The New-Patient Appointment (Part II)


So I’m sitting in the treatment room on my first visit to Dr. Suzanne Lamanna and the almost-an-LPN has just told me that this appointment is “just a meet-and-greet,” then she tries to take my blood pressure.  She fails to manipulate the blood pressure cuff properly so it takes her two or three tries to get it right.  Meanwhile, she has put the clip on my finger to get my oxygen level and pulse.  The clip is attached to a relatively large yellow box that is loudly beeping in my face.  It bothers me.  A lot.  A doctor explained to me that most people’s brains habituate, that is, when confronted by anything that is repetitious they adjust to it and relegate it to the level of background noise.  My brain doesn’t.  It keeps spiking with excitement every time the stimuli occurs.  In other words, repeated stimuli drives me up the wall.

The box is registering numbers, so I pull the clip off my finger.  Nicole immediately puts it back on, saying that it takes two minutes to get the pulse right.  I ask her if there is any way to shut off the beeping and she takes the clip off my finger and leaves the room.  Huh.  What’s up with that?

Shortly she returns, led by another young woman in scrubs who flounces over to the counter, looks at my chart and—with her back to me—snaps, “So what’s the problem here?”

Offhand, I’d say that the problem is that Nicole doesn’t have the intelligence or skill set to check my pulse manually.  All she had to do after she took the clip off my finger was put her fingers on my wrist but she’s a new age child who is unable to function without a machine.  All I did was ask for the irritant to stop and look what that’s gotten me—another irritant.  Instead of accommodating the individual needs of a particular patient, Nicole ran and told mommy that the patient wasn’t playing nice.

So Miss Flouncy-butt demands to know what the problem is.  I reply, “What’s your name?”  Well, that pisses her off even more.  She says “Samantha” and we have a brief exchange about data gathering.  Then she puts her hands on her hips and snaps, “We have to have the information!”

Why?  What are they going to do with it?  Treat me?  They have no idea what’s wrong with me; their data gathering hasn’t included a medical history and, besides, today’s “just a meet-and-greet,” remember?  They’re not going to treat me for anything, so what do they need my vital statistics for?  Samantha’s belligerent attitude has triggered counter-belligerence in me.  She said, “We have to have the information,” and I snapped, “Tough!”

I point out that the patient has the right to refuse any procedure and the medical care provider simply has to accept that and go on.  Most people don’t know that.  You are under no obligation to let any medical provider do anything to you.  You have the right to refuse unless, of course, you’re dealing with the psychiatric arm of medicine, in which case they can illegally coerce you into doing lots of things that aren’t good for you.  Legally, you don’t have to submit to any medical procedure, including having a machine check your pulse.  You only have to do those things which you believe will be in your best interest.  Since this is “just a meet-and-greet” they don’t need my pulse rate and will not get me to tolerate a painful beeping sound.

Of course, nobody is listening to my learned dissertation on patients’ rights:  the almost-an-LPN and Miss Flouncy-butt are hot-footing it down the hall to get Sister Suzanne and rat me out for not being obedient.

Sister Suzanne/Doctor Lamanna and I meet in the hall.  She asks me what the problem is.  I start by telling her about the black box and me having to sign away my rights without getting a hard copy.  Doctor Suzanne/Sister Lamanna replies, “We have to have that for insurance purposes” in a tone that says, “and that will be the end of that.”  We exchange a few more words and then she says—(wait for it; here it comes)—“We’re only trying to help.”

This is the ultimate cop-out of the medical profession:  we are only trying to help.  We are good people.  We are righteous.  If you don’t cooperate with us, it is because you are wrongous.  We are good; you are bad.  Oh, woops, that just crossed the line between medicine and the church.  You put the medical hierarchy on one side and the Catholic Church’s hierarchy on the other side and the sick sinner for sure gets crushed in between.

I angrily tell Sister/Doctor that she has no idea what help I need, that nobody has paid any attention to me, that I have been treated as an object to be processed by their machine.  Fairly spitting with rage, I say, “You don’t even know why I’m in this wheelchair!  It’s because of the damage done to me by a doctor!  You don’t know that and you don’t care to!”

For Christ’s sake, handle me with kindness; I’ve been hurt by people like you.

I wheel back to the waiting room and up to the receptionist’s window, which is closed.  The receptionist—different from the one with the black box issue—shuffles some papers then looks down at her desk.  She refuses to meet my eyes.  I say loudly, “Please open the window.”

She looks to her left, then says to me, “Dr. Lamanna says ‘no.’”

I yell, “I need you to call medical transportation so I can get the hell out of here!”

You cannot imagine how awful it is to be in a wheelchair and totally dependent on others.

The receptionist opens the window, takes the phone number and makes the call.  When the transportation vendor asks my name, the receptionist has to ask me.  She doesn’t even know.  I say, “Anne Woodlen.”

The receptionist says into the phone, “Anne Woodland.”

After she hangs up, I snap at her, “If my name was Anne Woodland, I would have said so.  It is Anne Woodlen.”  If they will know nothing else about me, they will at least know my name.

I wheel out of the office, hurt to the core that nobody wanted to know who I was or what I needed.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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4 Responses to The New-Patient Appointment (Part II)

  1. Sprockets says:

    Oh dear Lord in Heaven! Not for the first time, I am so glad to hear that someone else is fighting the good fight. And not for the first time as I read your post my heart started racing with that familiar fight-or-flight response. I entered the same panic state as I do now when I even think of going to the doctor, because doctors mean pain. They do not mean relief, and they certainly do not mean cure. And their staff are Satan’s minions.

    “We have to have this for our records” is droidspeak for “This is how we do things because this is how we do them.” It’s no good trying to reason with the minions, because they do not possess the power of reason (or if they do, somewhere in the dim recesses, they long ago decided not to exercise that power). If you flat-out refuse a procedure, like a blood pressure reading in my case, you are noncompliant. You are refusing treatment.

    In my case it is the blood pressure that gets us off on the wrong foot. I have a “high” number. I long ago did the research and decided that “high blood pressure” is a myth created by the drug companies so they can sell more poison that has no good effect, but which makes them rich by selling it. (If pressors were effective, wouldn’t we be seeing a drop in frequency of strokes by now? Hmm?) Blood pressure is therefore a nonissue for me, but will they listen? The girl insists on taking and retaking my blood pressure, each time tightening the cuff to the point that it actually hurts very badly indeed. Then she goes into her spiel about how it’s “very high.” It’s no good telling her – or the doctor – that this is not the reason I’ve come to their office. Occasionally a doctor will agree to disagree with me, but he always comes back to it. It clearly irks him that I don’t believe in one of his fundamental tenets. (Did you know that for a very long time “normal” blood pressure was considered to be 100 plus your age? Then the drug companies got involved in the Pressure Biz, and the definition of “normal” has been revised downward many times. It’s a racket, folks.)

    I’ve even had doctors fire me for refusing to take blood pressure and cholesterol medications. That’s right, fire me. The problem for me is, as you say, that I have the absolute right to not allow any procedure or accept any drug, and they are still obligated to treat me. But they don’t know it, and they don’t care. Complaints to the state medical board mean nothing. Reviews on Angie’s List mean a little more, I hope.

    The long and short of it, though, is that we do not get the medical treatment we need and deserve. Instead, we are subjected to multiple indignities by arrogant strangers. Our privacy is invaded. We endure insults to our intelligence. All because we have dared to assert our rights and our individuality.

    The only way to stop this kind of thing is for more people – like you, like me – to stand up for themselves and say “this is not good enough.” We need people to file reports. We need people to speak out. We need to stop accepting the travesty that health care has become.

  2. JackJoe says:

    wow – not sure where to begin on this one.

    I’ve been following your writings, every one is sent to my inbox as to not a single one. But this one did not have your usual wit and wisdom with it’s usual mix of humor.
    If I may, it was actualy more a showing of your bad manners today anyways, than the usual short comings of the medical regime.
    .. There was a clear tone of disrespect that confused me at first when you referred to the doctor.. Then your pot-shot at The Catholic Church threw me for a loop!

    Anyways.. If the repetitive noise was annoying, bordering on painful..
    um, you could have politely told her so. We can not – or rather – we should not expect others to be show us common courtesy when we haven’t. Or when we simply ‘snap’ when things hit us that are just ‘too much’.. when we’re feeling intense pain and/or anxiety and fustration
    – we could apologize afterwards for doing so.. Communicating what the problem was.
    But their response! Their response to your brief moment of imperfection was well, crazy!
    – as if you were the First patient to outwardly express an inner discomfort – ???

    Communication – Listening – True Respect
    – All things you have rightly pointed out to be deficient in offices and hospital rooms around the country – and my own experiences have shown me the same.

    I had a gallbladder that was leaking acidic juices and gallstones – The burning acids made their way up causing many ulcers in my throat as well as into my lungs.
    – I thought i was dying
    – I went to the Emergency Room 3X a week – my room mate called the paramedics several times as I was turning blue.
    My HMO told me I was perfectly fine. Some said I was showing narcotic-seeking behavior and that ‘they’ would not be manipulated. Others gave me Ativan (an anti-anxiety) since clearly it was all in my head and I was losing it. Well I took the Ativan.. as well as lost 60 pounds in 2 and a half months. I was right when I thought I was dying – I almost did. Not due to my condition, but due to the lack of anyone actually Listening to my symptoms as I explained them. Nor believing me if they did happen to listen as when I spoke. So I turned out to be correct: at 27 years old I Was indeed dying. Dying from a lack of respect – dying from 8 doctors looking at my age and the usual tests that came back inconclussive, deciding THAT meant I was fine – but crazy. I was dying in short, from a lack of respect as a fellow human being. They have all the power – and I had none.

    Much the way you must have felt in your wheelchair, receptionist window now closed. You may have reacted a bit rudely Anne, but instead of understanding that perhaps you had a Real Issue and was not just an ‘ass’ – It could have been resolved in just a few minutes. No need to throw their power around like that. That angered me greatly.
    Especially when you’e in a wheelchair, at the mercy of others even for some of the smallest things. I’m sorry that happened to you. I want to say that too.

    But at times I was rude when I didn’t have to be – Doctor number 9 got the wrath I had been saving up from numbers 1 through 8! The good doctors and nurses got my wrath, i let my bad side ‘fly’ because I’d assumed they were going to be like the others before them. And I know when I thought about it afterwards i am a bit ashamed.

    And sometimes at the end of the day, the person who isn’t showing the respect, isn’t just them, but us as well.
    And of course hind-sight is 20-20.
    But after reading the entire post I came to understand where your anger came from – it where it was directed towards.
    For even the very phrase: Health-Care,.. it now has this sarcatic ring to it!
    medical-Care. Ya, sure.. So may say the healthy, never-go-to-the-doctor people, perhaps.

    Peace to you, Anne Woodlen.
    Even if they didn’t want to really know your name, there are many of us here who will never forget it.
    🙂
    May you have a Merry Christmas,
    filled with an inner Peace that in this life is seldom found.. but such Joy.. when it is!
    – Jack

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