I had some really bad headaches and a weakness in my arm, so I went to see a doctor, Dr A. She told me that I should visit the optician and have the pressure in my eyes tested. She also put me on some drugs, drugs 1.
The optician said he’d do a pressure test of my eyes, but that he suspected it really wasn’t the problem and that Dr A was going in the wrong direction. He gave me some glasses, to reducing the strain caused when staring at a computer.
The headaches continued, including a rather peculiar incident where I kind of collapsed. So I went to see Dr B as Dr A was unavailable. I said I didn’t want to stay on drugs 1. Dr B said I should stay on them (although I could stop if I chose). Dr B also suggested drugs 2 and 3 and a brain scan.
I have a history of unexplained headaches and weaknesses in various body parts.
So I booked my brain scan on ‘choose and book’ and waited the 70 something days for the appointment. The confirmation letter came saying I had an appointment in neurology, that it could take 3 hours and I should some form of entertainment and/or bring a friend or relative.
So I arrive at the hospital, with the boyfriend, and I’m called forward to see the Neurologist, Dr C. He asks me how I can help. I want to say ‘don’t you already know’ but I politely tell him that my doctor referred me to him for a brain scan.
He seems surprised, and says this is just an appointment. I look at the boyfriend sat next to me and wonder why I’ve dragged him here.
Dr C continues by asking my age, doesn’t he have my date of birth?
I summarise my medical history, focusing on the most recent events, and Dr C tells me that he doesn’t feel a brain scan is going to show anything. He makes me walk across the room.
“My foot is a bit bruised,” I say.
“I fell over when I was spinning in the garden.”
He doesn’t smile.
He bangs my elbows, wrists and knees with his stick, checks I have a pulse and a heartbeat, and that my eyes can follow his finger.
He doesn’t make a single change to his facial expression as he asks:
“Can you lift your right hand and touch your fingers to your thumb.”
I raise my hand and do as instructed.
“And now your right hand.”
He asks me if I’m allergic to any drugs, I say yes and tell him. He asks how the allergy manifests, I say I had no idea since I was identified as allergic when I was a small child and therefore haven’t taken any since.
The allergy is highlighted at the top of my medical record. I’m sure all this electronic health record stuff is very important and very useful, but none of the doctors seem to read it. Since most of my medical history that relates to the brain scan is about events that happened before I was 15 years old, I don’t think I’m a greatly reliable source.
Dr C was concerned that doctors A and B hadn’t taken my blood pressure. He also was surprised that Dr B had suggested drugs 2 and 3 saying that these would be unhelpful and that any of drugs 5, 6, 7 and 8 would be a better option. Drug 1 he said was commonly used to reduce headaches in such situations, but he seemed a lot less insistent that I really needed it, certainly a lot less insistent than Dr B who had said she expected I’d be on it permanently, for the rest of my life.
I’m pretty sure headaches are the symptom not the cause and to me, treating the symptom isn’t a suitable permanent solution. Especially if there’s an alternative.
Despite this, Dr C didn’t take my blood pressure either and he did refer me for a brain scan. It will be in 4-6 weeks.
He’s also referred me to see a heart doctor (Dr D).
And since I’ve moved house I need a new GP, Dr E? Even though the surgery of doctors A and B is on my way to work.
I’m a bit fed up with it all.
The human body is complex. I don’t believe a doctor, any doctor, can in twenty minutes identify how to make mine more reliable.
They certainly can’t if they don’t read the damn record.