Doctor, what do you see?

The cortisone injection of two weeks prior had relieved most of the chronic knee pain and leg cramping leaving me with a sharp focalized pain in my knee when I put any weight on my leg, i.e. walking. This disability had already impacted the recent holidays and other plans, most recently ruining a short vacation in San Diego. I returned to the orthopedic surgeon to discuss “rooster shots”.

The physician I saw this day was taking the place of the previous doctor for unexplained reasons, an annoying but no uncommon practice of the medical field. (I don’t mind seeing “substitutes”, but I believe patients should be informed ahead of time). He appeared kind and caring but not completely grasping of my predicament as I shared my concern for an upcoming cruise. After a moment of contemplation, he agreed that the rooster injection with a 70% success rate “might” help. He also suggested another cortisone injection prior to the trip to “see if that helps.” Suppressing my inclination to grab him by the lapels and shout in his face, I asserted that “might” is not good enough. When I inquired about surgery, he replied that I would have to decide when it was time. Looking back, I should have declared that “now is the time!”  Discouraged, I agreed to begin the process for the injection which, of course, requires insurance pre-approval, PCP’s surgical release, and numerous phone calls which have yet to produce any firm plans.

What did this physician see as I made my case? Did he visualize me lounging on a deck side chaise lounge sipping Mai Tai’s rather than trekking the cobblestones and steps of St. Petersburg? Did the reference of trips to Chicago elicit images of dinner in a beautiful restaurant after running up and down the three flights of steps to my daughter’s condo, chasing the bus, clamoring t

“Doctor, what do you see?” An overweight elderly woman who is satisfied to sit in her recliner? Or a woman who, after a lifetime of careful choices, is finally free to enjoy life but is hampered by an aging body? Does he appreciate that my family and friends must also adapt their plans because of my limitations?

By chance I recently met an author who wrote a book about her struggle to get an accurate diagnosis for seizures as a young woman. Having worked in medicine for many years, I defended the doctors who are encouraged by our health system to attach the simplest diagnosis. The author concurred.

I assume that a great portion of a doctor’s day is spent treating common illnesses. A patient who requires even a half hour to explore symptoms ties up a system which allows only 10 minutes at most. Doctors who would like to tackle challenging diagnoses must be frustrated. The cases I enjoyed treating as a medical speech-language pathologist were the ones that challenged me, that required researching and collaborating. Shows like “Diagnosis” reveal that not all ailments can be addressed with an antibiotic or a referral to a psychiatrist.

Feeling a little anxious about an excursion on which a small fortune rests, I made an appointment with the surgeon who replaced my hip two years ago. As I wait for the initial exam more than two weeks out, I keep moving. My mother suffered back pain for years before her death but rarely declined an invitation: “I can sit home or go out; either way I am in pain.” Tough lady.




Author: Mary Cornelius

I am an aging woman who writes three blogs.

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