Hello everyone! I hope you’re all doing well. I’m not going to lie; today was a rough one. 😦
I made an appointment sometime last month to meet with a spine specialist (read: anesthesiologist). My new doctor had asked me to meet with the in-house substance abuse doctor as well, so she could prescribe the one controlled substance I take, until I find a new doctor who would then take the prescribing duties on full-time. She said “You only have to meet her once.” I don’t know what my face looked like when she dropped that bombshell on me, but she tried to reassure me that this is merely procedure. I was okay with that. However, after today I can tell you that once was ENOUGH. I physically had to keep myself in my seat, choose my words carefully, and fight my own body so I wouldn’t lean over her desk and punch her in the face. Yeah, it was one of THOSE days. I am going to be seeing red for a while.
My day started out stressful. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, and I’d fasted for blood work, so I was functioning on next to nothing. No amount of water makes up for the fact that you feel weak and dizzy by the time you get to the lab, because at that point it had been well over twelve hours and if I don’t eat, I will inevitably get a migraine.
I arrived at my first appointment of the day; the spine specialist. I’d read his reviews in advance and was very mixed going into this appointment, but decided to keep an open mind and hear him out. I am happy to report that he was one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever met. How often do I say that? Almost never.
He took notes, did a physical examination of my spine, was very careful with my neck because the range of motion is poor, and he agreed that I definitely have weakness on the left side of my body. Before he made any decisions he turned to me and said “Do you WANT an MRI?” He told me “I will never order a test or force a treatment on you that you don’t agree with.” I thought my jaw might hit the floor from the kind, respectful treatment, but I remained in check. We agreed on the MRI, and he even ordered an open MRI so I won’t have to deal with any potential claustrophobia, which I experienced during my last few MRIs. Generally, I am not claustrophobic at all, but I felt he should know about it, just in case. He then said “Go when you’re ready, they’ll send me the results, and we’ll follow-up then.” Non-aggressive, highly respectful, and extremely laid back. I walked out and said “The doctor was LOVELY.” I don’t usually say things like that, but in this case, it was true.
We did talk about injections, which I am against, and he said “There might be some medications we could try again at different doses.” and he even said he might refer me out, depending on the results of the updated MRI. He doesn’t think an epidural in my neck would help with the pain that travels down my spine, into my left arm and leg. He believes they are two separate issues, but is wondering if I have a narrowing of my spine, which is highly possible. I remember my mother having it, but I shouldn’t have it this young. He looked at my x-ray results and explained that where the technician said, in the reports, that I had a muscle spasm or a shadow in my spine in two different areas, it was likely just my body’s natural response to being in so much pain for so long. He said it was probably residual tension, as opposed to an actual spasm. I inquired about a steroid pack, because so many people have suggested this to me, and he said he doesn’t think they would help because I’ve suffered for so long, or he would have prescribed it immediately.
I left his office feeling positive, mostly because the appointment went well and I was treated like a human-being, which is always a shock. Because I had a little less than two hours to kill in between appointments, I went downstairs to the lab. That took longer than my consult with the doctor, but I was already there and it wasn’t that big a deal. Four vials of blood and I was out of there. Most of the tests are similar to what I had done last May, except this time, my doctor will be calling me with the results because she actually gives a damn about her patients. I am concerned about one of the tests, but here’s hoping it’s normal. I will say the lab tech did a great job, because I don’t have a bruise the size of my hand on my left forearm. I still bruised right away, but it’s small enough that I’m not concerned. I’ll use some Arnica on it until it heals. The last one took a long time to heal and it was hideous.
When the “substance abuse” doctor was ready to see me, I immediately knew where things were headed. Doctors really ought to be more careful with their approach to patients they’ve never met and do not know. One day, behavior like hers will result in someone taking action. That may seem sad, but it’s the truth. I am not going to sugar-coat this woman’s behavior.
I was drug-tested for the first time in my life, and told to leave the test in a public restroom. Yeah, because that seems smart! I was outraged by this. As anyone who has ever had a urinalysis knows, those things are not sealed. Anyone could have gone into that bathroom after me and done G-d knows what with the test. This is a test that they bill approximately $1100-$1700 to the insurance company for, which is INSANE because you can buy them over-the-counter at Walgreens. Because I had fasted for the lab work, and had already gone to the bathroom ahead of seeing her, there wasn’t much for her to work with, providing they don’t call me tomorrow to tell me my test is missing or needs to be redone. Downstairs, in the lab, they had to call a woman who’d been there earlier in the morning to say she needed to come back and have hers redone. The entire office heard this phone call, there was nothing private about this person’s medical information, and that’s a blatant violation. Whatever did or didn’t happen with her test is an epic screw-up from where I’m sitting. If they fucked up mine, I REFUSE to go back there for a drug test. They can bite me. I’m surprised she didn’t also ask for a cheek swab, a hair sample, and DNA. DO NOT read this and say “Lisa, she’s just doing her job.” There is a correct way to do this job, and that does not involve making law-abiding citizens feel like they’re doing something wrong by following a doctor’s instructions where a prescription is concerned.
