I have been so open, so forthcoming, so willing to share my innermost feelings on this blog, it’s difficult to think of anything you don’t already know about me. But the ‘ask’ in yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt was quite clear: “Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.”
This is going to take some thought.
A girl’s gotta have some secrets, don’t you think? I think life would be awfully boring if we knew everything about each other. So what am I prepared to spill my guts about?
Okay, here’s something:
Crazy as it sounds, I have an almost irrational fear of doctors. Odd, coming from a woman who volunteers at a hospital and loves it. But there you have it. I’ve always thought it would be a cruel joke, and just my luck, if
I’d met, fallen in love with and married a doctor.
But as it hasn’t happened yet, I am going to assume I’m safe. As I say this, I am crossing myself, silently saying a Hail Mary and knocking both on wood and on my head, just to make sure. Tempting fate doesn’t come without risk, you know.
My paediatrician used to tell my mother he could hear my heart pounding, without a stethoscope. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. And he could see my chest rising and falling rapidly. Like my heart was going to burst right through my skin.
Quite a reaction for a three or four year old.
He was a nice man. Dr. Gavsie was his name. His office was in the basement of his home. All my mother’s friends took their kids to him. There was no reason for my reaction. He’d never hurt me, other than to give me all the required shots. You know. Tetanus. Polio. Small pox. And so on and so on and so on and so on.
It’s stayed with me my whole life. The irrational fear.
Not that it ever got me out of going to doctors. As a child I had no choice in the matter. My mother dragged me whether I liked it or not. I had my annual check-ups without fail. And anything else that needed medical attention always got it.
Once I’d grown up and became responsible for myself, I knew I couldn’t get through life without ever seeing a doctor. So I have forced myself to go regularly. And whenever else it’s been necessary. But even now, I react exactly the same way. My blood pressure is always substantially higher than it is normally. Alarmingly so. There’s a name for it.
White coat syndrome. Otherwise known as white coat hypertension. It’s when you have elevated blood pressure in clinical settings, but nowhere else.
Not every doctor I’ve ever had, has twigged to it, unfortunately. I’ve had a couple, over the years, who were ready to send me to Emergency. And the one time I was actually in Emergency, due to a broken ankle I suffered while paying tennis, they wanted to admit me to the cardiac unit. Which only made my blood pressure go higher. Until I finally got them to LISTEN to me. To let me explain. And sure enough, everything quickly returned to normal.
In truth, I’ve only ever had two doctors who didn’t scare the bejesus out of me.
The first was a gynaecologist I had in Montreal. I adored him, as did all his patients. Of all the doctors to look forward to seeing, he certainly had to be the strangest choice. Let’s face it. I think most women could come up with a more enjoyable way to spend an hour, don’t you? Other than pregnant women, that is. They’re so excited to be having a baby, they can’t wait to go to the ob/gyn.
Why did I love him?
In a nutshell, he ‘got’ me. From my very first appointment with him he knew I was a nut case; and that put me at ease instantly. He had THE greatest bedside manner. He didn’t speak medical jargon. He wasn’t judgmental. I could discuss anything and everything with him. He was never in a rush. He always started our appointments with news of his wife and kids. She was a dentist and somehow, despite their busy schedules, they’d managed to produce, and raise, five fabulous kids. He always wanted to know about my life — what was going on — boyfriends, jobs, dreams, whatever.
Once, when I was in between jobs, I had an appointment with him. He asked me how my job was going. I told him I’d left and was taking the summer off before looking for a new job in the Fall. I had planned for it, and had the money to do it.
Next thing I knew I was sitting in his car, on my way to I-didn’t-know-where. Not very far, as it turned out. Little did I know he owned a regional airline, based in Barbados, where he was from. He informed me I’d be a reservations clerk until I found another job in my chosen profession. Taking a break wasn’t a good idea, in his opinion.
Fast forward to Toronto. It took quite a while, but eventually I found a family doctor I treasure. I heard about her because she used to write a column in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Although she does everything, including delivering babies, her specialty is ‘mature‘ women. I LOVED what I’d read and, seeing as how I was, shall we say, in-between doctors, I decided she was the one for me.
Sadly her practice was closed. She hadn’t been accepting new patients for years. Not surprising considering she already had 2000. Seriously. But I was determined. I called. I begged her assistant. I grovelled. I pleaded. I whimpered. I whined. I told her my tale of woe.
To her credit, she listened. She agreed to see what she could do, even though she made no promises. The Universe was definitely on my side because a few days later she called with good news. I was in.
That was in 2000. I’ve never looked back. I love her to bits. And trust her with my life. Literally. I’ve told her, over and over again, she can’t retire until after I’m dead. What she does then is up to her. But until then, she’s mine. She has all the same traits as my gynaecologist in Montreal. She behaves exactly the same way with me.
Yes, there is a pattern here. Clearly I am the kind of patient who needs to have her hand held. Figuratively speaking. If you’re going to be my doctor, you have to know, instinctively, it’s not just my ailments you’re treating. It’s also my psyche. You have to get into my head. Understand my neuroses. And talk me off whatever ledge I happen to be on, at that moment.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go all cold and clinical and doctorly on me. And do us both a favour and leave the white coat hanging on it’s hook behind your office door. Unless you’ve got a spare blood pressure monitor. Because sure as shootin’ I’ll blow yours to hell and gone.