Content edited for clarity. Turns out even doctors can make mistakes, especially when it comes down to how they handle their patients. But maybe bluntness is for the best? Some professionals are not very professional. Even if it turns out okay in the end, they can be very surprising. But some of them did not make it okay in the end.
“You Are Cursed”
“I am a 23-year-old with a history of minor back issues (though minor back issues are a major hindrance). Last year I slipped a disc in my back, herniated two others, went to an Orthopedic Surgeon for a consult after the MRI. After his reading of the MRI, his assistant sent me a message about the results: ‘The results show a slipped disc, two herniated discs, and also demonstrated arthritis’
Keep in mind Arthritis explained a whole lot. During the follow-up after this, he offered me solutions, basically physical therapy or a shot in the back (neither of which have helped). He briefly explained the injury to me, possible timeline, etc. He was about to exit the room and I asked him about the arthritis, ‘I know you can’t cure or fix arthritis, but I know there may be ways to manage it. Any suggestions?’
He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘Someone in your family has bad genes. Nothing you can do about it. Don’t worry about it there is no way to manage it. You are cursed.’
Now, as I prefaced that, I know there are ways to manage Arthritis – I wasn’t not looking for a cure. And this dude looked at me and said I was cursed and to do nothing. Who the heck says that? Needless to say, I have never gone back to that doctor and I take every opportunity to stray people away from going to him because you will just be treated like a slab of meat and nothing more.
Telling someone that they can’t manage a manageable disease, and to just ignore it, is legit malpractice. Even if it’s simple things like the CDC recommends such as managing your weight, being active, picking up low-impact activities such as swimming or biking. There are diets you can go on to reduce inflammation and increase joint health to curb the symptoms of arthritis. There are ways to manage it. He didn’t offer any. Thankfully, the second Ortho that I went to pointed me towards all of these options. Also, the bad doctor didn’t point out any issues, he read an MRI. He didn’t even explain the differences between a slipped disc and a herniated one, or anything like that.
Overly sensitive. Sure if you accept substandard treatment routinely from doctors you’re paying hundreds/thousands to be treated by and don’t actually care how much they help, then yeah, guess I was being ‘overly sensitive.'”
What Do They Say About Assuming?
“I have a lacerated and a herniated disc in my lower back. I manage pretty well with it when I take care of myself and it doesn’t stop me from doing much, but three times in my life I’ve messed it up and been basically totally debilitated. The first two times after a battery of tests and imagery I was presented with my options, which were basically either surgery or a regimen of steroid epidurals, physical therapy, and pain management. The latter approach worked the first two times and in a span of a few months, I was able to more or less slowly resume normal activities.
The third time I found a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon/specialist in a new location to which I’d moved. I couldn’t walk, I was in so much pain, and getting to his office was an ordeal. I was in my early 30s and was in reasonably good shape, otherwise healthy, but I could hardly get out of bed or even stand up. After going through the normal grueling process of booking a specialist appointment in the US, I got five whole minutes in a room with him.
In that time, as he was standing there with his arms crossed basically checking his watch every few moments, I gave him the abbreviated history and even brought along some of my previous MRIs. I told him I thought I had aggravated it again, that I’d like some new images, and that if possible I’d like to avoid surgery in lieu of other methods but in the meantime, I needed something to manage the pain (such as stronger NSAIDs, or eventually epidurals again) so I can at least get back to work in some capacity. I was thinking he would order some MRIs, give me something minor to take the edge off, and go from there.
All he must have seen is ‘young guy faking back injury wants narcotics’ because this garbage doctor just asked, ‘So why are you here?’
I replied, ‘I just told you.’
‘You came in saying your back hurts, and you don’t want surgery. I’m a surgeon. What else do you want from me?’ Verbatim, this is what he said.
For the record, I work in a very sensitive field and narcotics would take me off the job. I didn’t even want them. This piece of trash just sized me up and wrote me off. I complained to my insurance and tried to get my copay back, left every bad review I could, and ended up just managing my back myself from what I’d learned the previous two times. I was so ticked off I didn’t even bother going to another ortho. It took a while and work took a hit but I’m fine now.”
“My partner is a pancreatic cancer survivor. The cancer was discovered very early, thanks to a CT scan that was performed to diagnose a completely unrelated condition. Every doctor involved in his care was very clear that he will be dead within five years. Which was fair, and understandable, but still a very difficult thing to come to terms with. It’s been six years. After his initial surgery to remove the tumors, he has a CT scan annually, and there has been no reoccurrence and no sign of cancer.
