Tomorrow I have an appointment with the person I hope will be my new permanent physician. He is the third doctor I have had in the last four years. When you move too much, and you have constant upheaval because of it, it can lead to inconsistent medical care, differing advice, and too many opportunities for details to slip through the cracks. Now that I am finally establishing roots, I am grateful that I found this guy. He comes highly recommended from people whose opinions I respect.
For now Gorgeous and I will have different doctors. We wanted to go to the same one for consistency sake, but for varying reasons we each ended up with different people. She chose a doctor who is part of a very large practice with many different specialties and disciplines. I chose a solo practitioner in a small office. Not wanting to miss out on anything, though, she’s decided that she wants to join me at my appointment tomorrow to check him out. This is good because I tend to forget the details of what doctors tell me anyway. It’s always good to have a second set of ears.
As the son of a Jewish mother, I am genetically disposed to run for medical attention at the first onset of any slight pain. When movie theater goers sitting all around me are laughing at a Woody Allen scene where he’s showing off his hypochondriac tendencies, I am the one shaking my head in silent affirmation. Gorgeous, on the other hand, went years without having consistent health insurance. She timidly ventures out to a doctor only after suffering through hours, days, or weeks of excruciating pain and discomfort. “I’ll be fine,” she says, her skin pale white and her eyes like slits. “It’s just a short-term virus, I’m sure.”
I suspect I am probably in the wrong insurance plan. I’ve always made sure to be in a PPO where I am free to choose my own doctors and allegedly make my own decisions. That freedom and independence is illusory, however. PPO’s can be every bit as restrictive as HMO’s in refusing to pay for services or care beyond those set out in the terms posted on their website, which in fact at close inspection you might notice are the exact same ones that iTunes has. But because I feel I have such autonomy, I tend to make appointments with specialists without really knowing if in fact the medical direction I’m putting myself in is an appropriate one. So an HMO would probably be a better fit for me, but I suspect I would still chafe at their restrictions about who I can see. I could use a little self-restraint.
My mother used to make a big deal about the personal relationship she had with her doctors. It just wasn’t that she thought he was a genius, it’s that she thought her exchanges with him were similar to those she would have with a close family member. Because of this, Mom would talk endlessly to her actual family about her wonderful doctors. You could be having a conversation with her about politics and an upcoming election, and somehow my mother would manage to slip in the candidate preference of her dermatologist. By the time I was old enough to actually see that dermatologist, I had to stifle the urge to call him “Uncle Herbert” when he walked into the examining room.
I try not to attach such affinities with my own doctors. I understand that I am one of many patients he/she will see that day, and the friendliness I am receiving is merely a good bedside manner that one wants to have in a medical professional. Really, the best I can hope for is someone who will actually establish eye-contact when speaking to me, not wince when I ask follow-up questions, and will eagerly go look when I ask if they have any samples of that expensive drug he’s now prescribing. Isn’t it great when they give you samples, by the way? It’s like walking out to your car afterwards with a doggy bag.
Sitting next to me as I type this is the multi-page form that this particular doctor asks each patient to fill out before coming in for the first appointment. I like the idea of doing this at home rather than scribbling everything down in the waiting room and worrying if in fact the medications I’ve listed are ones I still take. Like a junior high term paper that’s been due for weeks, I’ve allowed it to sit near me for over a week now without being touched. As proactive as I can be, I amaze myself at just how much I can procrastinate.
By 2:00pm tomorrow afternoon those forms will be completely filled out, and I will be leafing through a worn copy of Architecture’s Digest in the waiting room. A new city, a new doctor.