Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Through someone else's eyes

I read a blog post earlier this week about a woman who ended up having serious heart issues. She’d gone to the hospital three times previously but her symptoms were atypical (which is quite typical for women and health issues—we aren’t men) so no diagnosis was made. Fortunately the fourth trip resulted in her getting the treatment she needed.

But that’s not what I’m writing about, although the way women’s health issues manifest themselves is worth writing about – just not today. In the "gosh this is a small world" moment, I read a comment on that post from my mother. She posted something about Dad having been taught in medical school that patients will tell their doctors what's wrong, if only the doctors will listen. 

This particular blog writer lives in Cape, which is where my parents lived for 18 years. She'd been a high school teacher, which is how I knew of her. I didn't know she knew my dad or that he'd been her doctor before my folks moved to Idaho over 20 years ago. She replied to my mother's comment: 
I think that your retired physician husband was actually my endocrinologist for a time before you moved out west. I was so upset when you moved out of state.
I have to say, though, that he actually sought ME out before I was his patient. It was the night of Christmas Ball, and he was there for coronation ceremonies because his daughter* was in the court. I was her teacher. When your husband called me aside, I assumed that he wanted to discuss something about his daughter. I thought his daughter was delightful, and I was genuinely concerned that something might be wrong with her.
He started by first saying, "Don't tell me who your doctor is, but are you under a doctor's care?" For a split second, I thought that maybe he was inferring that I needed psychiatric help! He went on to tell me that my eyes were too dilated and that he could see that my thyroid was enlarged, and then asked if I was being treated for my condition. I told him that my doctor had prescribed liquid iodine. "Well, that's not enough," he said, assuredly.
He then advised me to go back to my doctor and demand a T3, T4, TSH, and iodine uptake test. I was so impressed that he cared for someone who was not even his patient, and that he took the risk to go out of his way to say something! Eventually, I became his patient, and then I went through separation anxiety when he moved. Just in case we are talking about the same doctor, please thank him. I have never forgotten his caring attitude.
I asked her if she minded if I quoted her here. She said not all. "Your Dad went out of his way to help me, and I am proud to be quoted as having said that." 

See, I know my dad’s a neat man. But to me, he’s Dad so I can still hear the dad who would tell me to get up, or eat my broccoli, or help with chores or well, you get the idea. Just a dad being Dad. This is a different side to him, one I wouldn’t have seen growing up and it’s really cool. 

*She's talking about my sister, Amy. 


Judith said...

I read her blog after you referenced it on Facebook. Dad and I had just that morning had the discussion about patients telling their docs what's wrong if the docs will listen. In this day and age of multiple tests available, there is less and less of listening doctors (or anyone else for that matter). Anyway, I posted my comment on Liz's blog and the rest is history. Dad was very pleased to be remembered so well.

Judith said...

I tried to post the following but could not get through her spam protection. So, hopefully she will see this:

I saw your blog because Elizabeth had referred to it in her Facebook page. So I made my original comment about doctors listening to their patients. Of course, my husband, your endocrinologist, went to medical school before there were quite so many tests available and had to rely more on listening. He says this is still true though. He continues to observe people and take a risk if he sees something he thinks should be examined more closely. And finally, he was very pleased to hear your kind words. Glad everything is ok.

Liz Lockhart said...

*I am the original blog author referred to in this entry*

In reference to my most recent crisis, I had complained to my doctor repeatedly about a terrible gripping pain in my throat, as well as going to the hospital ER. The episodes were painful and frightening.

I believe that the doctors were too compartmentalized, sending me off first to the cardiologist, then to the internist, then to Barnes for an esophageal study, then back to my primary doctor for asthma tests. Each one seemed satisfied with his/her diagnosis, "Nothing here caused the symptoms." Everybody was willing to conclude that it was just a mystery (or in my head) and to pass me along to yet another specialist until I tired of even trying.

The aggregate result was that I went undiagnosed right up until I nearly died. Though numerous tests were done, all of the collective medical wisdom failed to pinpoint my heart as the issue.

Could I have been treated medically years ago or could stents have worked early on? I don't know. What I do know is that the quadruple coronary bypass did work, and I am happy that it did not take an autopsy to diagnose my condition.

I believe that your Dad's old-fashioned method of actually listening to the patient would have produced an earlier diagnosis for me.

Magpie said...

always fascinating to view your parents (and other relatives) through different eyes.