Friday, 27 August 2010

A Visit to the Doctor

Oh, Gawd. I have had a grim few days - not sleeping much, mainly because I have been squabbling with hubby. Who of course is a paragon of all the virtues, but also a man, with all the opposing characteristics (to women) that being a man entails. In other words, he can be annoying, and this week because I was shattered because we had been stuck in the house a lot because of all the rain, and this meant I did a lot more cleaning and washing and sorting out cupboards and stuff than usual, and also on Sunday I cancelled my newspaper subscription of two years, which meant that my hour a day of reading the paper (sometimes in five minute slots) finished, so the housework became more constant, I argued with him. This was bad. Mainly because it upset the kids, particularly our eldest, who has read too many Jacqueline Wilson books and therefore thinks that every family is a broken family, or one waiting to become so.

So the perfect holidays became the awfullest holidays. Then this morning I suddenly realised it is pointless arguing with hubby, because I love him and because without him I would be nothing and nowhere. So I called him at work and told him this, and luckily he understood.

Now the sun is shining, literally and metaphorically and things are looking up.

Except for the visit to the doctor.

My elder son went out with two schoolfriends and one of their Mums today. She texted me to say he was not very bright, then texted again to say she was bringing him home - he hadn't eaten his lunch, didn't want to play with the others and was really tired. When he got back he didn't have a temperature, but he had been weeing a lot this morning and she said he was weeing a lot during the day, and this worried me - I thought he might have an infection.

So I got an emergency appointment with the GP. Now, I am pretty sensitive in the GP's waiting room. A couple of years ago I went through several years where I was constantly at the GP with one or other of the children, usually with chest infections. And I also had a lot of chest infections myself, as well as pneumonia one time and rheumatic fever another. So I needed a lot of antibiotics.

I always disliked going to the surgery. I felt like a malingerer, although I clearly wasn't, because each time I came out I had a presciption, often for very strong medicines. But the whole thing wore me down. And the waiting times in the surgery got longer and longer. At first they operated a system where poorly children got precedence, but then this stopped. And I used to have all the kids with me when I went, because they are always with me, and it was really hard looking after them in the surgery. Then sometimes other people would be coughing and I would be sure we were going to catch something even worse than we already had - and we usually did. So I built up a bit of a phobia about the waiting room, but I still had to spend a lot of time in there. I would try to do without antibiotics, but the kids, or myself, just got more poorly. So I would end up in there again, often for an hour or more.

Anyway, one morning I was waiting for more than two hours. I went to the desk at roughly half hourly intervals, to ask how the queue was going. I was assured that I would be seen in turn, but I noticed many people going in who had arrived at the surgery after me. In the end after two hours I was told that I hadn't been booked in. I was feeling really ill, hacking and coughing, I was tired and hungry and aggravated, and I burst into tears. I left the surgery, got into my car and drove home. One of the receptionists followed me into the car park and told me to come back, that she would get the doctor to see me next, but I was too far gone.

So I went home. Remember, my experience of the medical profession over the years has not been a good one. Of course, once I was home, the surgery called and apologised. I calmed down, went back and they booked me in properly and I was seen imediately and got the medicine I needed.

But the memory still haunts me. I never go there expecting good service from the receptionists. I will never forget constantly going up to query why I was waiting so long, and being fobbed off time after time. For two hours. I was convinced they were laughing at me.

Luckily, these days I don't have to go to the doctor much. I take probiotics and I don't get chest infections like I used to, and the kids are growing and getting stronger. When I do need to go I ask to see the nurse, who is lovely and who sees patients promtly, and who can now prescribe.

And also sometimes the system works better now - the GP I blogged about the other day (when I went with a painful toe!) didn't keep me waiting long at all and I ended up feeling sorry for him and the pressure he was under.

Anyway, I still haven't said what happened today. I was waiting for the 'open surgery' (which works on a first come, first served basis). I got there on time, and there were only two other patients before me. I was relieved. But then I saw other people arriving, the two originals having been and gone by now, and some of the new arrivals going in to see the doctor. I had still only been waiting about twenty minutes, and a friend of mine arrived and came over and we were chatting, so I wasn't too bothered. My son had perked up and started playing with his brother. I assumed some of the other patients were seeing other doctors. I waited.

