Friday, March 11, 2011

a tale of two doctors

Over a week ago I made an appointment to see my doctor--my head was plugged solid with gunk, throbbing and aching badly. I couldn't catch my breath. I've caught pneumonia in the last couple springs (I have asthma, so anything settling in my chest gets complicated), so I wanted to be proactive. My doctor is a gentle man, the father of 4 sweet daughters and mild-mannered as the day is long. He felt my symptoms hadn't been around long enough to merit antibiotics, so Dr. Waitandsee suggested I take an over-the-counter sinus medication and recommended I keep using my inhalers as I'd been doing. He was reluctant to prescribe anything stronger, certain that I'd heal within a few days. I left his office skeptical but I followed Dr. Waitandsee's instructions to the letter, taking the OTC drugs, puffing on my inhalers, swishing saline through my nasal passages and spending most afternoons lying in bed wishing I had energy to pursue my regular activity.

Yesterday I saw the doctor on call. My head was still plugged, my ears still stuffy, my head still achy, and now? Now I wheezed--like that Penguin squeaky toy in Toy Story II. I kept losing my breath, I'd wake several times a night coughing unproductively. I still lay in bed every afternoon, my life piling up in disarray while I lingered in illness (doesn't that last bit sound so gothically romantic?). Dr. Oncall had a firm handshake and brisk manner (I could easily picture him golfing, he wore a polo shirt and brought in an assistant to type his notes into the computer), checked over my chart, lobbed questions at me and inspected my ears, throat and lungs. Like a general mapping out battle strategy, he assessed me and my health history. Ear infection confirmed, not quite pneumonia, but definitely requiring a one-two punch of better pharmaceutical power. He prescribed a Z-pack of antibiotics, oral steroids and stronger inhaler. "This should get you back on your feet within 24 hours," he assured me, shaking my hand again with exuberant Alpha Male confidence.

Reader, I kind of like Dr. Oncall. I'd love to know what he'd have told me a week ago. My right ear still burns a little and I can't hear 100% yet, I woke up with another headache, but the wheezing has stopped and my lungs feel like they're at 75% capacity--all inside of 24 hours. I think I might even go the whole day without needing a nap. Have you ever switched doctors within the same practice? Is it as diplomatically challenging as switching hair stylists? When I'm down and out, I don't want cautious TLC, I want BLTC (Better Living Through Chemicals) from a doctor willing to treat my symptoms aggressively.

And reader, I promise if you come to visit me (because you're on a book tour, vacationing, en route to a Packer game) I will honor you and your travel companions with a cheese platter and New Glarus beer. Proper Dairyland hospitality guaranteed.

26 comments:

  1. I hate switching doctors. I switched ob/gyn practices in between pregnancies because I hated all the partners in my first practice (although I loved my actual doctor). I still feel guilty, lol! But I'm happy with my new doctor.
    If you're unhappy and the doctor doesn't fit your needs, switch! People do it all.the.time and I bet he won't even notice!

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  2. A lot of doctors won't prescribe antibiotics right away anymore from all the backlash....now they are supposed to do the "wait and see" when if they'd just give it to you in the first place, you wouldn't have to waste another week and another dr. visit to get what you need. That's why I liked my pediatrician (and my SIL didn't) because he would just get to the point, not waste your time, prescribe meds right off the bat and didn't sit around telling you what a good mommy you were! I say find the person who suits your personality--we're not all the same and we're not going to want the same kind of care....that's why there are all kinds of different doctors out there.

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  3. Don't even get me started on doctors.....

    Hello from a fellow Wisconsonite!

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  4. I think I need to come for the beer. And the Heidi festival.

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  5. Go with the doctor who you feel gives you the best medical care. Even if s/he is more prickly.

    I am mostly in agreement with doctors who will wait to give antibiotics. But usually by the time I actually go to the doctor, I've already done the waiting. Sounds like you did the same.

    I hope and pray for a speedy recovery for you. I was sick for more than a month last year with a sinus infection, dreadful allergic reaction to the antibiotic Bactrim, and chronic dizziness. Blah. Wouldn't wish it on anyone.

    Lingering in illness does sound gothically romantic! But those people had servants.

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  6. We switched pediatricians when our son was about a week old. We thought the one we had picked was kind of a bitch. The one on-call that saw him was so much nicer and my husband asked if we could switch to the nice one.

    My docs KNOW that if I get a cold it WILL turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. It always goes straight to my chest because of my asthma. They tend to put me on antibiotics as soon as I show up in the office. It keeps me from getting to a point where I have to go on steroids just to breathe.

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  7. I so dislike my doctor. Hubby sees her too and likes her, but I have never heard her give either of us a diagnosis, she just refers us to specialists.... what's the point when I could go to the specialist in the first place.

