A Poor Bedside Manner Can Be Physically Damaging

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

March 4th, 2009 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

A poor bedside manner can be more than frustrating. It can be physically damaging. Unfortunately, circumstances sometimes dictate that we go through the experience of it, before realizing it’s time for a new doctor. Take the example of my seeking a new physician down here in SoCal:

Back in the Spring, I changed my insurance plan from one that cost about $750 a month to one the cost about $350 a month.  My idea was that I barely turn to Western medicine for treatment, so why bother paying the extra money?

While I was living in Northern California, I had a good doctor under the cheapo plan — referred to me by my previous primary care physician.  When I moved down here to Southern California, however, I did not have the time to do the extensive research necessary to find a good doctor under that same plan. I hit the ground running, with my job and a cover story I was working on, and then with my mom’s terrible accident. 

So I just grabbed a random doctor nearby, in case of emergency.  I made the initial appointment to confirm withthe insurance that this was in fact my doctor, so that I could go to future appointments if necessary.  I found him to be okay.  He was not the sensitive, listening type, and he didn’t seem particularly interested in my articles on chronic pain; but he also didn’t seem like an arrogant prick.  I figured he would do for the time being.

A couple of weeks ago, the intense levels of stress, combined with repeated exposure to germs in my mom’s nursing home and hospital, left me sick — with swollen tonsils that had a little puss. Normally I would let that kind of thing pass, because I try not to blast my system with antibiotics.  But I had been exposed to my mother’s pneumonia, before her treatment, and I was eager to stop any germs at their early stages.

So I went to this doctor and asked for a prescription of antibiotics.  He prescribed me amoxicillin.  I asked for Zithromax, having had repeated experiences where it was the only antibiotic that would work on me.  He told me that in the case of exposure to pneumonia, Zithromax would not be effective, but amoxicillin would.  So I got the prescription filled.

Several days later, my tonsils were more swollen and pussy than before.  The doctor was not available that day, and I wanted to switch antibiotics as soon as possible, so that I would not have more of a dose than necessary.  So I went to the other doctor in the practice, whom I had not met before. 

I told this doctor that I wanted Zithromax and explained why.  “You’ve only been on the antibiotics a few days,” he said.  “They take 10 days to work.”  Fortunately I knew better.  “No they don’t,” I countered.  “I have been through antibiotic treatments many times.  Within a few days, I always feel better if the antibiotics are being effective.” 

“If the antibiotics aren’t working,” he responded, “then it means you have a virus, not a bacteria, and antibiotics can’t treat it.”  “No it doesn’t,” I said.  “I have had numerous experiences were one kind of antibiotic doesn’t work, but Zithromax does.”  Somehow I convinced him to give me the damn “Z-Pack” prescription.

First, however, he wanted to feel my throat and examine my tonsils.  The examining-the-throat part was fine, but when he asked me to open my mouth, he rammed that popsicle stick down on my tongue so violently, that I screamed in pain. I felt as if he had ripped open the muscles of my jaw.  “Too much!  Too much!”  I struggled to communicate around the popsicle stick.

He said nothing, removed the popsicle stick, put the examining flashlight away, and announced that he would give me the Zithromax prescription.  No apology, no acknowledgment of hurting me.  Meanwhile, my jaw continued to be in terrible pain — so much so that I had to change my planned dinner from a steak to soup, because I could not chew; and I could not speak with my friends on the phone, because it was difficult to talk.

I still have pain, and it’s been over a week. I also have a new doctor. More about her in a new post.


Amy March 21st, 2009

I can’t tell you how many doctor’s have become insulted, or even down right hostile when I “presume” to tell them that I might just know more about my body than they do. It’s amazing how they think that, just because they have “M.D.” attached to their name, they are the be all end all of medical knowledge. Medicine is not a science, it’s an art, so there are no real absolutes when it comes to treatment. Treatments should be as individual and unique as the people who need them.

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