Tuesday, 7 February 2012
To Complain or Not To Complain: THAT Is the Question
My Baby Angel is incredibly robust. She rarely visits the doctor. In fact, so unaccustomed is she to illness that she was about 9 before she had to stay off school with a bad cold for the first time. In obvious distress and confusion she was heard to wail, "Muuuum, I can't breathe!!!" Recently, she's had the occasional flu/cough thing as her diet and bed times move increasingly out of the sphere of my control but nothing warranting a surgery trip. Which is why, as she complained yet again about the heat rash on the back of her legs, I was faced with the prospect of finding her a doctor.
I was mindful of the fact that, at 16 and a half, she is going to want to start visiting the doctor under her own steam. Perhaps not straight away but certainly in the near future, the idea of being taken to the doctors by Mum is bound to become anathema. So, obviously, we had to pick a surgery nearby and easily accessible by public transport. Check.
I called the surgery to book an appointment and got the standard "Which doctor would you like to see?" Well, call me coy but I only see lady doctors so that was my first request. After that, I told the receptionist it was for my daughter and she suggested Dr HNB. A quick check of the surgery's website informed me that Dr HNB had a certificate (and special interest in) adolescent and children's health. Bingo! We thought.
It was a cheerful BA and I who fronted to the surgery that sunny morning. We had a list of 'little things' that we wanted to ask about: the heat rash of course, a nasty dark mole on her neck, her non-meat eating diet and tiredness.....but I figured we could knock them off pretty quickly. Imagine our confusion when Dr HNB stalked out of her office and called our name with the withering tones of someone who wished to God she had put down Law instead of Medicine on that fateful uni application form.
In typical addictive personality fashion, I tried to work out later if it was something we had done from the outset. I mean, we were a bit late but she wasn't standing out in the foyer waiting for us so..... ??? Whatever it was, she was snippy from the get go. She marched us in and sat us down, then rolled her eyes as we did that familiar mother/daughter dance:
"Tell, the doctor why you're here.."
"Well, it's nothing really, I mean, it's like, well there's not much to see, it's probably nothing.."
"Oh for God's sake...she gets a heat rash on the back of her legs."
"Muuuuuuuuum" (spoken through clenched teeth)....
I mean, I know it's pathetic but surely we're not the first pair to air our changing relationship in public? And not even in public! In the seclusion of the surgery no less! Surely, that's what adolescent health care is all about???? Well, at least partly about?
She got out her torch and ordered the BA around to have a look at the back of her legs.
"Huhm," she snorted dismissively,"well, sit down, I'm not going to talk to your bottom."
Suddenly I have a distinctly uneasy feeling; this isn't going the way I imagined and yet, despite my intellect, strong character and usually forthright nature, I wonder if there is something I am missing? Perhaps this is part of the bedside manner recommended for adolescents?
The discussion around heat rash, wearing cotton clothing and 'there's not much I can suggest' went waaay longer than it needed to. In the end, bigmouth mother suggested some hydrocortisone,
Dr HNB agreed and we moved on to item no 2.
Again, the nasty black mole on the back of the BA's neck took longer than necessary to analyse. Apparently it was my fault that I didn't know the year, nay the month, nay the DAY it had appeared on her neck......as that may have made a difference to the treatment. Let's face it, we don't know if it's a melanoma, we could leave it there and see if it changes or we could make arrangements to chop it out. I get that. She gets that. Let's choose and move on!!
Next: diet and sleep.
Last year, one of the BA's teachers mentioned that she thought the BA may be iron deficient because she is very pale and she is often tired. Of course, she is pale because she is my daughter and we do not produce melanin (hence concern over mole), but she is a picky eater and not a great lover of protein so it did worry me vaguely that we weren't catering to her burgeoning adolescent need for nutrition.
Dr HNB: So, you're tired?
The BA: Well....yes....sometimes.....but...I....I mean I....
Dr HNB: What time do you go to bed?????
The BA: Well, sometimes it's quite late, I mean, on a weekend, and then some week nights I have
things on and home work and stuff so I...
Dr HNB: Do you get 10 hours sleep a night?
The BA: Errrrr no, I don't think so.
Dr HNB: Well then, there's your answer! It's not rocket science you know! If you're tired...get more
At this point, my internal dialogue was having a raging debate with itself.
Me: Well she's right
Me: Yeah...but there must be a better way to say it
Me: Perhaps it a kind of tough love thing? That she learned at her adolescent health course?
Me: OK....and maybe the BA will actually take it on board since she's being so blunt.....
Me: Yeah but she's being so blunt!!!
At this point, foolishly in hindsight, I decided to let the BA have a chat to the Doc alone on the final, and perhaps most important issue. It was girly health thing and I thought I was doing the right thing by giving her some autonomy but even now, as I read back over the unfolding of events, I can see that leaving her alone with Dr HNB was a mistake. Firstly, as I announced I would leave them to it, the Doc pulled me up in no uncertain terms and told me that 'if I had a lot of things to discuss in the future, could I please book a double appointment'. A small gasp of surprise and I was apologising and assuring her that we would do that next time.
Oh the wisdom of hindsight.
Twenty minutes later the BA emerged from the surgery, weeping and broken. The doctor had told her that she was cross because we had made her 45 minutes behind schedule! But that was OK because
Dr HNB had also told her not to worry because she was the second teenage girl she'd made cry that day!!!!!!!!!!!!
A simple "please make another appointment, we've run out of time," would have sufficed!!
We will not be going back to Dr HNB.
So what am I trying to say by telling you this story? Well, the BA will not let me write a letter of complaint and I wonder whether that is right? Should this lady, whom I am sure is probably a fine doctor, be allowed to tout herself out there as specialising in adolescent health, whilst at the same time being almost the polar opposite of what a doctor of teenagers should be?? Should I be informing her that her bedside manner is lacking. Would she care? What do you think? Should I ignore the BA's social reticence to inform the woman of her effect on others??
To add insult to injury, she charged me $150.00 for an extra long consult and when the rebate cheque came back....it was made out to the BA!
(PS: Have you worked out what Dr HNB stands for????? Here's a hint. It's not complimentary).
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