In December, we went on a family vacation. Almost immediately, my preschooler started in with a runny nose. Three days later, I woke with a scratchy throat and he woke with goopy eyes, leading me to assume the worst. I emailed his pediatrician who, of course, was on her own vacation, and instead got a response from a substitute doctor who insisted that he clearly had either pink eye or a sinus infection. We certainly didn’t want to find ourselves stuck without care on Christmas Day, so off to urgent care we went.
The doctor who saw us was very nice, asked me many questions and explained that my boy was perfectly healthy except for a massive allergy attack. I left the office relieved that the boy wasn’t sick, but feeling a bit silly for taking him in for a diagnosis of allergies.
The boy, however, felt very differently. He was downright angry. “That doctor never even talked to me. He never asked me a single question! He only talked to you.”
He was right. All questions had been directed at me. The only time he actually spoke to my son was in the context of, “take a deep breath,” or “look up for a moment.”
I explained to my son that this doctor was a grownup doctor, and he probably didn’t realize that a 4-year-old actually knew the answers to his questions. His beloved Dr. Fry, on the other hand, works with kids all the time and knows what they’re capable of.
He harrumphed. “I don’t think that’s an excuse. I’m the patient. Not you. He should talk to me.”
The conversation stuck in my head, and later that evening I remembered a time when my grandmother’s doctor came to visit her in the hospital. Grandmom was in her 80s and hard of hearing, but she was still sharp as a tack. Yet as I watched the encounter unfold, I noticed that her family doctor directed all of his questions to my mother, never to Grandmom, and rarely made eye contact with her. “Doesn’t that bug you?” I asked.
Grandmom rolled her eyes. “If he wants to treat me like a dumb old lady, I’m gonna act like one.”
All of the pharma ads remind us to talk to our doctor, but is there anyone out there reminding our doctors to talk to us?