The Mighty Logo

What to Remember When You're Frustrated Your Doctor Is Running Late

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I am the first to get frustrated when a health care professional is running behind. My mind jumps to conclusions; that my time must not be valuable to them. I wonder if they even understand the struggle it can be for a chronically ill patient to make it to an appointment: to get out to bed, showered, dressed and prepared takes time, effort and spoons.  (To those unfamiliar, here is the spoon theory.) Surely they can at least call me in on time, right? Sometimes punctuality doesn’t happen, and it’s easy to be upset about it.

But I rarely questioned why they might be running late. That was until today, when I was the reason for my physiotherapist’s tardiness to his next client.

Nearing the end of our appointment working on my joint instability thanks to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), I had a panic attack. You know, when agitation roars above normal movements. When your hands are restless and your legs are trembling. When hyperventilation replaces otherwise normal respiration. When the tears just won’t… stop… coming, and words are nothing more than a spewing stutter. These ugly attacks can take down even the strongest of warriors in a single blow.

You know, the worst possible scenario when you’re about to leave, but the feeling of impending doom emanates and you don’t feel safe to face the outside world in such a fragile state. The physiotherapist could have whisked me away so he could treat his next patient. He could have not cared. He could made the receptionist deal with it.

Instead, he made sure I got what I needed: water and my emergency medication. He made me comfortable in the side treatment room, away from the rest of the clinic’s busyness, checking on me every few minutes. He handled the panic attack like a pro, I must say, but not without treating his next patient late.

Perhaps his client was aggravated by the delay, and I would understand. In today’s world, we are very busy people with tight schedules. But maybe with this story we — myself included — can think beyond ourselves when our health care professional is running behind. Maybe they’re helping a patient through a panic attack, or consoling a newly-diagnosed spoonie.

Whatever it may be, I’m learning to believe they are running late out of good intentions. And maybe, just maybe, we can have empathy over that. Maybe one day it’s us having the panic attack and needing a little extra TLC.

Have grace, from the girl who needed it today.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: November 17, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home