But then my friend got called in, saying in a puzzled way that it couldn't be right, because she had been waiting for the same doctor, and she had only just arrived - but she still went in. My blood started to boil. I was calm though - I went to the desk and asked what was happening. They said the person who had gone in first must have arrived before me. I said she hadn't she was my friend and we had been talking. The receptionist was shouting at me, which made me feel awful - I had been complaining quietly and politely, but she made it look as though I was hassling her.

Then the other receptionist started shouting at me, saying that everyone was seen in order, according to when they phoned up. I queried this, saying surely it was in the order in which they came into the surgery. So she said I should take it up with the doctor. So I said how could I take it up with the doctor, if they were going to leave me sitting there all afternoon while everybody else went in first. I said I might as well just go home. Then they said I would be the next to be seen.

I did take it up with the doctor, when I went in, and he said they had told him about it. I didn't like that, because I didn't know what they had said about me, and I was sure they were making out I had been rude or unruly. He apologised anyway, said it was his fault, he had put me down last when I should have been on his list earlier. And I felt sorry for him - I said I wouldn't have complained if I knew it was his error, but I didn't like the attitude of the receptionists. He is a lovely man - he has had cancer recently and recovered. I remember how kind he was when my youngest was born. He did the eight week check and kept going on about what a great baby this was. He was really effusive about him - made me feel so proud. And - sorry to boast - but he was right, my youngest, Toddler as he is known here, really has turned out to be an Ace child. Practically perfect in every way, as Mary Poppins would have said.

The doctor thorougly checked my older son, everything was ok except that he had a really high temperature (which made me feel bad as I hadn't realised, his temp had been fine when I had checked), and I was home within the hour. So it wasn't my worst ever visit to the GP, or longest time spent in the waiting room, not by a long chalk.

But I did find the experience scary. The way the receptionists escalated things, making out that I was a troublemaker, brought back memories of being in hospital. Sometimes I felt as though I was being manipulated, and I saw this happen with other patients too. You would be calm, or not far off, then get agitated about something, and then instead of trying to help you regain your composure, the medical staff would escalate things, and before you knew where you were you were being forcibly injected with tranquilisers by a team of six nurses. I saw this happen to one girl, she was young and in no way a threat to anyone, and she was just tearful about something, and then suddenly she was being dragged away screaming. It was just horrible.

I have never been violent or had any inclinations that way, and most of the people in there were the same. But the treatment was often unecessarily brutal, and many of the nurses were far from compassionate.

When I was in the mother and baby unit, after my eldest was born, I had an awful time. I tried hard to be as compliant as I could. I lived in constant fear that my baby would be taken and that I would never get her back. Then one day I had an argument with a nurse - she was a nasty one, she would follow you up the corridor brandishing her plastic gloves, asking if you wanted an internal, because that was her idea of a joke.

I say I had an argument. Actually I was just very rude to her. And it was my fault, although it was totally out of character for me. I can't remember why I did it, I called her a fat cow as I walked past her up the ward. It seemed fair comment to me, but she was furious. 'That's it!' she shouted up the corridor after me. 'You're out of here!'

Well, I know what I did was wrong. I promise, I have never been rude to anyone beofre or since, not like that. In mitigiation, I was mad at the time, and I am sure that a nurse in a mental hospital should make some allowance for that condition.

But I am sure she was responsible for what happened that night, although she was nowhere to be seen. It was the middle of the night, I had got up to feed the baby, and was trying to settle her down. Suddenly a strange nurse appeared, who I had never seen, asking me to hand over the baby. I asked why. She just kept saying, 'Give her to me'. Then I was suddenly surrounded by a group of 'professionals', we were in a situation, and I was baffled as to how it had arisen.

The next day, baby was given into the care of her father, and I was sent to a different ward alone. Thank God, after a few weeks we were re-united in the baby unit. But, God, I could have lost my baby.

Now, some people may be reading this wondering if mine is the true version of events. I would probably wonder that too, if I was you. But it is the truth. I have always been truthful. And yet - how could I prove, how could I explain? It is hard enough in writing, and I have always been much more eloquent in writing than in person. Yet I am aware that to a cynic, or a mental health professional, I might be seen as having a persecution complex, or as a liar, or an abusive difficult patient, or a thousand other variations on the reality. I know that what was written in medical notes was sometimes far from the truth.

So when you are ill in hospital, under section, you are powerless, in every way. But even when you are sane - like today in the doctors - anyone who has ever had mental health issues is vulnerable, to other people's expectations and opinions, and to their own. I could have been labelled as an aggressive patient today.

Anyway, enough for today. Hubby is trying to get the kids to bed, and he needs some help. x x

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