Every time this comes up when meeting a new healthcare professional, the response is always, ‘What?? Cool! I’ve never met someone that survived pancreatic cancer!! That never happens! You’re not dead?! Neato!’
Yes, we are beyond fortunate and he is definitely an ‘outlier’ so to speak, but it left us with what could maybe be classified as survivor’s guilt, and a tremendous amount of fear regarding what the future could bring. Those reactions from healthcare professionals are usually way more uncomfortable than they are positive.
She Said It Was Panic Attacks
“A friend of mine had been having pain on the right side of her abdomen. The pain would come on all of the sudden, sometimes bad enough she’d throw up, but it would go away usually in a half hour or so. She went to her primary care physician who ran tests, just pretty basic ones, no Hep C test, but a liver function test was in there. Her liver function was not good. Her doctor decided no other cause of decreased liver function made sense except Hep C and told her she had Hep C (before testing for it). The friend, who lived a very low-risk lifestyle for Hep C, wasn’t totally convinced but she still freaked out.
So finally they ran the actual test along with a repeat of liver function tests. No Hep C and liver function were normal now. Either the first test was wrong or caught a weird moment. We don’t know.
But the severe pain episodes were not gone. The doctor said since it wasn’t Hep C they must be panic attacks (despite the pain not happening when she was anxious let alone panicked). The doctor gave her antidepressants which she took for a while but they were no help. She did find it happened more often when she had eaten recently. But the doctor held her ground on the panic attacks. These episodes were happening pretty much daily.
Nearly a year passed like this. She lost a lot of weight between throwing up and being afraid to eat in case it triggered an episode. Finally one day she had a bad episode, needed to throw up, ran to the bathroom where she passed out hitting her head pretty hard. Her roommates found her, called an ambulance, ended up in the hospital. They did an ultrasound. Her ‘panic attacks’ were actually her passing gallstones which were getting temporarily stuck in the bile duct which actually perfectly matched all of her symptoms. She had surgery to remove her gallbladder and after a couple weeks of recovery she was back to normal.
Except for the year of excruciating pain, being told she had Hep C, and then that it was all in her head. She got a new doctor after at least.”
“Junior doctors can be great. I remember needing to spend some time in an ICU for reasons and I was getting my drip replaced as the vein it was in had collapsed.
He took the old one out and turned around, the second he turned around there was about a 30cm projectile squirt of blood out of my arm. I made a questioning noise and he turned back around and just exclaimed, ‘oh!’ (followed by a series of expletives) and jammed his gloved thumb over where it was bleeding. A couple of soaked cotton gauzes later, it stopped bleeding and he put in the replacement line (took him four bloody attempts) and told me he would get someone to change my sheets.
Before the nurse came around the doctor came back with the senior doctor on the ward. The senior doctor asked if it was OK to examine my arm as the other doctor had a concern. He asked me a couple of questions about how it felt when he put pressure on some points. Then started explaining to the junior doctor how a collapsed vein can cause something called backpressure.
I was pretty happy I could be a part of his learning process. I still get a laugh out of the whole situation it was so unexpected.”
Duck, Duck, General Practitioner
“I have stage IV endometriosis and the endo tissue in my intestines and stomach have caused a secondary condition called malabsorption syndrome. Basically, my intestines don’t do their job and don’t absorb everything they should out of food, which leaves me with constant deficiencies. I get a lot of my vitamins injected.
A few years ago I moved house to about an hour away. In happy to travel for specialists, but an hour is a bit of a trip just to see a general practitioner(GP). So I gathered up all my documents, my chronic illness management plan, my reports from my gynecologist and my gastroenterologist and started doctor shopping.
I’ll preface this by saying I did end up finding an excellent GP who I am very happy with (although I wish she worked more than three days a week), but wow so many GPs do not like reading things from specialists.
Here are some stand out comments from some of the doctor’s I saw;
First, ‘In not reading that, forget what you’ve been told, let’s start from scratch, a fresh start!’
Another one said, ‘Yes, many women think they have endometriosis, they read something on the internet and suddenly they’re convinced. Let me assure you that you will be grateful to not have the pain women who really do have it deal with’
Yet, another one, ‘And what is it that makes you think you have these conditions? What you’re claiming to have is pretty serious and requires specialist medical care, I hope you realize that.’
And lastly, ‘I don’t read specialist reports, I know more than most of them anyway'”
“When my mom was dying, she was in lots of pain for various reasons and due to a stroke and liver failure, she couldn’t communicate why or what was happening, so sometimes she’d just sort of cry in pain and none of us could do much to prevent it. One thing that hurt her the most was the saline flush after the painkillers. Every time. And the first two nurses I had were very kind and said, ‘Oh I’m sorry she’s in so much pain and that everything hurts. The meds will kick in in a few minutes and she’ll be alright.’
But the third nurse, Kate, looked at her and said, ‘That’s weird. Saline shouldn’t hurt. Why is it doing that? It shouldn’t do that I don’t like that that’s weird,’ and walked out of the room without comforting me or giving me any further indication of what was going on.
She returned later and said, ‘Aha! I figured it out! Your mom is diabetic and going into keto shock! Of course neutral saline hurts, her whole body is acidic! It’s like putting bleach in her veins! No one tells us when hospice patients like her are diabetic because it usually doesn’t matter since they’re going to die anyway but we can fix this issue with the saline.’
She was very proud of herself for figuring it out and was even excited to have solved the puzzle, she didn’t seem to really care that the puzzle was my mom who people had been functionally injecting with bleach for the past 24 hours and making scream and cry. But she solved it. Her bedside manner was awful but she was the only person who cared enough about the issue to figure out why she was uncomfortable and fix it. So I don’t really care about whether she cared about my mom as a person or a medical puzzle, whatever her motivations she was the nurse who helped make my mom’s last days peaceful. I’ll take a doctor who is motivated to fix problems and even excited about it over someone who is kind and caring but doesn’t get their job done.”
“Full-on Panic Mode”
“I had this one doctor, a specialist, who was probably the worst doctor I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve been sick for years, decades even. I’ve been misdiagnosed, ignored, turned away, but this woman tops the cake.
The first appointment, I brought in my printout. It includes symptoms, diet, exercise, blood pressure, medications, a calendar of events. It’s basically everything I thought could be pertinent to my treatment and diagnosis. She wouldn’t look or listen. She wrote me a prescription for heavy-duty narcotics, a pretty hefty dose and amount too. I explained how the medication wasn’t going to work for me and once again tried to explain what’s going on. She wrote another prescription for a different narcotic, then pushed me out the door.
At the second appointment two weeks later she asked how the medication was working, I explained that neither was filled because of the severe side effects I get. She decided to do a physical exam. She was ROUGH. I was crying, begging her to stop. She told me to suck it up and stay still. She came back with another person, a man. She proceeded to do it again. I was in full-on panic mode screaming, crying, and begging him to help. She stopped abruptly and told me I was disgusting. I was bleeding on the exam table. She just left. She left another prescription for a narcotic at the desk for me.
I got a call that night for a third appointment a few days later. I went. She was upset I was alone. It was a day of surgery. I wasn’t told. I got it done and was pushed out the door immediately again. I slept in my car in the parking lot, unable to drive myself back home two cities away. I was sent again with two prescriptions for narcotics.
At the fourth appointment, I was curious about what happened so I went. She started off by telling me she will no longer be treating me as nothing is wrong and I’m just looking for prescriptions. I explained all the prescriptions were at the pharmacy but none have been filled. She left. They didn’t validate my parking because I was an addict.
A week later I got a call from child family services. She called in because I’m an addict with three kids. I got that sorted very quickly.
Finally, after about 16 months of back and forth with my general doctor, I was referred to a different specialist. A team of specialists. From October 2019 to January 2020 I had seen him several times, had about 20 surgeries, and in February 2020 I was given a diagnosis, treatment plan, and my life was saved. Literally. I have a rare condition that kills 86% of people before they are diagnosed. Of the 14% who are diagnosed before an autopsy, most die if not treated immediately. My biggest takeaway from it was when this team on my first appointment took my printout added it to my decades of previous medical information. They asked about my addiction that was mentioned by the previous doctor. I explained my allergies and sensitivities with my medical records to back me up. I told them zero of the prescriptions were taken and showed them the pharmacy printout to prove it.
Plot twist, she never had the growths biopsied that she removed during my day surgery. I wasn’t even told until that day that I had growths. They were stunned. I signed a bunch of papers and she was taken to the medical board to answer for what she did to me. I’m still in treatment. I’m on a very specific diet. I’m medicated. I’m waiting for surgery. I’m feeling much better despite covid making it difficult to see my doctors and get my surgeries. That terrible woman is no longer a doctor and I’ve now finally gotten a restraining order against her. I’m also having a heck of a time seeking a therapist who specialized in medical malpractice to help me through some of the trauma caused by her and others. I was also recently asked to allow my case to be studied, and written about. My case is so rare, I’m so lucky to be alive, also they have so little information and studies on my condition that I’m going to be in medical books.
And that is just a snippet of how an evil doctor lost her license because of her terrible treatment with a patient.”
