The first doctor I went to for my mysterious foot injury (who was highly recommended) told me it was just inflamed, rest it. When that didn’t totally work, she referred me to another doctor in her office for a cortisone shot. That doctor said it’s a bone spur, you’ll need surgery. So, I went to a running specific doctor, who said here are some inserts to correct the problem, keep running.
Those are very different diagnoses.
If I had gone to three random people on the street and asked what was wrong with my foot, then I would have deserved whatever I got. But, these were all professionals, whose opinions I paid for. And, the part that’s really terrible was that each diagnoses was delivered with 100% confidence and an assurance that they had it figured out.
This past weekend I went to Urgent Care. Four weeks ago, when we were in Hawaii, I got a crazy bite on my side, which turned into a red rash/ring that spread across my side. It mostly has gone away (though not entirely), but there was a lot of concern that it might be a tick, or whatever the equivalent is to Lyme Disease in Hawaii. Then, Friday morning I woke up with another weird bite on my arm and by Saturday morning there was a giant red rash/ring that had spread across my bicep. For extra fun, I also had debilitating weakness in my arm that day.
That’s weird. So, I went to Urgent Care, which is like 10′ away. Because it happened twice now, I was concerned. What if I picked up some parasite in the waterfall pool in Hawaii? What if I was bit by something not good?
At Urgent Care, I sat and waited and waited and answered all the nurse’s questions and then the doctor came in and said, “So, I heard you have some kind of a rash” — while carrying my chart, which would have answered that question.
Before I finished my first sentence, he said, “Did you see a tick?”
Well, no, I did think that far ahead before coming in. Him: I don’t see a tick.
Gee, thanks. Him: I don’t know then.
And, then he started to prescribe me antibiotics and I asked how can you prescribe antibiotics if you don’t know what it is? How do you know that will even help or that it’s a bacteria? Are you just prescribing a generic antibiotic that will kill everything?
And, he laughed and said, hah, not everything.
I tried to explain that the rash was a symptom of the problem, not the problem. That I’m not concerned about it itching, but about what caused it to itch. And, he asked like what? I said, like a tick, but whatever other parasite like a tick there might be in Hawaii. And, he said, well, I could prescribe you an antibiotic that’s also for ticks if that’ll make you feel better. And, I said, but we don’t think it’s a tick. And, he said, no. And, I said, so, that won’t make me feel better.
When he left (after asking four more times if I smoke but not asking if I’d been feeling sick or had a fever or muscle aches or where I’d been recently) and I waited some more, a different nurse came in to ask if I have any questions. I was feeling super bitchy by then, so I said, “Tons, but you guys don’t seem to have any answers.” She wanted to know what my questions were, so I said the same stuff again and how I’m concerned about what’s causing this. And, she looked it over and said, “It looks like an insect bite.”
The problem isn’t that doctors are people. It’s that they think they’re better than regular people. We bestow on them this mantle, but forget that information doesn’t equal knowledge. Every kid in my dorm in college wanted to be a doctor. And, if they stuck with it long enough, most of them are now. But that still doesn’t mean I want them doling out advice to me, particularly about things they don’t know about — and why would most general practitioners have any specific knowledge about your specific problem.
Steve had a back/hip injury at one point and went to the doctor, who was nominally supposed to be a “sports doctor.” She told him to rest (or something), but that he could still swim. Only she must have been thinking water aerobics, because when he asked about kicking, she was like oh no, no kicking. Which obviously makes swimming hard, unless you pull all the time. So, then, she suggested swimming with a kickboard under your stomach for support.
Does that even make sense? Is that even a thing?