Find An Opening For The Explanation

, , , , | Healthy | December 8, 2017

(My daughter is six years old and takes everything literally. For example, when saying something stinks such as “Oh, well, that stinks; you can come out for the day” she will ask me, “How does it smell?” Today I had to take her to her pediatric cardiologist, to have her heart murmur checked. I explained to her that it wasn’t going to hurt and that the doctor was just going to listen to her heart. She said okay and I thought nothing more of it. But when the nurse came in.)

Nurse: “All right, we are going to look at your heart.”

Daughter: “Okay. I took my shirt off, but how are you going to open my body to see my heart? Because Mommy said this wouldn’t hurt.”

(I will admit, the nurse’s eyes only bugged out for a second before she pulled herself together and explained that she had a special camera to look at it without having to “open her body.” Next time I will try to remember to explain a bit better!)

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X-Dentist

, , | Healthy | December 8, 2017

(After looking for a good long while, I finally find a dentist that takes my insurance. I’ve only been to a dentist twice in my life — I grew up very poor — but I’ve been having bad pain in my jaw. An older gentleman, the dentist, ushers me behind a curtain and sits me on the dentist chair.)

Dentist: “So, how long since your last dental appointment?”

Me: “About six years ago I went to a free dental clinic. Before that, I think I was in second grade. That’s it.”

Dentist: *flatly* “Ah. So you probably have bad teeth. Open up; let me see the damage. Do you even brush your teeth?”

(My wife and I make significant eye contact around the curtain. The dentist puts on gloves and pokes my teeth a couple of times with a finger.)

Dentist: “Huh. You’ve actually got great teeth. Did you grow up in a third world country?”

Me: “I grew up in Tennessee.”

Dentist: “Oh, so THAT’S why. Southern people don’t take care of their teeth. Well, your teeth look really good actually, except for that overlap in the front.” *he pokes my top front teeth, one of which overlaps the slightest bit onto the other* “That’s unfortunate because without it you’d have perfect teeth. I’m not sure why you came in today. You don’t have any cavities.”

Me: “…what about that jaw pain?”

Dentist: “Right, that. Well, I guess I could take X-rays if you want. I’m not sure why you’d want them. You’re just grinding your teeth.”

Me: “I’ve never had dental X-rays done, though. Shouldn’t we get an X-ray to check?”

Dentist: *massive sigh* “Fine, fine, we’ll do them. I think you just want to waste some time.”

(Lo and behold, the X-rays showed my bottom wisdom teeth needed to come out ASAP. They grew sideways and are pushing the roots of the teeth next to them, shifting the teeth and causing my pain. The dentist was surprised, and then tried to sell me a $100 mouth guard that would stop the pain, because he thought I’m grinding my teeth and that my wisdom teeth had nothing to do with it. We did not take him up on the offer and are looking for a new dentist.)

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Some Heart-Warming Explanations

, , | Healthy | December 7, 2017

(I have visited the cardiologist for EKGs and echoes every two years since I was born, and one year I am old enough to ask my doctor why I have to.)

Doctor: “You have a heart murmur. Arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse.”

Me: “What’s that mean?”

Doctor: “Well, most people’s hearts have a steady two-beat. BUMP-bump, BUMP-bump, BUMP-bump, like a drummer. Your heart is like a jazz drummer, who just does whatever: BUMP-bump-bump, BUMP-bump-bump, BUMP, bump-BUMP, no bump. There’s extra beats and missed beats, with no pattern to it.”

Me: “What’s the other one?”

Doctor: “Imagine the hood of a Japanese convertible. The roof goes up, and when it comes back down, it fits perfectly into its base without problems, and is completely sealed. Now imagine the hood of an American convertible. When the roof comes back down, it doesn’t quite fit into the base; it’s off-center, and the air-conditioning will leak out and rain can get in. Your heart is an American car, and the valve is the convertible roof.”

(Two decades later, and I still love this doctor’s explanations to a confused kid.)

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Their Behavior Is Not Hole-Hearted

, , | Healthy | December 7, 2017

(I’m a young woman who was born with an innocent heart murmur that gets checked every few years; arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse. I have recently suffered some strong heart palpitations that lasted an hour and left me exhausted and terrified that something’s wrong. After spending the night at the hospital, and the X-ray, EKG, and echo tests showing nothing new, I’m sent to a cardiologist for a stress test. After being stuck with enough wires that I look like a cyborg and 20 hellish “Now a little bit faster” minutes on the treadmill, I float light-headedly over to the exam table and lie down while they check the scans.)

Nurse #1: “Oh, wow. [Nurse #2], come look at this.”

Nurse #2: “Wow. I’ve never seen that outside of textbooks.”

Nurse #1: “Me, too! Hey, look at this part–”

(While the nurses are ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the picture on the screen, I’m staring at them with rising concern. My worry spikes when the doctor herself comes into the room, sees what they’re looking at, and proceeds to talk about it to them like she’s teaching a university lesson. Finally, I raise one of my trembling cyborg arms.)

Me: *weakly* “Um… excuse me?”

Doctor: *looking at me with surprise* “Yes?”

Me: “Is… is something wrong?”

Doctor: “Oh, no. You just have a hole in your heart.”

Me: “…I have a WHAT?”

Doctor: “But that’s not what’s causing your palpitations.”

Me: “It’s… not?”

Doctor: “Nope. It’s small and near the top of your heart; it shouldn’t be affecting you at all. It just happens sometimes when your heart muscle sinks to the bottom.”

Me: “Oh… okay. So there’s a hole in my heart, but… it’s not a problem. So it’s okay.

Doctor: “Yep. You can come back to keep an eye on it, though, just to make sure it doesn’t get any bigger.”

Me: “?!”

(That did not fill me with confidence, surprisingly. They never found a physical source for the palpitations, so eventually decided they were panic attacks, and I got to add ‘hole in the heart’ to my heart murmur repertoire.)

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Doesn’t Have 20/20 Psychiatry

, | Healthy | December 7, 2017

(I’ve suffered from mental health issues since I was young, but I wasn’t able to do anything about it because my family has issues believing that mental illness is real. A few years ago, while I was in college, things got really bad so I finally tried to tell my parents about it. It took a few months of frustration and arguing, but I eventually managed to convince them it was actually an issue. They found a psychiatrist I could see and I was excited at first. I thought I’d be able to get some help! I’d hardly walked in the door before I realized there would be a problem.)

Psychiatrist: *shaking my hand* “So, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m turning 20 next month.”

Psychiatrist: *laughs* “20? You’re far too young to have any problems! Why are you even here?”

Me: “Young or not, I actually do have a lot of symptoms I’m worried about.”

(I hand her a list I’d made of symptoms I’d been struggling with, including some rather severe ones. She sets it aside after barely glancing at it.)

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t you just tell me about yourself? Do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “Um… no, I don’t?”

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t we talk about that. It might be causing some of your ‘issues.’”

(It was only downhill from there. She dismissed all my symptoms, including my suicidal ideation and dissociation, as nothing more than school stress or lacking a boyfriend. I was told I just needed to get out of the house more often and make a few friends, something my parents insisted was a cure-all as well. Ever since that day, nothing I’ve said has been able to convince them otherwise. The only reason I’ve improved at all — and mostly stopped being suicidal — is because of my college’s psychologist. I’d only found out there was a doctor on campus afterwards, and after meeting him, he was shocked I’d managed to make it as far as I had without any help at all. I’m living back at home now that I’ve graduated, only until I can find work, but he helped me immensely while I was still enrolled. I don’t think I would have survived school without his help.)

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