    DI

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  8. Yeah, my husband switched eye doctors within the same office. A little awkward but he's much happier

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  9. my 2 cents: switch to the one who fixed you! He may be more aggressive in prescribing, but it is easier to get the Rx and say "no thanks" if you decide you don't need it than to have to waste time being ill and have to BEG for helpful drugs, or convince the doc you're really REALLY sick when you DO need a Rx...

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  10. dang girl!

    i liked the part "Like a general mapping out battle strategy, he assessed me and my health history."

    that's what I do as a mental health nurse practitioner. only I assess develop and mental health stuff.

    it's pretty cool.

    but, i don't know how it works to switch drs. in the private sector (I work for the feds). but, i say go for it. :)

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  11. oh and I hope you feel better. :)

    SPOTTED COW is tasty!

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  12. Well, the doc on call would have probably said the same thing a week ago. And who knows? A week ago you may NOT have needed antibiotics. You can always advocate for yourself if you think you need them, but probably the first doctor would have given them to you this time too.
    Stay, or go, with the one you communicate the best with. I like docs that will talk with me. I don't like ones that are brisk and always-in-a-hurry. But you have to go with the one you like the best.

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  13. I most certainly have switched doctors within one practice, but it's easier than that...insist on a z-pak whenever you have an upper-respiratory thing happening.
    As an asthma patient you should always have an antibiotic in the wings.
    The thing about switching is, when Dr. Oncall is out...

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  14. I see no reason why you can't switch doctors. It's not like a real estate agent which whom you have a buyer-broker agreement.

    I hope you're back at 100% soon.

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  15. Hope you're feeling better soon. I don't see anything wrong with prescribing to an adult that is sick enough to take time out to come to the doctor and just wants to get better and get on with her life.

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  16. Just do it--you don't need to tell him you're doing it.

    Though I must say that as a pharmacy tech I do prefer the approach of Dr. Waitandsee--in most cases. However, if you get pneumonia every spring and require an antibiotic that is a a different story.

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  17. Feel better soon, Green Girl! Loopy was coming down with an ear infection last night and thankfully, our Dr. Handsome Oncall was in the clinic... I told Veto I was very worried we'd be seeing our usual Dr. Err on the Side of Caution, your Dr. Waitandsee's cousin... I've also found that providing a list of all the reasons you just can't afford to be sick right now speeds up the pen to th Rx pad.

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  18. I say switch. We've never had to do it, but my cousin did and got results from the new (younger and open minded) dr. immediately. She said it was awkward, but in the end, she and her daughter benefitted greatly. Old dr. said she was just immature, and didn't realize the signs of autism/aspergers. basically, thank God for the new dr. :)

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  19. I totally want to visit you on my next cross country trip! (Whenever that will be.)

    I'm so glad you saw Dr. Oncall and that he whipped the germs' butts. I see no problem switching doctors. Just make an appointment with him next time. I'm sure it happens to Dr. Waitandsee all the time. ;)

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  20. Modern medicine ROCKS! Get well soon. I wish America weren't so BIG!

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  21. I hope the Z-Pack does the trick for you. It's worked well for me when I've had nasty infections. I think the new trend is WaitAndSee, a bit to my displeasure. I'm like you - by the time I'm in the doc's office, I've tried everything OTC on my own.

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  22. Look at you pulling out all the stops for visitors! ;)

    I don't know what I'd do about the doctor situation. I'd want the take-charge doctor, but it could get awkward. I did switch hair-stylists, and it's awkward every time I visit and she's there. Well, it's awkward for me...for all I know, she doesn't even remember me. I'd probably switch.

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  23. It sounds like in your case, the antibiotics were necessary, but I think Dr. Waitandsee was correct in not prescribing them right off the bat when it looked like you had a virus. Doctors need to have the courage to not prescribe antibiotics for everyone who insists on them. I worked in an emergency room for three years and it made me crazy the way people still think that they need--and demand-- an antibiotic for every sniffle.

    My daughter has asthma and is prone to pneumonia--she's had it twice--so I realize that some people do need antibiotics sometimes, but taking them for viruses creates a dangerous situation for everybody. There are scary antibiotic-resistant bugs out there.

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  24. I have switched doctors within the practice, but it was easy because I switched to someone closer to my home. That was a good excuse because she called and asked if everything was okay. I didn't bother telling her that for the third visit in a row, she forgot my name and commented that my chart showed that I quit smoking last July. It wasn't my chart...I've never ever smoked. Kinda lost faith at that point.

    And I wish I could have an assistant with me to take notes on the computer. "Have the kids do the dishes BEFORE I get home." "Schedule a series of massages." "Pay all my bills with someone else's money."

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  25. I switched from my usual family doc to his nurse practitioner and he didn't blink an eye; nor did her when she subsequently left the practice and I went back to him! He said he's so busy he never cares and I bet your guy won't either.

    You should do what feels right to YOU for your health~glad you're feeling better!

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Spill it, reader.