I’m going there today.
Look, I’m not a doctor and I’m not claiming to have any magical medical knowledge here. I don’t. I only know what my husband comes home and shares with me, and the things I personally ask him about regularly (which, to be honest, is a lot of things).
But I’ve got to go there today, because lately I’ve seen so much of this from not just a few people
You know what irritates me beyond all reason?
People who have no medical knowledge, no medical background, no medical ANYTHING, who assume they know better than their doctor, or want to criticize what their doctor has diagnosed them with simply because they didn’t get what they would deem an adequate prescription or treatment (based on what they got from some other doctor awhile back, or on what their friend got when they had “the exact same thing” (newsflash! Some illnesses look kind of alike but aren’t the same!)). I don’t know about you, but if I had been through 10+ years of school and training (bare minimum for years of undergrad, medical school, residency) to do my job, and some layperson off the street with no training in my field whatsoever tried to tell me how to do my job, or tell me that I’m wrong, I would be infuriated. In fact, most would deem it unacceptable for me, a teacher with NO business experience, to walk into a CEO’s office and tell him that he’s running his company wrong. I’m pretty sure I would be promptly escorted right on out of there. And rightly so. And as a teacher, I can tell you from personal experience how INFURIATING it is for a parent who has whatever job that is nowhere near the education sector to come into my classroom and tell me I’m teaching something incorrectly. Oh really? Because you know so many things about Latin and how to teach it. NEAT.
So it goes with medicine.
I’m not going to lie. I used to be one of them. I was PISSED when I was sick once in college with a wretched sore throat and fever and went to see the doctor and he told me it was a virus- not strep throat, and to go home, take two tylenol and rest. P.I.S.S.E.D. Pissed. DOESN’T HE KNOW I HAVE A HEART PROBLEM?! DOESN’T HE KNOW IT’S TERRIBLE FOR MY HEART FOR ME TO HAVE A HIGH FEVER?! DOESN’T HE KNOW HE SHOULD GIVE ME ANTIBIOTICS JUST IN CASE?! THIS IS THE WORST DOCTOR OF ALL TIME!! I HATE THE DOCTORS AT MY UNIVERSITY ‘S CLINIC! RAWR RAWR RAWR! RANT RANT RANT!
Yea. I did it. I doctor ranted. What did he know anyway?!
But since then, I’ve had the privilege of having a very close, personal relationship with someone while they went through medical school and now residency. I call him my husband. I’ve learned through him that a lot of the time (in regards to acute illnesses), it IS a virus, and often the very best doctors are the ones who are brave enough NOT to just hand out medications like antibiotics just to appease uninformed, demanding patients. Handing out antibiotics when a patient doesn’t need them is a huge problem today, and it’s causing the formation of super bugs that are resistant to our very best antibiotics and medications. I’m willing to bet there are a handful of patients out there who hate my husband because he DIDN’T prescribe them medicine to fix their problem. Not that he didn’t do his very best to counsel them on how to ease their symptoms, because I assure you, he did, but he didn’t just throw some pills at the problem. There are so many other ways to treat so many symptoms without pills (and so many of those pills are becoming more and more useless today due to their overuse… z-pack, anyone?! Oh sure. You had it once and OMG IT WORKED SO WELL!!! OR, your virus had finished running it’s course and it just happened to coincide with your z-pack. Not all that uncommon, friends.)
What us laypeople don’t really know is that medicine is both a science and an art, and when it comes to run of the mill, day to day, acute illnesses? Your doctor knows EXACTLY what to look for. Why? BECAUSE THEY’VE SEEN IT A MILLION TIMES. Really. They have. Strep throat? What I thought I had in college? Turns out it is EXTREMELY rare in adults. EXTREMELY. If your throat hurts, and you’re an adult? It’s probably a virus. And? Strep has very specific symptoms that you probably only know a portion of, from that one time you googled. I promise you your doctor knows what he/she is looking for, and I PROMISE YOU, your doctor knows more about it than you do. None of us laypeople have spent 4 years studying the human body and all the bacteria and viruses and diseases that can attack it. We haven’t spend HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS of hours learning from doctors with years of experience on how to BEST recognize and BEST treat all those ailments. We think we know, but really, we don’t. We just don’t know what it requires to diagnose and treat illnesses, common or otherwise. (I should note that I’m specifically referring to those of us who have NO academic or professional training in the medical field. Nurses, etc. do not fall into my “laypeople” group here).
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be informed. We should be. I’m all for googling and researching. Seriously. I’m a google addict when it comes to this stuff. But I’m also all for trusting my doctor, and if I don’t understand why he/she is doing something- ASKING THEM. JUST ASK. If you’re doubting what they’re doing, or disagree with what they’re doing, ASK THEM WHY THEY THINK IT’S THAT PARTICULAR DIAGNOSIS OR WHY YOU NEED THAT SPECIFIC TREATMENT, don’t just complain about them after the fact. Most doctors I know (and these days, I know a LOT. Not bragging, that’s just the group we find ourselves amongst, what with C’s job and all) WISH their patients had questions for them. The truth is, your doctor doesn’t know exactly what you want to know from them unless you ask. They can tell you a diagnosis and a treatment plan, and some will, on their own accord, talk you through their thought process, but others assume you just want in and out, so they give you the summary version. I guarantee they would gladly tell you more if you wanted to know. Your healthcare should be a conversation. You have the ability to ask. To suggest something you’ve read about , or to bring up your previous experience. Not only do you have the ability, you have the RESPONSIBILITY to do these things. I’m not saying to walk in and tell your doctor how it is, but I am saying to take an active part in your care. Ask questions. Get answers. And after all that? Trust what they have to say. Trust them until they give you a GOOD reason not to. A good reason, by the way, is NOT simply them failing to prescribe you what you think you should get, or what your BFF got when she had “the exact same thing.” I can admit that there are some crappy doctors out there. I’m the first to admit that. But even those crappy doctors went to medical school and had professional training beyond that. They still know more medicine than you and I could ever hope to.
