Bad Tech

Shit Doctors Say

As a patient, I’ve never got to spend more than about 5 minutes straight with a doctor. Unless I was unconscious and he was cutting something out of my body like my appendix or the soft disc in my lumbar spine. Then maybe I could afford the full hour.

I know they are a bit busy. I know insurance companies pay them by the patient — the only way they can make more money is to see more patients. I know they spend way too much time on data entry so they can get paid, rather than actually talking to me.

But all that just compresses their speeches into sound bytes. Sure, it might make them feel better. Like they are dropping little pearls of wisdom in digestible tidbits for the ignorant to absorb. But it’s just bullshit.

Healthcare worker holding a needle and syringe.  They say, this won't hurt a bit -- meaning it won't hurt them at all.
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Here is one of the worst I heard.

“Losing 1 pound is like losing 3 pounds for your knees.”

“Knee Doc”

I get your fucked up theory. The leverage of the weight above puts more pressure on the joints below. I’m sure there is a formula to figure out exactly how many pounds per square inch are pressing down on our feet, ankles, and knees.

But that’s a bullshit way to put it. That leverage is always there, and has been since birth. Losing 1 pound is like losing 1 pound for your knees — the formula doesn’t change. But that doctor shit is meant to sound profound and make us go running to Oprah for the latest in weight loss “magic.”

Every visit to the people in the white jackets, I’m told to lose weight. Like I haven’t done that by the barrel before, and I don’t know how or how much effort it takes to “lose” a small adult.

The worst diet advice:

“Don’t eat white foods.”

“Diet Doc”

At first I thought he was talking about Whole Foods and their fancy brie or kale. But he literally meant food colored white: white bread, potatoes, biscuits… $200k in medical school debt for that?

I’m pretty sure I could make a terrible diet out of brown and green foods. Steak, bacon, chocolate ice cream and St. Patty’s Day beer.

“I don’t understand doc. Everything I eat has pigment, but I’m still gaining weight…”

I know these platitudes are supposed to make us feel better. But I’m old enough to know better. I’ve seen how fucked up everyone can be — especially medical professionals.

The most stressful sentence I’ve head from a doctor:

“Don’t worry, we will take care of you.”

“Every doc ever”

No. I’ve seen enough of the American health care system. It’s like Russians with nuclear missiles: Trust but Verify.

I’m going to worry plenty to make sure that you are doing your job right. I’m not going to kick back and let you cut into the wrong shoulder or watch you put a cast on my son’s “good leg.”

You do your job, and let me do my job — worrying that you are going to fuck up and I’ll have to suffer the consequences.

Shit doctors should say

The most confidence I ever had in a doctor was one who told me the truth.

The boy had broken his leg “badly.” They were talking about taking it off. I met the orthopedic surgeon on call on St. Patrick’s Day (think young kid) who said he could save the leg without help from the vascular surgeon.

I was in shock and already suspicious. It was the middle of the night on a weekend. We were standing in a pre-op space and this “kid doc” was pulling through what felt like 100 x-rays putting them on the light boards.

There was a skull series. The theory being anything that hit the boy so hard as to shatter his tibia and fibula had to impact other vital places.

“Does that look like a skull fracture to you?” I asked.

“I don’t know nothing about heads,” kid doc said.

Respect. This is the kind of shit I want doctors to say. He was there to put those leg bones back together and not let my kid bleed to death. I didn’t want him “guessing” about shit he hadn’t studied in years. We didn’t need two of us pretending to know something we didn’t know.

It took 9 other surgeries with several sets of “external rods” (after a couple of infections) and several stays in several different hospitals, but he did save the boy’s leg and let it get strong enough that eventually the boy grew up to swim at the University of Hawaii. Pretty fucking good surgeon in my book.

With that little life lesson in my hump, here’s my short list of what I want to hear doctors say:

  • Hell, I don’t know
  • You better get another opinion
  • I could be wrong…
  • How can I help you?

If I hear the truth about what you don’t know, maybe I’ll believe you when you say white food is bad for me or my knees would stop swelling and get smaller if I did too.

Until then, doc, let’s hold off on the bullshit platitudes that only appease your need to feel smart. Show me a little humility, ignorance and service, and I’ll start to believe some of the shit doctors say.

6 replies »

  1. Me: I want to see a cardiologist for my heart arrhythmia.
    GP: No, just drink more water.

    I found a different doc, got referred to a good cardiologist, had heart surgery, and now I’m much better. And I haven’t been drinking more water.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I have a lot less confidence in most doctors. My buddy had a weird thing on his back that turned out to be skin cancer and the doctor in Scottsdale told him basically his chances were slim to none. So he went to an expert in L.A. who was like “I can treat this.” Ten years later he’s fine.

    Liked by 3 people

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