When the Physician Becomes the Patient

June 1, 2015

A series of symptoms has left me, a physician, experiencing a series of frustrations as a patient.

I have been fortunate to have been in fairly good health most of my life; the same is true for my husband and children. So most of my interactions as a patient or a patient's family member have been for well-visits and preventative care. Recently, I have had the opportunity to see things from the other side of the otoscope (literally).

Two months ago, I experienced sudden tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, and vomiting. I had a fairly good idea what it was, probably viral labyrinthitis. And as miserable as I was, I knew it wasn't life threatening. My husband, who is not in the medical field, was unfamiliar with these symptoms and kept asking if he had to take me to the emergency room. I knew there was nothing they would offer me that I wasn't already doing and I would be sitting there for hours waiting for an MRI (did I mention we had a plane to catch?). Once I was properly medicated, I was able to ambulate on my own without hurling every 30 seconds, and over a few hours most of the symptoms became tolerable.

The tinnitus and hearing loss didn't go away however after two weeks. So I decided to see an ENT. I was told by the receptionist to fill out the appropriate forms before my appointment. Of course, on the night before my appointment, I hurriedly printed them out and filled them in. I didn't want to be one of those patients who shows up completely unprepared. I really hate that. And on the day of my appointment, I got to the office parking lot with seconds to spare and couldn't find the entrance. I remembered all my patients who complained about how they can't find our office within our complex. I made my way in and the visit itself was uneventful. She prescribed meds for me and told me to get a hearing test if the meds didn't help.

The meds didn't help. So I scheduled my test, which is, of course, four weeks away. Would I like it sooner? Sure, but I'm not going to fuss. It's not an emergency. So I got my test and let's just say, it confirmed what I already knew: I can't hear on the left side. The audiologist said he was going to send the report right over to the ENT and that I should call her the next day. So I did, and she wasn't in, and the receptionist said they don't have my results. I understand that faxes don't always make it where they are supposed to go, so I called the audiologist's office and told them the ENT doesn't have my results. "I walked it over myself at 10 a.m. today," the receptionist told me. OK. So I called the ENT's office again and tell her that it was physically brought to them this morning. "Oh, OK" is the reply. That was her answer? I find that unacceptable. Does that mean she didn't really look for it when I called the first time? Anyway, I asked her to make sure the doctor got it when she came in the next day.

Well, now I need to take another course of meds and in the meantime I have scheduled an MRI. Oh, how joyful that will be.

It's been an experience. Nothing terrible, just inconvenient. But it's certainly interesting looking at things from another perspective.