When I returned to her office, she had no idea why I was there, asked if we’d met before, couldn’t find my file, and then proceeded with a list of questions my own mother (G-d Rest and Bless Her Soul) would not have asked me in a million years.
I was asked approximately six times if I use marijuana or cocaine. I’m sitting there trying not to roll my eyes as I give her the same answer each time; NO. Is this person forgetful or fucking testing me? I don’t care, because the answer is no, and the drug test will prove it.
To my face I was, once again, told I was an addict. I’m not, and because I have known addicts and been around addiction, I do know the difference. I can spot it in other people. I have responsibly taken medication that I assure you, is the ONLY reason I did not knock this bitch out. That and learning how to rein my temper in slowly.
It’s one thing to be doing your job with the questions, that’s fine, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you ask me to relive the worst trauma of my life because you don’t understand why I have a specific diagnosis (to which I nearly said “Talk to the fucking treating physician! Don’t repeat that question again.”), repeatedly ask the same fucking questions as if the answer is suddenly going to change, and demand to know where my doctor’s notes are. I cannot see what you’re looking at behind the desk/computer, so my answer was very nearly “Beats the shit out of me!” Instead I said “I can’t access them, either. Your guess is as good as mine. Would you like his phone number?” When I give someone professional, cold answers, it is a WARNING. Apparently, this woman did not see the red fucking flag waved in front of her face, and kept pushing.
“Do you drink coffee?” she suddenly asks me. I live a mostly caffeine-free life because of my migraines, but for the past few weeks I have been drinking coffee at all hours. Maybe a cup a day, sometimes two, but I’m not sucking down gallons of the stuff. She should take the psychoanalysis to the local Starbucks, because rest assured, caffeine is not an “addiction” for me. It’s something I’m drinking because I like the taste. I don’t have it behind me in an IV.
“Do you smoke?” No. “Do you drink alcohol?” No. “Is there a reason you don’t drink alcohol?” Mind you, the spine specialist asked me these questions earlier in the day, except when I replied no, each time, he said “That’s great.” and only when I said I don’t drink did he ask if there was a specific reason for that, and quickly asked if I was pregnant. Light, calm tone, no rudeness or insinuations. Not from her, though. She’s a first class bitch, in all caps.
She aggressively pushed every last button I had, until I thought about the one person on this planet who keeps me calm and grounded, and I told myself “This office is small and you could strangle her and/or rip her fucking throat out in less than thirty seconds, but it’s not worth it. Let it go.” When you’re fighting with your internal dialogue, it’s not always a good thing. My creative process on murder astounds me. I’m only half-kidding, but no one needs to worry.
I had already answered her questions regarding my diagnosis of Complex-PTSD and where it potentially stems from, so when she asked where my parents lived, that was IT. I knew she was intentionally trying to break me, because she desperately wanted to know if I am an addict. She has reached the point where she cannot tell the difference between a patient and an addict, two very different beasts. I should have informed her that there is an immense difference between patients and addicts, and that I don’t appreciate her aggressive behavior, but I knew she would go back to my doctor and say I was a combative addict, or whatever she chooses to say in order to appease herself.
When she told me it wouldn’t take 2-3 years for me to be taken off this medication, I nearly laughed in her face. My doctor told me it WOULD take 2-3 years to safely take me off of this medication in order to put me on something else, something safer. He was concerned about seizures and other side effects that I have only been made aware of in the past four or five years, and he felt that I wasn’t ready to begin tapering because of all that I am going through, both health-wise and emotionally. He’s right, and I stand by what he said to me. Here she is though, suddenly telling me I can be detoxed off of this quickly (NOT true. Yanking me off this medication could kill me, and it does kill people when it’s not done properly.) and that forty or fifty years from now, this medication MIGHT cause dementia. I wanted to say “I probably won’t live that long and quite frankly, I am NOT going to worry about what ‘could cause dementia or ‘might cause dementia’. Are you SURE you went to medical school?” I know people who take medication to improve their quality of life and that’s all this medication does for me, albeit not that well any more. From a medical perspective, it IS a high dose, but I’ve always been responsible with how I take it.
