[As I wrote this last week, I was crying. I was raging angry. I was a million emotions at the time, none of them helpful. But that’s where I was. I’ve since toned it down a bit because retrospect brings me calm. And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog].
Does everyone know Frank Sinatra’s version of “That’s Life!” I know it well because I grew up in a Sinatra-loving family – one that spent Sunday evenings singing and dancing around the living room to great music. This was a song we’d all join in on, as my sister Chrissy sang lead.
Walking away from the hospital, the lyrics are blaring in my head. “I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race! That’s life!”
That’s life. How many times do we have to be up and down and over and out with doctors? Or any medical professional for that matter? How many times must patients pick themselves up from the floor? What happened to me just now hasn’t happened in more than a decade. I’m SO angry. But I’m also hurt. That’s why I’m crying. I have to calm down though, because people are staring at me. That’s the last thing I want. And now I have to go to school, to rehearsal. I’m meeting my costume team, three students who are so much fun to work with. They’re relying on me, so I can’t miss any rehearsals between now and March 14. Ugh. Stop crying, Becky. Just stop.
I arrived at the orthopedic office to get the second of three gel injections. There was a long wait, the nurse kept announcing that they were “just waiting for a free exam room.” Whatever. I didn’t care. It’s not like I’d have left before the shot. Maybe I should have.
Finally! I got a room but they were in a massive rush. “Change quickly and the doctor will be right in.” Change quickly? That should have been my first clue.
The nurse set the sonogram machine next to the exam bed as the doc walked in. “How are you?” He asked me that as he was talking to the nurse, only half listening to me say how sore my knee had been over the past 48 hours. He didn’t even sit down, he just started the procedure very quickly.
As he steadied my kneecap, he asked the nurse for the syringe. “Wait,” I said, “you’re going to use the freezing spray, right?” He answered, “of course! I’m not a brute. Not all the time anyway.” And laughed.
That was when he should have spent at least a few more seconds finding the correct spot on the sonogram. Instead he announced, “Little stick,” and injected the gel into my knee. Not expecting it to happen as fast as it did, I jumped. The freezing spray had barely touched my skin before he started the shot. And that was when things really went off the rails.
He scolded me – loudly and in an irritated voice – saying, “you’re making this a hundred times harder for yourself by flinching. Relax your leg.” For the record, I would have relaxed my leg if I’d had more than two seconds to be ready for the injection. Just saying.
The only thing I could come up with in that moment was the sentence, “You don’t know what this feels like.” And his answer? “Yes I do. I’ve given thousands of these shots.” Wait…. what?!? Yes, you read that right.
“Yes I do. I’ve given thousands of these shots.” My brain was on overload but I managed to cry out, “You don’t have RSD.” He didn’t have a smartass answer for that. But then I said, “Rob didn’t rush the last time. He prepared me better for it.” And the doc, looking like, “Whatever,” responded – (brace yourselves) – “I’m sorry for your troubles.” And then LEFT. He just walked out. ?!?!?!?!?!?!
WHAT the?!?! My troubles currently consist of pain that’s way worse since you jabbed my knee with a giant syringe and a jackass orthopedic doctor who just committed one of the worst mediquette crimes.
[Mediquette: medical etiquette. I wish I came up with it, but alas I did not].
By saying he knew how it felt, he invalidated everything about my experience. MY experience, not his. I don’t care if he’s given thousands of shots. I don’t care if he’s received thousands of shots. That’s irrelevant! No one has the right to tell another person “I know exactly how you feel.” Guess what? No, you don’t.
Twenty people with migraines can be sitting in the same room, all with similar symptoms. But one person’s experience is NOT like another’s. And to believe it is, is misguided.
I share a rare disease with millions of people. I’m even an admin for a support group. But I would never tell ANY of those people that I know exactly what they’re feeling. How could I?!? One person’s pain scale number 10 is another person’s number 4. My nagging burn pain might be another patient’s dull ache. And on and on.
But when doctors say things like that to a clearly upset patient? Wow. Delusional doesn’t quite cover it. Giving injections isn’t receiving injections. As a nurse, we learned to be empathetic without inserting ourselves into the narrative. Maybe other medical professionals don’t take classes that include those vital teachings. And, admittedly, I haven’t been to nursing school in a looooooooong time. I hope most newer nurses are still learning that. Some of them clearly aren’t. The nurse with me just said, “hey, at least it’s over! And it will help you.” Perhaps she has a crystal ball.
For now, I’m limping into a subway car. I’d planned to get a cab, but habit brought me to the stop I’ve used for fifteen years. I’m clearly on autopilot at the moment. I realized as I sat down. My mom won’t be happy about this. 🤦🏻♀️ 😬
For now, I have to calm down. I’m looking at the posters in the car. Counting stops. Trying to steady my breathing. Trying to stop the tears. This crying is different. I’ve angry cried. I’ve sad cried. I’ve commercial “that’s so nice!” cried. This is hurt. It’s like being wounded by someone who knows exactly what will do the most damage. The first time I met this doctor, I was blown away by his humor and understanding of my situation. Even my mom was surprised. But today, he blew it. His backed up schedule was not my problem. His need to rush became my problem, and that’s just wrong.
Before I left the office, the receptionist informed me that the doctor won’t be in on the day that my last injection is scheduled. I immediately said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s been booked for weeks.” (Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want him giving the shot but I thought they were rescheduling me, AGAIN.) But she said, “Maybe Rob can do it. Would you be ok with that?” Without hesitation I said, “100% ok.” And then I left. They’ll be lucky if I go back at all.
I’m still limping. Part of me is nervous that something’s gone awry. But I know if I call them, he’ll blame me for flinching. So I say nothing. I limp around the apartment and the school, elevating my leg whenever possible. I cannot wait for this to be over.
And next week, it will be.
Be kind to one another. ❤️
Peace and painlessness,
(Note: my limping subsided by Saturday. The pain remains.).
“That’s Life” copyright 1963 Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon