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About illness, Uncategorized

The myth of Doctor Fix-It

I’ve been feeling worse the past few days, with ongoing nausea and exhaustion. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m supposed to be trying to put on weight, so it’s not ideal when I can’t eat.

The inevitable question people ask, when I say I’m not feeling well, is: “Have you been to the doctor?” This kind of makes me laugh, and want to bury my face in my hands at the same time.

Because, yes. Of course I have. The staff know me by first name, the nurses know where my veins are, and the doctor calls for me with a little sigh.

Don’t think for a second I don’t appreciate him. I do. He has been incredibly supportive, kind, and patient. My visits with him often last 45 minutes, as opposed to the usual in-and-out, which in itself is a miracle.

But he is honest with me that he has run out of ideas. He doesn’t know what to do next. He’s sent me to specialists, he’s given me what feels like every medication under the sun, we’ve researched medical journals together… and he’s at a loss. It’s got to the point where it’s embarrassing for both of us. He asks me how I’ve been, I reiterate my inexhaustible symptoms and list the ones that are currently worse, and he looks sadly at me. We sit in awkward silence. He asks about my specialist, and I say I’m trying to see him, but as he costs $150 per half hour session, this is not an easy feat.

We went through this rigmarole yesterday, and I left with a prescription for panadol and instructions for the Medlab to take some more blood tests.

In another post, I will also talk about what I went through with the hospital, which many of you know about. I would also like to write about the treatment of myself and several of my friends by mental health services. So consider this Part One of a several part discussion on the New Zealand public health system.

What I want to say is this: General Practitioners may study for a long time, but they’re not gods. Most of the time – not some of the time, not a small part of the time, MOST of the time – they don’t know what’s wrong with you. At best, they can make an educated guess. And you can cross your fingers that what they prescribe you makes you better and not worse.

(Sorry if that sounded a bit bitter. At this point, I am. Especially because the medication I was originally given was the wrong thing, and it did make me worse. This has been difficult to deal with.)

We don’t have much choice, we have to trust these people. But we know our own bodies. And we don’t have to just do what they tell us. We don’t have to take pills without asking what the side effects are. We don’t have to give them all the power.

Yesterday, my doctor said that, despite the fact I haven’t been able to eat for days, it’s unlikely my infections have come back. It’s more likely that my body is responding to stress by shutting itself down, and acting like it is fighting even when there’s nothing to fight. It’s hard to come away from that feeling positive. My body is attacking me every time I try to resume living my normal life.

I’ve had to stop hoping that doctors will give me answers they clearly don’t have. They’ve tried – but the human body is still a mystery. The medical system has made some amazing advances, and I’m extremely grateful for the support I have had, particularly from my GP and my specialist. And I will continue to do my own research and do everything I think my body needs to get well,

But there is no such thing as Doctor Fix-It.

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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