And if they tell you it’s a virus, and you STILL think they’re wrong? Give it 10 days (average run of the mill virus), and see what happens. If it gets worse or stays at the same strength past that time? Go back to your doctor for a reevaluation. Even the very, very BEST doctors are still human. You hear that? Human. Doctors are human. You know what humans do? They make mistakes sometimes. Just like you do, you mistake making human, you. And sometimes it’s not a mistake at all, but simply running down the proper differential. Have you ever seen an episode of House? How many times does he get it wrong before he gets it right? Sometimes that’s how medicine works. Start with the common things first, treat what it MOST LIKELY is, and if it works, great! If not, move on to the next most likely culprit. C had a professor in medical school who always said, “Common things being common…” In other words, don’t go reaching for the rare and extraordinary until you’ve eliminated the obvious first.
But if after 10 days your symptoms are weakening, or are all but gone? Give your doctor some credit. They know what they’re looking for, guys. They didn’t spend all those years educating themselves to not know what they’re doing. I’m just saying.
In case you think I’m full of it, here’s a couple of my own personal experiences with my live-in doctor. (this in NO WAY is to be used as medical advice. This is simply personal anecdotes from my personal life… If you think you have something similar, ask your doctor. By the way… if you think you have something similar? It was a virus.)
Back when he was a 3rd year medical student (not even a REAL doctor!), I got a wretched sore throat. Wretched, y’all. And I was so achey. And then I got the worst congestion and chest phlegm ever. Oh the pain! And pressure! In my chest! How it hurt! SURELY I HAD SOME TERRIBLE ILLNESS THAT REQUIRED MEDICAL ATTENTION. I cried to C. I explained to him my discomfort and woes and how I couldn’t sleep or breath at night, and how my throat felt like fire. “I need to go to the doctor!,” I cried, “I need some medicine! Some antibiotics! Something!”
“It’s a virus,” C informed me, after examining my throat and listening to my lungs. “We can treat your symptoms, but I promise you antibiotics are not going to fix you. Time and rest will fix you.”
UGH, I thought. 3rd year medical student. What does he know anyway. It’ll get worse. I’ll show him. In the meantime, I played into his whole “treat the symptoms” method. He bought a humidifier for our room. He got me some throat lozenges and some Afrin nasal spray. Above all, he bought the dreaded Neti Pot. He even went so far as to Neti Pot my nose FOR ME (I’m a wuss). It was sick, but omg did I feel so much better afterwards. I coupled that with the Afrin and the humidifier at night, and zomg! I could sleep again.When my throat hurt, I sucked on the lozenges. Temporary relief, but still. Some kind of relief.
But still, I thought, we’re just MASKING THE PROBLEM HERE.
A week later though? I stopped using the neti pot (and had stopped the Afrin after the requisite 3 days warned on the label). Slowly but surely, my symptoms were disappearing. The sore throat was gone. I had a remnant runny nose, but overall? I was better. The entire thing, including my first few days of whining and misery, took between 10-14 days.
Never once did I take a prescription medicine, yet I spent the bulk of that time in relative comfort because of our treatment plan to ease the symptoms.
C was right. I HATED that he was right, but he was. Virus.
And one more quick one, for fun:
One time, my mom told me this particular regimen to keep my skin moist and young looking. She bought me all the products to do it. It involved a body oil, to be applied just after showering while still damp, and a shea butter body cream that smelled yummy. I was all about keeping my skin moist and youthful looking.
At some point that I can’t recall, my legs started getting this AWFUL red rash on them. It itched so badly. I was miserable. I complained, as always to C: OMG, C! MY LEGS! THEY’RE DYING! I NEED TO GO TO THE DOCTOR! I THINK I’M ALLERGIC TO SOMETHING! I NEED SOME KIND OF PRESCRIPTION OINTMENT OR CREAM TO FIX THE PROBLEM! I NEED TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT RIGHT NOW! (I’m SUCH a drama queen about my well being. It’s sad, really).
C, with his usual calm, told me not to make an appointment. He said, “Have you been using anything new or different on your body recently?”
I thought long and hard. “Hmm. Yea I guess. That stuff my mom gave me.”
C replied, “Why don’t you stop using one of those products. If the redness and itching go away, great- you found the problem. It was that product. If not, stop using the SECOND product. If the redness and itching go away then, you’ve found the problem. If you stop using BOTH PRODUCTS, and the redness and itching are still there, THEN you can make a doctor’s appointment.”
ME: UGHHHH C. BUT THAT WILL TAKE TIME. GOING TO THE DOCTOR NOW WILL SOLVE ALL MY PROBLEMS SO QUICKLY. AND THE PRODUCTS SMELL SO GOOD!
C: I guarantee you, Lauren, that your doctor will tell you to do exactly what I’m telling you now.
Me: Fine. I’ll do it. *secretly hoping it doesn’t work*
Because I’m impatient, I didn’t quit the products one at a time. I quit them both, at the same time.
Sure enough, a week later? No redness. No bumps. No itching. No doctor’s appointment for me.
C’s diagnosis? Sensitive skin.
He bought me Cetaphil body lotion, and I haven’t had a problem since.
Silly common things. Get me every time.