(Yes, I’ve said I’m genderqueer/genderfluid, but emphasis on “fluid” as I am totally okay with female pronouns)
Yes, still need more help with storage before Monday and month end. Whatever anyone is able and willing to help with via PP. You don’t need an account with them with the donate button… just a credit/debit card.
I admit I look younger than I am. Most guess my age to be mid 20’s to early 30’s when, in reality, I’m almost 45. But this isn’t about looking a certain age or anything like that.
This is about being female, knowing my body and its quirks such as pain and congenital things (missing vertebra and row of ribs, FTW!! Yes, really) and dealing with doctors and medical professionals in general.
It really started, or I at least became more aware of it, when I was 17 and had slipped on some ice in the parking lot of a ski lodge in the Sierras on a group trip. I had landed on my right hip. Hard. The medical personnel there couldn’t figure it out, but there went the cost of my ski and boot rentals up in proverbial smoke. Ouch. I was ordered to stay in the lodge with the adults and other non-skiers. I hadn’t packed much of a lunch and only had a few bucks on me. I think the adults in our group took pity and got me food later, but I can’t remember. I do remember the pain and the only thing I could afford to keep my mind occupied: a deck of cards.
When we returned home at the end of the weekend, I was also sick (a bad allergic reaction to the down in the ski jacket, pillow, and sleeping bag my mother insisted I use because I MUST have outgrown the allergy. Nope). I stayed home from school most of the week and so on… lots of pain, trips to the family doc at first (don’t get me started on that asshole), etc.
Starting with that family doc, I spent the next year bouncing from doctor to doctor. X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s… PT, mild pain meds. You name it. One problem: there was never an actual diagnosis. Since I had landed on my right hip, every one of these doctors -many of them orthopedic surgeons- did tests, etc… and when nothing showed up and things didn’t help with my hip, they each did the verbal form of a patronizing ‘pat on the head’ and “well, there’s nothing wrong with your hip. It must not really be anything.” and shooed me out the door while billing my dad’s medical insurance for a lot of crap.
I went through roughly 8 doctors in that year. Then a neighbor recommended Dr. Nolan. I will mention his name. He’s retired or soon will be as he is transferring his practice. I hope the new guy is as damn good as he was. Dr. Richard Nolan was one of the best, if not THE best Ortho Surgeon in the SF/ Bay Area at the time.
At first, he looked at previous films and reports and notes and… yeah. A couple of visits, we tried a cortisone shot and a tens unit… nothing worked, as usual. ON the 3rd or 4th visit, he chatted with me and made the pronouncement, “well, there’s nothing wrong with your hip.” My shoulders dropped and my brain was inventing new swear words. Then he cleared his throat:
“So let’s look somewhere else.”
He had his tech do quick x-rays of my mid to low backin the office and after looking at them, he came back into my exam room and showed them to me.
Two. Slipped. Discs. Lumbar Region.
By this time, I was 18, taking classes at a local community college, and a HUGE weight lifted when he said that. They were pinching my sciatic nerve down my right leg and sometimes the pain also went down my left leg.
So, why am I telling this story?
Because I still -at 44- get the same treatment from doctors. Especially male doctors.
I’ve dealt with countless MD’s and others over the years since who have behaved the same as those doctors before Nolan. What was the difference?
Nolan LISTENED. He took a step back from the accepted idea and decided to try looking elsewhere. He heard me and believed me when I said there is PAIN. It is not in my head. It is very real.
Earlier this month, I started getting this excruciating pain from my neck, thoracic and shoulders area down BOTH arms to my fingertips. The only thing I failed to mention to the doctor I saw was something I just hadn’t focused on: yes, there was -and still is at times- numbness and tingling in some of my fingertips.
But here’s the thing: I told him -REPEATEDLY- that the pain was not just my elbows (both elbows hurt… that’s be the biggest constant, but the rest of it still hurts as well) but all the way across from fingertips to fingertips. And it was NERVE pain.
I have, in the past, snapped at doctors who treat me like shit and told them, “You may know general anatomy… fine. I concede that. But you do NOT know my body. You don’t know its quirks and pains and little things that make me physically unique.”
I’ve been dealing with nerve damage for 27 YEARS. I think I know what nerve pain feels like… yanno? I know something is pinched. I went to my PT for my low back and knees on Wednesday and she pulled up the referral this doc did for what I thought would be “upper back and neck/arms” but it wasn’t. It was for “elbow pain.”
I…. but…. wait… holy motherfu… someone will pay.
Today, after getting ZERO sleep last night until dawn, I managed a few tasks, including a round of things for this one client. And I made a phone call to the clinic. I asked that they put a note in my chart to not schedule me with him ever again. She asked why and I told her about his not listening to me, the asinine PT referral, the fact that I know nerve damage, etc… and that he wouldn’t do any kind of scans to see if a disc was out of place… SOMETHING other than asking some questions. FFS. She noted all of my comments in the chart and will be passing my comments along to the people in charge of that specific clinic for OHSU. I love my clinic, I love my GP, I have zero interest in breaking in new doctors here. For someone like me, that’s no small feat.
I don’t know what, if anything, will come of it. If I’m still dealing with the pain (which, honestly, I am. It’s been around a 5-6 on the pain scale. The day that it started? 10 wouldn’t begin to come close to how bad it was), I’m to come in and see someone else. The problem is that even my current GP, as well as the sports med doc who is only at that clinic on Mondays, are loathe to do any scans or x-rays unless there was a clear point of injury.
I get that, I do. I can understand it. But I’m one of those patients who gets hurt walking down the damn street… alone. Hell, I fractured my kneecap in 2009 just by tripping on the sidewalk and landing on that first. MY KNEECAP, PEOPLE. Not an easy bone to break in general.
If I try to get another clinician to figure it out and they give me the same BS, I have the option of getting the Patient Relations office involved. The girl today even said it’s an option. I want answers. Pure and simple. I want them to acknowledge and understand that some of us patients know and listen to our bodies pretty damn well. I just need them to listen to me and help me figure out what’s going on. I’m not asking them to bring world peace… just help me solve an issue with some nerve pain.
So, what does this have to do with being female? A lot. Especially when it comes to male doctors, female patients are dismissed even today as being “hysterical” (and I’m not talking about funny hysterical either) or not knowledgeable.
I would love to make Robin William’s movie Patch Adams mandatory viewing with essay for medical schools. Teach humanity and humility along with anatomy.
Well, pain meds and muscle relaxant are kicking in and between those and the lack of sleep last night, I need to curl up under the covers and get offline.
See y’all on the flipside…