Manic Medicos, Nitwit Nurses, and Fernando

Oh, and a van driver who looked kind of like Boromir from LOTR.  But wasn’t nearly as charming.

I finally went to my much-anticipated doctor visit in State College.  Maybe I was going to get a hint about what ails me, or at least more tests.

I got neither.

You know, for a pagan I really do not pay attention to ‘signs’.  Maybe I should.  The day didn’t exactly start out on a good note.  Let’s start with the 40 mile ride to State College…

On the ride over, the van driver regaled me with a somewhat graphic description of falconry.  He really enjoys it.  I wanted to throw up.  This chick’s a vegetarian not just for her health.  I won’t even describe it because it is pretty disgusting, except to say, “Poor bunnies!  Poor squirrels!”

Now look, if he really were Boromir and we really were in some mythical land where, for some bizarre reason, the only modern convenience was a medical transport van AND we had no other way to eat…ok I still wouldn’t do what he does but I might be able to understand why he would do it.  Kind of.

Actually, I don’t think there is any justification for falconry, and his only explanation was that all the falcons in the US would die if it were not for people like him to capture birds, hold them as prisoners, and make them hunt.  Because, you know, falcons wouldn’t hunt on their own? They just sit in trees thinking in their little birdy heads, “Gosh, if only a human would come along and capture me and take me to where all the prey are, because I can’t work out how to find something to eat!” ??

So…….then the conversation turned, for some reason, to cat-calling.  Maybe thinking of birds made him think of cats (who, by the way, he doesn’t believe have the ability to think, but that “God just programmed them to survive” – clearly this man does not have pets besides falcons). And then for some reason, “cats” made him think of cat-calling, because he said, inexplicably:

“You know what I don’t understand about this whole ‘talk to women’ thing?”

(“Why they won’t talk to you?” I am thinking)

“They wear these sexy clothes and then get mad when a guy looks at them!”

I wanted to jump out of the van.  Or push him out.

Instead, I said something like, “It’s the fact that we can’t walk down the street without men demanding we respond to them speaking to us, is all.  We are not on this earth to be at y’all’s beck and call.”

Turns out, as I found out on the ride home, he is a Christian and, indeed, does believe that women were put here to be at men’s beck and call.  But to this remark of mine, he said nothing.

Fortunately, we had arrived.  At a destination in State College.  Unfortunately, it was not MY destination.

The van company gave him the wrong address.

I had written down the right one, though, but it was all the way back about 10 miles the way we had just come.  I assured him I would not get him in trouble, as it was his first day, or so he said.  Wasn’t his fault anyway.

So I was late for my appointment.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the doctor’s waiting room – quiet, well-lit, small but cozy, with a really nice receptionist.  The nurse who called me back was nice, too, until….

(You expected conflict, didn’t you? Admit it!)

…we got to the question about allergies.

Nurse Nitwit (not her real name!): Allergies?

Me: Yes, blah blah blah sulfa drugs blah blah…

Nitwit: Wait! You can’t be allergic to sulfa, you take ___________ (a sulfate drug).

Me: Sulfate and sulfonamides are not the same.  I am allergic to sulfonamides.

Nitwit: But they both contain sulfur!

Me: Yes, but….sulfur is everywhere, even in our bodies.  “Sulfa” allergy just refers to sulfonamides, not sulfates or sulfites.

Nitwit: (blank stare)

Me: Look, if you give me a sulfonamide antibiotic or diuretic, I am going to break out in hives.  I took ___________(sulfate drug) today, and have been taking it for 2 years.  Do you see any hives?

Nitwit: I don’t believe that.  I think you should see an allergist.

Me: Please put this in my chart and we’ll let the doctor figure it out, ok?  I mean, you wouldn’t want to be responsible for an anaphylactic incident if she prescribes something I am allergic to, would you?

Nitiwit: (sighing) No…Ok.

The rest of the intake was uneventful, but I was fuming.  Why should a patient have to argue with a nurse over drug allergies?  What about other patients this nurse may have put in danger because she is an idiot?  No, nurses should not be completely versed in pharmacology but they should at least be aware of common drug allergies and cross-sensitivity.  Because those things can result in death.

She left, and then the doctor came in.  Or, I should say, “jogged in” because that is precisely how she entered the room.  And would not shake my extended hand.  I don’t know why, but I always take the ‘not shake your hand’ thing as a bad indication.  And I am always right, the interaction will go downhill from the get-go.  As it did this time, too.

“Hi, how are you? Why did you come to see me today? Let’s pull up your medical records,” she said all this as one huge run-on sentence, not giving me any time to reply.

In my profession, we call this “pressured speech”.  It is one of the clear symptoms of:

Stimulant abuse, bipolar disorder, or too much coffee (yes I know coffee is a stimulant, but, unlike the geniuses who wrote the DSM-V, I differentiate between too much coffee and, oh say, cocaine abuse).

So now I am caught off-guard.

Side note for all you cognitive psychology fans: There is something called “schema theory”, which is the idea that we all have ‘scripts’ for situations like “going to the doctor’s office”.  If we are asked to imagine that, most of us will usually say, “go to an office, sit and wait, go to exam room, get bp and temp taken…” and so on. 

Nowhere in my “going to the doctor” schema does it include rapid, pressured speech.  So already I am a bit thrown because this interaction doesn’t fit.  It fits the “working-as-a-therapist-in-a-psych- hospital-and-interviewing-a-bipolar-patient-who-is-having-a-manic-episode” schema.


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