In June, my doctor asked me to start taking smaller doses, whenever possible, and I have done that. I am two months behind on my prescription and I still have enough medication for a few weeks. Instead of seeing this as a responsible thing, which is exactly what it is, this bitch took issue with that because she cannot understand what he said to me, because she can’t find his notes, and why I am being responsible and discerning with it. This didn’t sit right with her majesty.
She finally told me she will talk to my doctors and “figure something out”. She had about a hundred case files on her desk and as she desperately searched for mine, there wasn’t one. I suspect it’s because I am NOT a red flag to my doctor, who was a sweetheart to me and said she has no problem prescribing it, so long as this other doctor approves me. I don’t know if she will.
When I got home, I had to contact one of my doctors who she said she wanted to speak to. She does not have authorization to do so, because I didn’t sign a consent form, but I wanted this doctor to know, just in case. I didn’t want her to be side-swiped by this woman. She is the physical embodiment of a drive-by shooting, with all the subtly.
When she complained about the doctor who left, and not having his notes and diagnoses, I told her “This is where he works now. I’m sure you can find him.” She suddenly decided I need a “case manager” to get me in to see someone. Here’s a fact; I am NOT special. There is a LONG waiting list to be seen by so many specialists, and no one is going to move me up the list “just because”. I called before Thanksgiving to get an appointment with a migraine specialist and just last week, they told me I could be seen…at the end of May. I’m lucky they didn’t say “in 2019” after they said May. So, despite it being something I’d normally bitch about, I simply took the appointment and the receptionist promised she’d call me if there were any cancellations so I could get in sooner, after apologizing for twenty minutes because no one ever returned my call. The doctor has a five star rating which is the highest you can give a doctor, so I hope she’ll be able to help me.
Chronic pain patients put up with a LOT of crap. For me, this was unnecessary drama that raised my blood pressure to the point of a migraine. The sad thing is, I would have received more kindness, compassion, and far better treatment if I had walked in with track marks and an active addiction that was visible. Instead, I walked in with flawless makeup (It’s force of habit, I’m not trying to impress any one.), dressed like a normal person, and once again, I was judged for that. It’s NOT acceptable and it’s NOT okay.
When I told a family member that I wanted to talk to my primary care doctor about how this woman treated me, I received a lecture about how it’s “her job to ask questions like that, it’s all a form”. Yes, it’s her job to determine who is an addict and who is not, but no matter what I did, this woman was determined to find fault with me. I was waiting for Homeland Security to be on hand as I left for a fucking cavity search! I’ve never had anyone tell me, after a medical appointment, to “Just leave, go out.” I wouldn’t talk to a dog like that!
I don’t want to live in a society where patients are treated like dirt for taking necessary prescription medication, which means they’re smart enough to know something is wrong and seek treatment for whatever ails them, and addicts are being accommodated for choosing to use street drugs. The message this sends to patients is a horrible one, indeed. If I didn’t suffer terribly every single day of my life, I would throw all the prescriptions I have in the trash. We ALL would. Pharmaceutical companies would be out of business, or would have to look for other ways to make money. What would happen to pharmacies if, suddenly, we were all healthy? It’s an amazing idea, for a dystopian novel. In the real world, illness exists. No one asks for it.
When a doctor is annoyed because you don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs of any kind, that is your sign that something is wrong with them. It’s not you. Every other doctor I’ve met has noted those things as positive. Not her, because she is determined that everyone she meets is an addict of some kind. As she judgmentally sips her tea.
To make sure it wasn’t my imagination, I went and read her reviews. She has a one and a half star rating, which is basically unheard of, but I am glad I saw it because it validated me. The review that is posted, before my own, states that “She should have her medical license revoked because she is a real piece of shit.”, and that was merely the end of the lengthy review that was a mere glimpse at my own interaction with her. This person states they were repeatedly asked the same questions I was, and that they were also threatened by her. To add insult to injury, this is an award-winning doctor! I have NO idea how that’s even possible, but if she fucks with my medication and my health, she is just another doctor whose unprofessional, aggressive behavior is something I will happily report to the state licensing board. She seems incredibly overworked and I’d like to provide her with a permanent vacation.
There are great doctors out there, and I will always honor one with a great review and my full respect, but there are also bottom feeders that make you sick to your stomach. I encourage you to read reviews whenever possible, and I encourage you to write reviews, for the good and the bad. More often than not, it’s the doctor, NOT you.
Patients with chronic illnesses are still PATIENTS. We don’t deserve to be treated like garbage simply because a doctor assumes we’re all secretly addicts. I am shaking my head tonight, knowing in my heart that I didn’t do anything wrong.
Stay safe, smart, and warm, my lovely readers. And if you’ve ever experienced anything like this, I want you to know I stand behind you, and with you.
copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.