When doctors don’t care

Original content posted on Quora here

Have you ever walked out of a doctor’s office because the doctor was being disrespectful to you?

About 11 years ago I was on holiday in Lake Shasta, CA on a houseboat. I had jumped off the boat into the water, and as I surfaced, a shock wave went all through my body and for a moment I was totally paralyzed. It was absolutely terrifying. My neck was totally immobile, in immense pain, and this was the first day of a five day trip.

I spent the whole five days completely miserable and petrified that I was doing permanent damage to myself by not going to a doctor right away. Keeping the party going was more important to my travel group, so party they did.

Upon returning home a sleep-deprived and emotional wreck, I went to my doctor’s office the following morning. Admittedly I was not at my best, and as I recounted what had happened and the part where I was afraid I was permanently broken, I lost it. Tears streamed down my face as I said out loud for the first time, my biggest fear at that moment: that I would end up paralyzed.

And he just kind of stared at me.

This doctor had zero bedside manner and I didn’t really like him, but he wasn’t my regular doctor anyway and I just needed to get fixed up, so we didn’t have to be BFFs. I carried on with my story, mentioning that I would be starting training to become a yoga teacher in just 3 short weeks so I needed to heal this ASAP.

His only response was that I definitely needed to quit doing yoga right away, and that starting teacher training would be extremely unwise.

Frankly, I thought that answer was extremely unwise, and I told him as much on my way out the door. I let him know I’d been picking up on his salty vibe since the moment I walked in, and it was clear he was not taking me seriously so I’d go ahead and seek a remedy elsewhere.

I did start teacher training later that month, where I would soon be required to study anatomy. It was during my (rudimentary, by the way) anatomy studies that I would stumble upon the knowledge that I have no cervical curve. Unlike most people’s, my neck is not curved.

I would then consult with a chiropractor and through x-rays learn that indeed my vertebrae are shaped correctly, but they do not stack correctly. This was the likely cause of my injury, I believe I might have tweaked a nerve or something.

I’m so incredibly glad that I didn’t listen to that doctor! He didn’t care one bit about helping me. He didn’t respect my physical pain or my emotional pain, and he wasn’t even curious enough to LOOK at my neck. If you’ve had any anatomy training at all, all you have to do is look at it to see the issue, but he couldn’t even be bothered to take a gander in my direction. He was too busy looking straight through me.

Sitting in his office that day, I felt small and weak. I felt the eye roll in every response he gave me, his tone thick with condescension. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Through teacher training in the months to come, I would learn how to care for my neck and keep it strong. This education would empower me in so many ways, not the least of which is the compassion that comes with understanding that medicine is indeed just a practice. No one is perfect, and there is no roundly universal answer for a healthy body.

But I seriously hope that doctor found a new line of work.

The practice of medicine has a lot of moving parts, sure, but there’s no room for disrespect in any of those parts.

*****

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