To the ER Doctor Who Told Me I Was 'Wasting Time and Resources,' Thank You!
Dear Emergency Room Doctor,
Thank you for being such a jerk to me!
You may not have realized when you said I was “wasting emergency department time and resources” over and over that you changed me, but you did. While you may have thought I had “just a headache” and was “taking up space for patients in the waiting area who needed to be seen,” you were wrong.
See, I heard how it started. It’s just a curtain after all. I heard the triage nurse slam my file down on the desk and say the person in my room was here for a headache. I know how it must have seemed when you had a full ER for the entire three hours I sat out there waiting to be seen. You didn’t get it because you didn’t listen.
Listening is a key part of your job. It’s a part you failed at that day. You and the triage nurse decided I was there for drugs. I get that. I’m sure you get that a lot. But you missed that I had been in the hospital for three days and was just released a few days prior. You missed that I said the hospital neurologist on call had already called to say I was coming in and that the hospitalist team was ready to admit me. You missed the very key point when I talked… it wasn’t a headache, it was head pain.
The head pain was so bad, cracking my own head open by banging it on the floor seemed like it would be less painful. It was so bad that I had triple vision and could barely sign my name to paperwork. It was so bad, I passed out. It was so bad that I had a bag prepped and was willing to come back to the hospital after just leaving. But you missed all of that because you didn’t listen.
You may have had a bad day or had a lot of people who could have been seen elsewhere, but saying “every doctor tells their patient to come to emergency, that doesn’t mean you need to” wasn’t helpful. If my doctor tells me to go to the ER, what am I supposed to do? You have the medical degrees.
I ended up leaving that day against medical advice (AMA). Why AMA? Because the resident said I could die by morning if I wasn’t evaluated more, and you wouldn’t sign off. You told me over and over I shouldn’t be there but wouldn’t discharge me. So I left because dying at home on my bathroom floor was a more acceptable option than dealing with you telling me how wrong I was for five more minutes. Does that make you feel like a better, doctor?
I get that I have a rare disease. I get that you don’t come across it much. But why do you get to decide I am wrong when other people who would be taking care of me once I’m admitted have said I need to be there?
You may have been horrible to me, but you made me a stronger patient. When I returned a few days later and was admitted for the treatment I didn’t get when you were in charge of me, I was strong enough to say no when they wanted to discharge me. I knew I wasn’t well enough and they hadn’t found the cause, so I made them transfer me.
While you thought I was being overdramatic, which clouded my treatment, I made them transfer me to a hospital where they did find another problem — a problem that still may have been hiding today if you hadn’t broken me down so much that I started saying the white coat does not mean the person has common sense.
You broke me to a place where I no longer take a doctor’s word without finding out myself. While it may be slow progress in treatments, you taught me I can’t totally trust my care to a doctor without learning myself because there will always people like you around. There will always be a doctor who makes up his or her mind before even seeing the patient. There will always that possibility that I will run into someone exactly like you, and I will no longer accept it.
You may have broken me to tears once, but you taught me I need to trust myself before I trust the white coat. (But you will still never treat me alone because I have zero trust in you.)
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Thinkstock photo by BrianAJackson