Good Out Of The Bad
“My very first pregnancy was an undiagnosed ectopic. I had been seeing my general doctor for weeks to find out why I was still bleeding after the miscarriage part of the ectopic. Weeks of blood draws and transvaginal and transabdominal ultrasounds and she never thought to send me to a professional and I was too inexperienced to know what questions to ask.
After four weeks, I felt off enough to call my doctor and say that something was different. As my luck is terrible luck, my general doctor was out that week from a blown back, so I was sent to someone else in the clinic.
My husband and I went and saw that man. He walked in, asked what was wrong. I told him my abdomen was feeling crampy on this one side and he got this sarcastic pitiful look on his face and said, ‘Are you constipated? Because it sounds like it. Just go take some Miralax.’
I felt stupid for being brushed off like that, but I didn’t take Miralax. Two days later I was hospitalized with a ruptured tube. I had been internally bleeding for four days (day two when I saw the other guy). When I saw my general doctor the following week, she was livid. Before I left the building she had cornered the guy and was yelling at him loud enough the entire building heard her. He was fired.
The only good thing that came out of that whole mess was that the gynecologist who did my surgery was so amazing in that scary time of my life that I had him be my OB for my two pregnancies. He was the only good thing that came out of it.”
Doctors Make Mistakes Too
“My father had recently gotten surgery to remove his prostate, because there was cancer in it, and had started getting radiation treatments to eliminate any remaining cancers. After the treatments started, my father started feeling intense pain in his bladder. He started having trouble peeing, and eventually had to resort to catheterizing himself every time he peed. Occasionally he wouldn’t be able to hold in his anymore and would set himself. He complained to his doctor, the one who removed his prostate, about it multiple times, but the doctor didn’t believe it.
Eventually, the doctor agreed to do exploratory surgery on my father but he found nothing. My father was still in great pain, but the doctor told my father that this was all in his head. My father, not satisfied with that answer, eventually got the doctor to do a second exploratory surgery. During that surgery, it was discovered that a clip, from the machine the doctor used during the prostate surgery, popped off into my father’s bladder, and the doctor left it there without realizing it. Then, because of the radiation treatments, the inside of my father’s bladder was effectively fried. It’s been about five years since then. My father still has to catheterize every time he goes to the bathroom. He’s constantly in pain, and can no longer work a proper job because of the damages to his bladder. Because of all the scar tissue built up in his bladder, my father is at risk of kidney failure. Luckily, a doctor we spoke to recently says he should be able to help my father, but it’s going to be a long road.
The current plan is to permanently remove the scar tissue in his bladder, and then install a valve that will let him pee like a normal person again. We are also suing the doctor who did this to my father, although it’s been five years and progress is slow. My father is one of the best people I know, and deserved none of what’s happened to him. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get these surgeries done sooner rather than later, but it’s definitely going to take a while.”
That’s Actually A Big Deal!
“I had a phone consult with a relatively new doctor. It was my third time talking to her so I didn’t expect her to have me ‘memorized’ or anything, but I expected way more than I got. She started telling me about my test results that came back, which, was expected. But they found all sorts of really alarming stuff about my liver – which far as I knew they weren’t testing.
Once it got into a bit of crazy land I started asking questions, and somehow, she had mixed up my file with someone else’s and she said, ‘Wow sorry, I just open these up a couple of minutes before the call and I guess I clicked on the wrong link or something.’
This was one of the main reasons I left the office. This happened about 20 years ago (but still post-confidentiality laws). The general protocol at other doctor’s offices was that they could call and once they ascertained it was you on the line, they could disclose the information.
Another time, the call went something like this.
I answer the phone, ‘Hello?’
The doctor, ‘Hello, Lily, this is Sandy from Dr. Smith’s office. I’m calling about your test results. The [disease] test and [disease] test came back positive. We need you to come in right away to start treatment. When can I schedule an appointment for you?’
Basically, this lady started spouting off before even asking if ‘Lily’ was on the phone! Because it was a cell number and because a female voice answered, she assumed it was Lily. Bad assumption! Once she let me get a word in edgewise, I said, ‘You have the wrong patient. This is Amanda Sanders. I think you’re trying to reach someone else.’
All I got in response was a muffled, ‘Oh, this isn’t Lily Smith? Sorry.’ and a click, as the woman hung up.
So incredibly unprofessional and the fact that it happened twice was alarming, so I sought my gynecological care elsewhere because who knew if someone else was getting my results. No thanks. So, they were absolutely not in compliance with confidentiality laws and seemed not to care either.”