ping-pong ball.
She was wonderful -- intelligent, knowledgeable, and completely accessible. Most importantly, I felt that she cared. If I were ill, she is exactly the kind of doctor I would want on my case.
I wish she lived in San Francisco because I really miss her.