And here's the first of probably too many TMI posts.
Long story short, I suffer from recurrent infections in my bladder and kidneys. For five years, I visited my lady doctor to help remedy this issue. I've tried everything, LITERALLY EVERYTHING to fix the issue once and for all. The only thing left to do is become a nun and move to a convent in a very sterile place where germs and fun do not exist.
Anyhow, the last time this happened to me, I was sick for a full four months.
It was awful, and a large part of it was due to poor care from a doctor I trusted. I've since started seeing a new doc, but I felt my previous one should know why I will never return to her office. That's why I wrote her this letter and mailed it. Confrontation is not easy-- especially when you are from Minnesota! But I am sorry, a doctor is in the service industry. Except unlike a waitress, they can kill you with a bad service... much worse than forgetting your side of ranch.
Names have been changed. I'll keep ya posted if I ever hear back. Without further ado, the letter.
Dear Dr. Grable,
Last week, I received a postcard from your office reminding me to schedule my annual exam. I’ve been meaning to send you a note explaining why I will not be returning to your clinic.
I first visited you about five years ago on a recommendation of a doctor friend of mine. The first few years I visited your clinic, I was fine with the care I received. It was easy to get an appointment and I really liked your nurse, Gretta. My visits became more frequent due to recurrent urinary tract infections (and all of the joyous additional infections that come with treating those), something I had been dealing with for over a decade. You were apprehensive to put me on daily antibiotics and gave me some ideas for more natural preventative measures—all things that were refreshing to hear.
However, in February of this year, I came in with a particularly bad UTI. I had already gone through a heavy dose of antibiotics (which I received from an urgent care clinic) and they did not work. You ran some tests and discovered I had an infection resistant to most antibiotics, stating one of the only ways to eradicate this infection is through IV antibiotics. That seemed unappealing to both of us, so instead of writing me a prescription, we agreed that I ought to try and flush the infection out of my system. I did this, drinking 150 oz of water for five or six days in a row. I still feel fine with that decision. It seemed to work, until I landed in the ER on a Saturday night (March 9) with a horrible kidney infection.
I returned to your office the following Monday. I still had the infection, but was feeling better (though pretty shaken up after spending the night in the hospital). I asked you about being referred to a urologist. You said you wouldn’t refer me to one because they couldn’t do anything for my current infection, not to mention your claim that a urologist wouldn’t even accept me as a patient until you had done a series of tests. You did refer me to an infection disease doctor to help me with the superbug I’d been harboring for over two months. When I told you that their next available appointment was over three weeks away, you said, “Well, that’s just around the corner!”
By this time, I had been sick for two months. I missed several days of work. I spent many nights sleeping on my bathroom floor. I skipped fun events with my friends and family. And though he is the best partner I could ask for, it put a lot of stress on my relationship with my boyfriend. I couldn’t exercise, and I felt like crap every single day. Adding an additional three weeks of illness before I could even begin to see an end in sight was so frustrating. I expected you to go to bat for me—maybe recommend another doctor or at least try to get my appointment moved up? No dice.
At the urging of my parents, boyfriend and friends, I opted to see an out-of-network doctor two days later. He listened to my story and was absolutely appalled that I had not been sent to a specialist, not only since this current infection, but years ago! He helped me get an appointment with an infection disease for the next day. This infectious disease doctor gave me a one-dose antibiotic (a pleasant tasting power I simply dissolved in water and drank). It completely wiped out the infection, and was much easier to deal with than the 10 days of intravenous antibiotics you recommended I get from urgent care —which, for future reference, does not administer IV antibiotics. I discovered that after waiting an hour and a half there the weekend before I saw my out-of-network doctor. If you want IV antibiotics on a weekend, you must go to the ER, which I opted to skip.
The same out-of-network doctor set me up with a urologist within two days. He found two different physical anomalies that help explain why I continued to have infections in the first place. He created a long-term care plan to help solve my problem. I am now kicking myself for going to a gynecologist for urinary tract issues. Those parts might be in the same area, but they are definitely different things.
This illness put me out of commission for four months and cost me many thousands of dollars. I understand healthcare is a business and retaining patients is a priority, but I urge you to consider my story the next time someone visits you with a recurring health issue outside your expertise. Saying “I don’t know” is okay; so is sending a patient to someone who does. I trusted you to do what was in my best interest, not yours. If you had, I probably would be coming back for my yearly exam.
*** UPDATE ***
I'm wiring this a full year later. My doctor never responded to my letter. No phone call, email, note or nuthin'. It made me angry at myself for not leaving her clinic sooner. Lesson learned. And I have been in great health ever since changing doctors. The take home point: You gotta be your own advocate. Cliche, but true.
P.S. Speaking of kidney health, how about the time my friend Liz gave her dad a kidney!