Since being diagnosed with IBS my senior year of college, I have switched doctors five times. First, there was the doctor that referred me to a GI doctor, then my GI doctor wanted a colonoscopy, but I was going on winter break, so then I saw a GI doctor in my hometown. Next thing I know, I moved to Richmond, VA for grad school, so guess what? A new GI doctor! I thought this one would last for the next four years, but then I got a nice letter announcing his retirement and an endorsement for his replacement.
If you are keeping tally, that is arguably five doctors I have endured in the course of fifteen months. Let me catch my breath.
I have no problem with meeting new people or new doctors, but what annoys me is when I endure the same questions over and over. Why do you keep records or reference my chart at all if you’re just going to ask me when did my symptoms start, have I considered a lactose-free or gluten-free diet, have I been tested for this, do I want another colonoscopy, etc.?
Legitimately, my first Richmond doctor told me he was going to schedule me for a colonoscopy.
Me: “I had one nine months ago. I don’t think anything’s changed.”
Doctor: “Oh, now I see you did when I actually read your chart. Well, I would demand another one, except I graduated with the doc who gave you the first one, so I guess we can skip invading your intestines again.”
As I wrote in a previous post, I have identified one particularly effective treatment for my symptoms: This little blue pill that’s not Viagra that I suck on beneath my tongue one to four times a day. I take it so often that if you give me a Tic Tac, my instinct is to suck on it beneath my tongue, too.
Once I figured out that this pill is my cure, I told each new doctor that they should prescribe it. It’s not a powerful narcotic or an ingredient for methamphetamine, so they just nod their heads and rip me off a prescription.
My newest doctor did the same, but then he went through the rote list of “Have you tried this? And this? And this, too?”
Yes, yes, and yes.
Doctor: “Okay, well, I want to get some blood tests done to make sure that it’s not this.”
Me: “I think I’ve already had that.”
Doctor: “Let’s just check it again. And come back and see me in six months with those results.”
Since coming down with IBS, I have had at least five blood tests. They are not painful, but they are time out of my day and a bill in the mail. Of course, insurance picks up part of it, but they might as well not. Really, I constantly question why I even have insurance (I’m hyperbolizing before you criticize me in the comments), but seriously: A co-pay here, a bill there, do I look like a cash cow?!
Consequently, I decided not to get my blood test this time. And then when I saw my prescription had refills through 2015, I canceled my next appointment. I would go back when I needed more pills.
Fast forward a year and a half to now. I realized my prescription was running low, so I called the pharmacy for a refill.
Pharmacist: “Your prescription’s expired. Do you want us to call your doctor to see if they’ll write a new one?”
Me: “Yes, that would be darling.”
Like, in these 18 months, I have even forgotten my doctor’s name. It’s something unpronounceable. And what is the point of a $40 co-pay just to get a signature for another 12 months of refills? Let’s cut to the chase: The healthcare system is clogged with patients; you don’t need to see me.
The next day the pharmacist called saying my prescription was ready for pickup. My doctor came through!
And then last week: My phone rings. My caller ID reads, “GI Doctor Richmond.”
Nurse: “Hi, this is nurse Andi from Dr. ____’s office. Dr. ____ would like to see you since we got called for a prescription refill, and we haven’t seen you since the ‘90s. Do you have time to make an appointment?”
Me: “Oh…uh…yes; yes, I do.” Can we say caught?
Nurse: “How about next week?”
Da fuxx? Any other time you expect the doctor’s office to say, “Well, we can see you in three full moons.” This time we’re not even giving the moon time to wane!
Me: “I guess I can make that.”
Nurse: “Do you remember where the office is?”
LOL. She actually asked that.
Cut to me visiting Dr. ____. As I sign in, I search the paperwork for his name and look at the doctors’ names on the wall. Which one am I seeing?!
I am also dreading how this visit is going to go.
Doctor: “It’s been a while. How are you?”
Me: “I know. Time flies when your stomach’s cramping. Now let’s keep this quick: Give me my prescription, and I agree to pay you $40 every year if you keep my pills coming. Kthnxbai.”
Also, if Dr. ____ asks if I have any new symptoms, I am screwed. A week before the nurse called, I had visited my university’s health center. I’ll go to that doctor because it’s paid for already by my student fees.
Free doctor: “What brings you in today?”
Me (in so many words): “So this sounds melodramatic, but this is a free visit, so I might as well check it out, right? Anyway, for the last year I tend to choke on carbohydrate-y foods, get super winded while running, and I feel like my throat is closing up. My hairdresser discovered she had cancer when a tumor enclosed her windpipe, and my other friend thinks it might be adult-onset asthma, and wouldn’t that be a hoot? I forgot asthma even exists after middle school.”
Free doctor: “Well, let’s check you out. It looks like you have silent reflux. Do you know any GI doctors?”
Me: *breaks into hysterical, ironic laughter* “Do I?”
Things with Dr. ____ don’t go much smoother. He walks into the room and asks, “It’s been a year, hasn’t it?” *Long pause* “Did you schedule this, or did I ask you to come in?”
Me: You know damn well who scheduled this. My co-pay should cover not being harassed by my doctor for being a bad patient.
In reality, I said, “I just thought it was time. And I needed a refill on my medicine.”
Dr. ____: “Do you have any new symptoms?”
Me: “Actually…” *confesses my sins of the last seven years*
Dr. ____: “I asked you to get blood tests last time. I don’t see these in your chart. Did you get them?”
He certainly doesn’t beat around the bush.
Me: “I can’t remember. But I can do them again.”
Dr. ____: “Yes, let’s do that.”
The nurse informed me the blood lab was just four floors below as she handed me my paperwork. I dropped by on my way out of the building, and fifteen minutes later my blood was taken and I was in my car. As I drove away, I thought to myself, Until next year, Dr. ____.