Over the past 21 months I have seen a lot of medical professionals: chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapist, my family doctor, medical students, an anesthesiologist, a neurosurgeon, a naturopathic doctor, and pain specialist doctors. Some of my experiences have been good, while others have been not so good, and although I am indeed frustrated with our medical system, I am also still thankful for it. Our health care system isn’t perfect, but I haven’t had to go into debt trying to fix what is wrong with my back. However, at a visit with my family doctor earlier this week, a spotlight was shone on my experiences that exposed glaring differences in care. Actually, I am certain I already knew this, but for some reason the truth just resonated more this week.
I have known my doctor for a long time, even before I was his patient. He knows my entire family, my parents. It isn’t uncommon for him to ask me how everyone is doing. So there is a level of familiarity here that extends beyond the typical doctor/patient relationship. I rarely get sick and, prior to this injury, I was never in frequent need of a doctor. Of course, with this injury I have been a regular visitor to my doctor’s office. And yet, every time my doctor walks into the exam room, he seems to have forgotten my injury or any of the details of treatment or medications that are most definitely written in my patient file that he is holding in his hands. Doctors see a lot of patients. I get that and certainly don’t expect an immediate and perfect recall of my previous visits. But wouldn’t it at least be prudent to take a quick glance at my file before walking in the door? It’s not like I’m coming in once a year; it’s more like once every 2 weeks to monthly.
When I switched chiropractors (same clinic, different practitioner) earlier this year, I walked into that first appointment never having met him and yet he knew a great deal about me. In fact, he had read through my entire “5 years worth” file the night before! I’m sure it was incredibly boring, but that showed me how invested he was in providing me with the best care.
My doctor’s first question to my this week was, “Why are you here today?” <insert facepalm here> The same reason I’m here every time, Pinky…to heal this disc and stop being in pain! Then he asked what I have tried in my quest to heal, more specifically, “How about traction?” <insert big sigh here> Yes, traction made the pain worse. My doctor mentions traction all the time. Every. Single. Time.
This is when the spotlight was turned on. My doctor is stuck on a train going nowhere on a track that has no branch lines. He is a general practitioner, obviously not a spine specialist. He sees my injury and has only a default setting for how to treat it. His default setting is time and traction with various medications thrown in to help. This is likely not his fault. He seems to enjoy focusing his skills on mental health, drug addiction, and obstetrics. My issue may not be outside of his scope as a GP, but he is not likely to be up on all the latest, greatest research on such an issue. Hence the constant traction question.
The difference between my doctor and my chiropractors (past and present) is glaring. While my doctor just repeats his mantra of time and traction, my chiropractors take the time to explore every variable and use every tool in their arsenal. When they run out of tools, they look for more. My chiropractors remind me of Marvel’s Dr. Strange using the Time Stone to look at every possible scenario and outcome, while my doctor is a horse on a merry-go-round performing the exact same movements over and over again. Of course, my chiropractors are not Dr. Strange. They don’t even have a Time Stone, but they are constantly learning and seeking more knowledge and skills in their pursuit to help their patients. I don’t know what requirements doctors have for continuing education, although I am sure they have some. It is unfortunate though that my first point of contact for medical care can be uninformed or out of date in many areas, which then impacts the quality of care I receive, while my access to more specialized physicians is restricted and limited. (For the record, my primary physiotherapist never used traction, which makes me think that traction probably isn’t the only way to fix a back!)
The medical system seems to be content to carry on like a hamster in a wheel. As my appointment wrapped up, my doctor said, “Come back in a month.” <insert angry face here> Sure thing! So you can get paid for my visit while doing absolutely nothing for me but wasting my time. I can envision my next appointment already. It will be extremely brief, because my doctor never seems to spend more than five minutes with me. He will ask why I am there. He will ask about traction again. Now that the neurosurgeon has again said no to surgery, my doctor will tell me that I didn’t want it anyway. Come back again soon!
There isn’t much left for me to try as far treatments. There’s also really not much that chiropractic care can do now to fix my problem, but my chiropractor is still actively involved in helping me reclaim my life and health. And yet, my chiropractor isn’t out to get rich off of my pain by telling me to come in frequently (unlike old school chiropractors who do say you need to come in 2x a week for X number of weeks in order to get results.) As a patient, I feel genuinely cared for by my chiropractors, my physiotherapist, and massage therapist. I cannot say the same about most of the medical doctors I have seen since the injury.
When my injury was still fresh and new, my doctor said it would take time to heal and so I was hopeful and patient. As I’m edging towards 22 months since the injury, both my hope and patience are wearing thin. Tissue paper thin. I am well past the year time frame given to me by my doctor. Relief from the pain and symptoms feels forever out of my reach. I feel like the medical system has failed me, because my situation isn’t “bad enough”. I have no more hope in the medical system fixing me or helping me, although I have little choice but to continue in the hamster wheel. The only bit of hope I have left is in the paramedical practitioners. While the paramedicals can’t magically fix my disc and symptoms, at least they are invested in helping me, keeping me active and healthy, and getting me back to doing the things I enjoy doing.
Honestly, I have known all this for a long time and have probably touched on some of these points in previous posts and rants. This week has just been heavy and depressing, and I want to both implode and explode. Crawling into a cave for a very long hibernation sounds like a good idea. I can’t stay positive and upbeat all the time, and doing so has been a struggle for the past couple of weeks. Maybe that’s why I feel such clarity in assessing the difference between my doctor and my chiropractor this week. The clarity doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make me less frustrated with the medical system. It doesn’t change the pain in my legs or the status of my disc. But I think what the clarity does do is to gently remind me that I just have to do me. The medical system says that I can’t lift weights. I’m going to lift weights, even if that may look differently. The medical system says no surgery but have some drugs. I’m going to say no to drugs, as much as possible, and live life as best I can. I will keep trying, keep rising up…a thousand times, if necessary. Rising up is my theme for this year, and I’m embracing it. Wouldn’t it be nice though if I didn’t have to keep getting knocked down first?!