Friday, August 15, 2008

Us Versus Them

Little known Katy fact: in college I was the president of a very large service organization. You are probably wondering why I'm telling you this. Well, in college, service clubs are filled with a certain type of person. Typically, a large percentage of those people who are in a service organization are in it as a resume booster. They've got their eyes on bigger things: law school, medical school, or the like, and they need some resume padding.

As a result of this college stint, I know a good many people who are now in the process of becoming doctors. Off the top of my head, I can say that I know five girls in some area of pediatrics, an allergist, and a urologist. I've been away, and I know people change, but for the most part I liked these people. I invited them to my parties, ate meals with them, and we all hung out at a variety of functions.

So, at what point do so many doctors become the enemy? When do they stop listening and stop caring? Was I just lucky to know some nice people who became doctors? Are most people who become doctors asses?

In the military they train fighter pilots not to question themselves. The goal is to create people who make split decisions and don't question themselves. It's an effective technique, but a lot of fighter pilots have pretty arrogant personalities. Not all, of course, but many. They learn not to question themselves at all and that kind of ego can be hard to deal with.

Is this what happens with doctors? Or do they just become jaded like so many teachers? Tired of seeing sick children, and frightened parents?

I suspect it is some of all of the above. I also think that the type of person who makes it in college and med school is the perfectionist type. The kind who expect nothing but the best. How then, are they to view a life or a person who achieves less than perfection? Can they see the goodness in a twisted little boy who uses a walker? Can they accept that a person can be perfectly happy working as a buggy boy at Walmart? Somehow, I doubt it.

I am so past perfection. Frankly, I don't believe in it anyway. We all have faults and deal with our issues--some are just more obvious than others. If my child never walks, then I may shed some tears, but I'm surely not throwing myself off a bridge at the possibility. If Charlie's life is limited by his physicality then that is something that we'll just have to deal with.

I am extremely picky about the doctors that we use. I refuse to accept a person who isn't looking at Charlie and his life in a positive light. No matter what his life becomes, he is a person and should never be denied his dignity. I'd like to encourage everyone else to be picky about their doctors too. Let us not forget that they work for us--they are in a service profession. Now days, doctors have the power. I hear and see firsthand stories about doctors who write off patients, who choose methods of treatment that are inhumane, and who ignore the wishes of the patient.

I say that right now, in this country, medicine is a business. I hate that, but that is how it is. Why not use it to our advantage? You don't like a doctor, take your money elsewhere. Let hospital administrators know what you want and that you aren't afraid to look for it. Shop around. Be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and don't give them your money if they're rude.

I think it's time to turn the tables. This is OUR life, OUR body, OUR health. We are ultimately the ones who have to live with the decisions. Read, read, read. Talk to/e-mail/chat with people who have been in a similar situations--the Internet is an amazing resource and in the blink of an eye you can find people all over the planet who are walking in the same shoes you are. Go to the doctor armed with information and vocabulary. Do everything you can to force them to treat you as an equal. Call them out if they're suggesting unnecessary tests or using one-size-fits-all medicine.

Life is far too short to team up with people who feel like adversaries. Shouldn't we feel like our doctors are on our side?