Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Giving My Doctors a Break

I have such mixed feelings about the medical community these days. On the one hand, I have genuine appreciation for people who dedicate their lives to caring for and healing the sick. I have friends who are nurses and I know how hard they work and how exhausting it is, physically and emotionally. I'm sure it's the same for doctors. I couldn't do what they do, and we desperately need people to do these things.

On the other hand, I find my dealings with the medical community to be consistently frustrating. Most of it is the "bureaucracy" around them, I suspect. It's probably a lot like public education. The required paperwork and red tape and hoops to jump through make it all an ineffective circus; if teachers could just TEACH, for crying out loud,

I have friends with medical problems that nobody seems to be able to find an answer for. And I've experienced some of this, too. In the five years we lived in Sioux City, I saw seven different physicians trying to find answers to my sleep problems and never did. My husband has some kind of sinus and drainage issue that doctors have been working on for years to no avail. My regular bronchitis I get with any cold -- no doctor can ever give me anything that makes it better.

It drives me insane sometimes that we can spend all the time and money and hassle and never get answers. First, we go through the necessary processes to get a diagnosis -- which may involve lab work (which takes time to get results from) and imaging (which you have to make an appointment for elsewhere for AND takes time to get results from), and we usually have to harass the doctor's office to find out if they've received those results and then make another appointment (which we pay for) to go over the results.

Then the doctor makes his hypothesis about what is actually wrong (because that's all a diagnosis is, really -- an educated guess based on the evidence in front of them) and suggests a possible treatment. Said treatment will involve prescriptions (to be picked up at another place, and often waited for) and behavioral modifications (snort this stuff up your nose three times a day) and will, of course, require time to see if it is working or not. Once we've established that it is NOT working (which seems to be the norm for us), then we have to make another appointment (which we again pay for) to have them come up with another possible treatment and go through the whole process again.

In the end, when nothing is working after several weeks of continued misery, we end up revisiting that hypothesis and judging whether it was incorrect in the first place . . . and coming up with a second hypothesis requiring a whole different set of treatment options . . . yada yada yada. SIGH.

I have to really fight the frustration I feel at my doctors. I like my doctors, usually. I particularly like my current primary doctor. But it is really tempting sometimes to feel like they either have no idea what they're doing, or aren't trying very hard, or perhaps are even stringing us along to keep us coming back to make more money off of our misery. (I don't think that often, but . . . )

However, as I said, I try to fight those frustrating feelings. The truth is, fixing a human body is not like fixing a machine. Machines are simple. If you know how a machine works, you can repair what is not working pretty easily. (And yet, how often have you found mechanic types who get stumped at what's wrong with, say, your car? Or your phone?)

The human body is NOT a simple machine, as much as we'd like to think so. Medical science learns more and more about how our bodies work every year, but there is still SO much they don't understand. But even if they knew everything about our physical workings, we are not just physical beings. We are spiritual beings. And our spiritual lives -- our thoughts, our beliefs, our emotions, our wills -- profoundly affect how our physical bodies function. I don't think medical science will ever be able to get a complete grasp on that, because science, by definition, is limited to what is observable.

So, it really shouldn't surprise me so much that doctors can't figure out why I don't sleep well. And I should stop expecting the answer to be as easy to find as a broken timing belt in a car engine. Even my car stumps my mechanic sometimes -- my body is an even greater mystery.

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