If you have ever been in the hospital with undiagnosed pain

or been with a loved one with undiagnosed something, the doctor that comes in with the diagnosis is like God.

I was admitted to the hospital about 15 years ago, with acute abdominal pain.  It had built up for months, with me thinking it was just a normal side effect of my gastric bypass.

Until one day it crossed the line, and I could no longer just ignore it and couldn’t function at all.  But instead of going to the ER, I made an appointment with my GP.  I really didn’t think it was that important.

After barely examining me, he called the ER to tell them I was coming.

In the ER, I was curled up on my side wondering why the IV pain meds weren’t really working and becoming more and more frightened.

And then, (after multiple tests) the surgeon came in and explained.  I had an adhesion on my bowel (which wasn’t what I thought it was) and I needed surgery immediately because it looked like there might be some leakage.

I thought that surgeon was the kindest most wonderful person EVER.

Imagine if Morgan Freeman walked in as a doctor and explained what was happening and how it was going to be fixed.  That was this doctor.

And then.. he said he was going off duty and his colleague would do the surgery.

To me, he was God and then he handed me over to some regular human to deal with my surgery.  I cried.  Literally.  I didn’t beg but I did ask him if maybe I could wait until he was back on duty.  But no.  It was apparently urgent.

After he left, I knew I would die at the hands of unknown cretins. So I cried.

Of course he was just a human.  And my association of him being the perfect doctor was entirely unfounded.  I thought he was wonderful because he solved a terrifying mystery.  Because he was kind.  Because he was late 50’s and sounded like he had both confidence and experience.  I felt safe with him.

The surgeon who did the procedure was a cocky young asshole, who turned out to have a great reputation, and was probably a great surgeon.  I recovered and he was still an asshole.  But the IMPORTANT part is that he was a great surgeon.

We don’t remember that enough.  We are focused on how we feel about an interaction rather than actual competence.  And I FELT so safe with Dr. Trustworthy.  I WAS safe with Dr. Asshole.  I never liked him but I have been told by two doctors since then that he is one of the premier surgeons in the area.

Dr. Asshole will probably be sued one day, if he hasn’t been already.  I bet Dr. Trustworthy has never been sued.  Studies show that we don’t sue doctors we like, we sue the ones we don’t.  It has little or nothing to do with actual competence.

Still, I love Dr. Trustworthy.  I have no idea whether he was any more or less competent than Dr. Asshole.  Which is the most terrifying part of this entire thing.  I only know Dr. Asshole is a great surgeon because I have had 2 separate doctors say so later, unprompted.  Most people don’t have that luxury and certainly don’t have it before an emergency procedure.  People just get the lottery of surgeons, just like I did.

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5 thoughts on “If you have ever been in the hospital with undiagnosed pain

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have written many times about people who mistake kindness for weakness. The same holds true with doctors. You do not have to be a jerk or have a God complex to be a successful surgeon. Giving him his due for being a proficient surgeon, surgeries are a team effort. If being a jerk interferes with the team effort (by being hurtful or destroying the confidence of a nurse or doctor), then it could harm the patient.

    There is also a telling book called “Internal Medicine” written about medical mistakes. Very proficient doctors make mistakes, like the one at Duke University who inserted the wrong blood type heart into a young patient who later died. This Duke doctor is one of the best in his field. Yet, this was an easy screw up that could have been avoided. One of the points of the book is fewer questions are asked as the operation nears. So, in your story Dr. A would not be questioned as he is a jerk.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I went through cancer treatment I had a kindly surgeon and oncologist, both of whom I loved. I could ask anything and they would answer honestly. However, my radiologist was an asshole. He would make jokes when I would ask if something he was going to do would be painful. It wasn’t funny. I complained to both my surgeon and oncologist and both said he was the best in the area. I avoided asking him questions instead asking his nurse or the other two docs. He ended up relocating after a few months so he could be closer to his boat. I heaved a sigh of relief. I guess I need the connection in addition to the competence. A doctor doesn’t need to be my friend but I have to feel comfortable asking questions.

    Liked by 1 person

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