Have you just been the doctor? Have you just been advised medicines or surgery? Have you been reading the news reports about what doctors are really like? About unnecessary surgeries, and days on ventilators, and bills that run into millions?
Getting the jitters? Understandably. Wishing you knew the Medical Director at AIIMS so you wouldn’t have to brave the mile-long queue and get to see the head of the department of cardiology, in air-conditioned comfort?
I read you. Take a deep breath. And then another one. Help is at hand.
Remember the slightly harassed doctor you saw this morning? Who barely looked up from his scribble pad and grunted a couple of times when you timidly asked a question? Who scrawled a battery of tests and asked you to come back, after following the prescribed meds?
How can you trust him? Or her? Let’s do a gender-neutral him, even if it isn’t politically correct, or this will be unreadable. Should you trust him?
Look back at your interaction. Did your doctor look like an axe murderer? Or somebody who’s been featured on Savdhaan India? Do you see a faint resemblance? Take a deep breath, he doesn’t? Does he look like at least half the people on your friends’ list?
Good, so he’s passed Step 1. He isn’t an axe murderer. He isn’t a serial killer. At least not a known killer. But you can never be sure, can you? Remember the Reader’s Digest photos of yore? Did the killers not look like half your friends’ list on Facebook? STOP. Don’t go there. He is NOT a serial killer and we’ve established that. The hospital would have done a background check, I promise you. And axe murderers do not always pass the HR checks. Well, not always, bit DON’T go there!
Look at the tests he’s prescribed. Do they range from a routine blood test to rule out infections, and a random check of what you should be looking at anyway? Stuff like blood sugar, serum lipids and cholesterol and routine urine examination? You need those, even if you aren’t unwell, annually. So let them be.
Is there a test you haven’t heard of? And some more? Stop right there, and ask him why you need it. Listen to what he says. Does it seem like he could be thinking of a diagnosis beyond a viral fever? Ask him what prompts his suspicion. Listen again. Does he make sense? Go ahead with the tests.
Is there an MRI or an MR Venogram? Tests that cost lots of money? Do you have headaches that won’t go away? Any symptoms that make you believe you could have a brain tumor? Or you could be dying? Ask him if that’s why he’s asking for the imaging studies. Again listen. Does he sound like he knows his shit, and isn’t barking up the wrong tree? Go ahead with the investigations.
If you’re still skeptical, see another doctor. Don’t share this doctor’s prescription. See if they concur. Go back to the first doctor and apologize to him in your heart, and never doubt him again. If the second doctor doesn’t ask for the same tests, ask him if you need anything else. If he says let’s do this initially and then we will see if you need more investigations later, stay with the second doctor.
But remember, there are caveats. The second doctor needs to a doctor with the same qualifications as the first one. Physiotherapists are not doctors, homeopaths and reiki healers are not “allopathic doctors” who can prescribe imaging studies, so their second opinions don’t count. Also, of you saw an oncologist who prescribed certain investigations, the opinion of your third cousin’s father in law who has been practicing family medicine for thirty years does not count. And no, the aunty in the third house down the lane does not know better. She might have had a gall bladder removal six months ago, but that doesn’t mean she qualifies to give a second opinion for a gastroenterologist.
Now, look at the prescription. Ask if you have been given steroids or antibiotics. Listen to response. Ask if you can do without either. Ask if you have been prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. Ask if you really need them. If your doctor says SOS, ask yourself if you went to your doctor whining about imminent death. Tell him you aren’t worried about dying day after, you can wait a couple of days before they bring in the big guns to kill your bug. Does your doctor back off and say let’s avoid the antibiotic for now? Remember, you brought out the big guns when you said you needed to be at Feroz Shah Kotla over the weekend for the IPL. You doctor was pressured into over prescribing. Tell your doctor you’re happy to let the bug pass and the fever run its normal course. Two times out of three, your doctor will smile and tell you still need what he’s written, and the one time, he will laugh and tell you he brought out the big drugs because you were oh so symptomatic, that he was trying to cover for any potential “big stuff”. Apologize, and be grateful for his honesty.
Check with the doctor about dosages and administration. Inhalers are to be inhaled just so, and your doctor will be happy to demonstrate. If you think you’ve forgotten how to, in the time it took you to reach home (no, it’s not sign of early dementia), Google and look up videos on YouTube.
If you must, google your symptoms or/ and diagnosis on WebMD.com. Try and avoid orange-green-fluorescent websites that advise you to put ginger juice into your eyes to cure glaucoma, it isn’t validated knowledge.
As for alternative and complementary therapy, as long as its crystals and reiki and energy and healing, you’re on your own. Ditto homeopathy, unless you’re using eye drops. Because the zillionth dilution of anything in alcohol can’t hurt you, according to modern medicine. But eye drops can, due to errors in osmolarity and pH. If you’re using any pills, potions, powders or bhasmas, or alternate medicine eye drops, your doctor needs to know.
Take your medicines as prescribed. Not as your schedule permits. Or your memory allows. Set an alarm into that phone you look at two hundred and ninety-three times a day. For medicines. Yes, you can. Take the medicines you’ve been told to take, I know it sounds like strange advice, but take only what you’ve been asked to take, and as much and as many times as told by your doctor. 200mg can mean two 100 mg tablets, that’s mathematics, not medicine. And no, expiry dates are not suggestions, they are real “throw them now” warnings. For children, take out that dropper or bottle cap and measure in milliliters, yes, it makes a difference.
No, inhalers are not addictive, and no, neither are most painkillers. Yes, they have side-effects, but so does alu gobhi. Yes, they come with certain risks, and yes, all of them are mentioned in the insert that comes with drugs. Yes, your doctor knows about the side effects, and yes, he has still prescribed them because, believe me, you need it. And the risks of therapy far outweigh the benefits.
Don’t let go of what you’ve always known to be good sense. Rest. Keep yourself hydrated. Eat small, frequent meals that are easy to digest. Cheat a little if you must, but remember, it’s your health. Pull yourself out of bed, put on some lipstick, read a book, listen to music, call up a friend. But only if you’ve been told you can do all that.
Are you feeling better yet? NO? Has it been more than forty-eight hours? If not, breathe. If yes, contact your doctor. Are you feeling worse? YES? Is it because work is piling up and the baby needs attention? The doctor can’t help with that. But if you’re feeling unwell because of, well, medical reasons, by all means, contact your doctor.
Calling isn’t a good idea. Send a text or a message on Whatsapp. Don’t send a reminder until a couple of hours have passed. If it is that urgent, go to the doctor’s office. If it is after working hours, pop across to the nearest emergency, and call your doctor to tell him as much. That is usually enough to galvanize most doctors into action.
Are you feeling better? Great. Continue your drugs as prescribed, for the duration prescribed. Drop in a message to your doctor, saying thank you. Go back for the consultation as scheduled. Say another thank you. Smile.
Breathe. Stay happy and healthy. Until next time?