I have to get on my soap box for a second.
I used to work in research… in a field that was designed to research doctors and see whether they were doing a good job or not. A classic problem in healthcare is not listening to patients when they say, “I am sick,” and also not understanding that just because a patient is “within normal ranges,” doesn’t mean that they are “normal” or healthy. It happens again and again, and besides not healing people, it also kills people. This goes hand in hand with the mentality that if a doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong, there’s nothing wrong with you… except that maybe you need anxiety medication. That kind of mentality, unfortunately, also goes to the very top – to the people who educate doctors and the associations that put out annual guidelines on treatment for doctors to follow. In fact, I would guess it is probably more prevalent there because “the top” is so entrenched in research (which, let’s be honest, isn’t always that great… and as an aside, pharmaceutical research is some of the worst out there…), that they aren’t really seeing what’s going on clinically. Anyways… I digress…
Here’s an anecdotal story from my family… my father in law’s brother kept going to the doctor for neck/arm pain and weakness. He constantly worked out, so when they did the strength/grip test, he kept testing out normal. The doctors would say, “you’re fine,” not do anything about it (xray, MRI, what have you) and send him home. It kept getting worse to the point where he felt his arm getting weaker, but still he couldn’t get a doctor to take him seriously because he still had “a normal” amount of strength in his arm. He became desperate because it was so obvious something was wrong in his neck that he told the doctor, “look… I can pick up this chair with one hand…” and sure enough he did with his healthy arm… “and I can’t with the other.” Even though the affected arm tested “normal,” that particular doctor was able to visualize that the test he was doing on him wasn’t sensitive enough. He ordered an MRI and found that he had a bone spur growing off his vertebrae into his spinal cord in his neck. He had to immediately have surgery to get it removed. If he would have waited much longer, he might have been paralyzed from the neck down, or even killed. The bone spur was there the whole time, growing fast enough that it was causing his symptoms to worsen quickly, and the patient knew something was wrong. The doctor’s attitude was the problem… not the patient… and not the test.
There will always be tests that aren’t sensitive enough, and if you go by that test when it comes back “normal” and throw your hands in the air… you won’t make any progress forward (like… hey, how about trying to come up with a new test for this other patient population?)… and you will harm those who aren’t picked up by the test. It is easier to throw your arms up in the air, especially if you lack the IQ and problem solving skills to actually be useful in your profession, but it doesn’t mean that it is the correct way to do things.
And… to really get my point across about doctors not listening… my grandfather was killed as a result of a physician who didn’t listen to him. He developed an abscess from a routine colonoscopy (he was healthier at 77 than most people are at 45). It ruptured and when he went into the ER, they didn’t think he was that sick, so they didn’t get him to surgery for hours (I’ve heard since his death that most people die within a much shorter time frame from a ruptured colon). He even told them he had just had a colonoscopy and was in severe pain… and they brushed him off until he was dying – then they finally got him into surgery. Because he was one tough man, he hung on for a week after that, but it was a week of miserable, awful, agony in the ICU until he died… and he never fully regained consciousness after having surgery.
Doctors do NOT instrinsically have your best interests at heart. Doctors kill tens of thousands of people EVERY year because of preventable mistakes… and nurses kill even more just because they don’t wash their hands enough. It is your responsibility to take your health in your hands and if you don’t that is your decision as it’s your life… but at the very least, please don’t shame others into not doing so themselves. There are plenty of doctors out there who do enough of that for everyone.
One last thing… check out the history on accepted diseases today… Crohn’s being one of them. Crohn’s used to be thought of as a psychiatric illness that was “all in the patient’s head.” Now we know that it is an extremely painful disease that is life threatening if severe enough and left untreated. I can’t even imagine going into a doctor, trying to describe the pain of having a blocked intestine and having them lock me away in the psych ward. IC is another one… used to be “all in the patient’s head.” Now we know that it’s an extremely painful bladder condition that causes the bladder to become more and more ulcerated.
It’s a pattern that really needs to stop – if only people would wake up and actually care about each other…