September 27, 2008

To Find Prince Charming You Must Kiss a Frog, or Two, or Twenty

My track record with doctors has been all but deplorable these past years. Here is an outtake from the X-Files.

My first jaunt into the unknown came several years ago when I needed to go to an urologist. I pick out a doctor on my insurance list that sounded like he has a nice name and his office was close to my house. The first warning should have been that his office was in an outlet mall and that he drove an old banged-up black Buick which he parks in the parking space directly next to his front door. I believe one of his windows was broken out.

I end up having my doctor’s appointment not in a room but at the receptionist’s desk because he only has two rooms and both are occupied. Apparently, these two rooms are separated only by an array of carefully stacked filing cabinets, with no ceiling in site. How do you like that for patient confidentiality!

On another visit, I noticed that he had all of his equipment, patient files and machines in the patient rooms. Yellow spots of God knows what and dirt were usually on them. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he had newspaper articles written about how great he was and they were framed poignantly on the walls in his office. At another visit, a patient tells me, “And why do you come here if you don’t have to?” Apparently, the doctor is the Mecca for patients with no or low-cost insurance plans, which luckily, I’m not part of. She said, “If I were you, I would run, not walk out of this office.” After that visit, I left for good. And it didn’t finish there. He starts leaving messages at my house at 8:00 P.M. at night telling me I have to come back for more appointments. “We’re not finished yet!”
I think I met the ultra-ego of Dr. Frankenstein in that man.

Second incident, The Dentist X-File: I pick a dentist out of my provider list. I start to have doubts when I go to my appointment and it is in the back of a low-cost clinic and he has no receptionist, no nurse, nothing. As I walk in, he has one dentist chair which is consequently right in the middle of his one-room office, with a light streaming down above onto the middle of the chair. It looked very close to one of those sci-fi movies where the aliens strap abductees in a chair with mental equipment all over and then stand around and experiment on them. He tries to sell me a toothbrush for $5.00 that he picked up from Walgreens for a dollar (I saw the tag) and keeps asking me in broken English, “Are you sure none of your teeth hurt?”

Then I go to a new dentist, who again I pick out from the insurance list. After that visit, my tooth that she fixed starts to hurt. I call the office. She apparently sold her office to a new dentist who didn’t have the decency to tell me this important fact until I’m sitting in his dentist chair about to get serviced and that my chart has been lost, so we’ll have to start all over. By the end of the visit, he wants to refill all of the cavities and dental work I had done five months ago by the other dentist. I file a complaint against the second dentist. The insurance company calls me and says they have to drop the complaint because the second dentist has disappeared.

Yesterday, I went to see another medical specialist for the first time, again picking his name out because it sounded professional. As I park in the parking lot, I see a somewhat dilapidated old building. I walk by a window and notice what appears to be duck tape holding a crack together on a window. I go in the office and notice a patch of dirt on the wall, the kind which seems prevalent in the bathrooms of fast food Chinese restaurants. My instincts tell me it’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come. I say to myself, “Oh God.”

I’m in the waiting room. Out from the door pops this 80 year-old man in a lab coat asking for Mrs. Collier. I’m the only one there so I assume it’s me. I follow behind him as he shuffles through a security door like you would find in the ER and into a room which again, has a little dirt on the wall and some paper clips loose on the floor. He didn’t introduce himself and I’m thinking, “Is this some elderly 80 year-old nurse or is he the doctor?”
He immediately says in a perturbed voice, “So what’s wrong with you?”

It just got worse from there. I think he had a previous stroke or an onset of dementia because he kept asking me the same questions, then looking at an old coffee stained doctors manual he kept in his pocket and then only looked up when it came to thinking about what he had to say, never at me.

I told him I get migraines before my period. And here it is. At the end of the visit, when he is telling the receptionist what to do for my follow-up he says, “Here is a prescription for your migraines. This should help you when you get your surprise.” Surprise? I never thought I would here an 80 year-old male doctor refer to a period as "the surprise"???

I do have several good doctors in my repertoire now. Some I’m still working on. So my advice: don’t pick a dentist or other type of doctor from your insurance website just because the name sounds good or you’ll end up with a lot of frogs. So if the doctor's name is something like Dr. Arnold Finklestink, based on his name, he just might be your prince charming of a doctor in disguise.

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