Doctor as Patient

Maria Yang, MD

November 11, 2012

It had been about two years since I last saw a primary care doctor. I was still living in New York City. My initial—and only—appointment with that physician lasted nearly an hour.

The front desk clerk had a round, pale face. Behind her was a textured wall over which ran a thin sheet of quiet water. Lush leaves spilled over the brim of the planter onto the marbled countertop.

“I’ll let the doctor know you’re here,” she nearly whispered.

He was a family practice physician. He was friendly. He smiled at me. He asked me if I lived in the city. When he learned that I worked as a psychiatrist, he commented, “Wow. That’s hard work, Dr. Yang.”

It was professional courtesy to address me by that title, though it didn’t feel right to me. I looked down to mask my discomfort. My feet dangled off of the examination table.

“Do you have a private practice?”

No, I said. I worked primarily with people who were homeless.

“Oh,” he said. “That’s even harder work.”

He asked me about my medical history, then my family history. He went through the major components of a physical exam.

He told me about his work as a primary care [...] continue the story

The Doctor Becomes The Patient: Lessons Learned From Wearing A Gown

Physicians are terrible patients. That fact is one of the few absolutes in medicine. I can remember developing an acute appendicitis as a medical student. I remember the fear, the uncertainty and the discomfort. I can remember wanting someone who was in charge to spend a little time in my room explaining things to me. I can remember the embarrassment I felt when a group of 6 student nurses paraded into my room with a senior staff nurse in order to learn how to put in a foley catheter. As physicians, we are used to being the person in control in the healthcare setting. When the doctor becomes the patient, all perceived control is surrendered. No longer do we wear the “magic white coat” and wave healing hands over patients. Our daily intake and output is recorded. We are shipped all over the hospital for tests in unflattering, often risque attire. Once the transition to patient is made, there is no going back. Nothing ever seems the same.

One of the most well published experts in this area is Columbia University psychiatrist Dr Robert Kitzman. In a 2008 New York Times article, Dr Kitzman provides insight and discusses the implications of [...] continue the story

West Nile Virus

Don Read, M.D. discusses the dangers of West Nile Virus infection, prevention, and aerial spraying for mosquitoes with Dr. Dan McCoy from the Dallas County Medical Society.

In Sickness And In Health…

In sickness and in health… regardless of religion or cultural background, this vow usually makes its way into most wedding ceremonies. But how many of us in our relative youth at that time, actually truly understand what those words mean. “In health” is the easy part of course but what happens when unexpectedly some sort of chronic, serious illness decides to intrude on your perfect union?

That’s exactly what my husband Arun and I faced over fourteen years ago. We were married just five years when my symptoms began. And despite my desire to hide my head in the sand, he’s the one who encouraged me not to ignore the tremor. He was the one I ran to, my eyes full of angry tears, after the first neurologist had the gall to tell me he felt I had young onset Parkinson’s. He sat holding my hand when months later the second well-renowned movement disorder specialist confirmed this life sentence despite my desire to be absolved from the initial diagnosis.

He listened to what my physicians were recommending and took care of the practical side of things when all I heard were words and nothing was registering. And he was the one who [...] continue the story

Stepping Back From the Edge

By Bill Ventres 12/16/2011

  I can walk.

It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It’s not without assistance. But I can walk.

Six weeks ago, I wasn’t able to walk. A few days before that, I’d begun a visit to the city of Antigua, in Guatemala, and was enjoying its colonial ambiance with friends.

Then, after a brief bout of sore throat, I contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that afflicts the peripheral nervous system. My body’s defense system, its antibodies triggered by the offending virus, had decided to attack the nerves in my arms, legs and trunk.

Upon awaking at 7:30 am on November 2, 2011, I could barely get out of bed. On rubbery legs, I made my way to the bedroom door to call for help. Six hours later, I was 99.9 percent paralyzed from the neck down.

In twenty-five years of practice as a family physician, I had never seen a case of Guillain-Barre. And in all honesty, I couldn’t remember any statistics associated with the illness, such as the fact that it affects about two in 100,000 people. I only remembered that it came on quickly and could have devastating effects, which I was experiencing already.

The consulting physician at Antigua’s small private hospital [...] continue the story