Physiology and Defining Care

I’ve been doing a lot of navel-gazing.

I had to do a lot of navel-gazing since I got sick, but I’m sick of being sick, sick of thinking about anatomy and physiology.

It doesn’t sound so whiny when I phrase it that way, does it?

Anatomy and physiology are science, how the body works. It’s a miracle piece of machinery that we all take so much for granted when things run as they should. The shin bone is connected to the knee bone. Have you ever looked at a backhoe, really looked at one? It was designed after an arm, right down to the radius, the ulna, and the humerus. But when a sick older woman starts talking about how the body works, some people’s hearing closes down.

Okay, I’ll be honest. Most people have listened to me. Mike has listened to me in detail, repeatedly. Most people have listened, even the part about feeling for the first time like I could die if I didn’t solve the problem. You should have heard me talking to my ninety-four year old friend on Sunday. It was a relief to hear her concern, to feel like she was open to listening to my fear, even if it drew us closer to looking at that end point: death.

But I worry that other friends, younger friends, won’t want to hear all my talk about my health.

This is a legacy from my grandma, isn’t it?

When I was about six, my grandma had her gallstones taken out. I think I’ve told you about that. Now that I’m an adult, I know that it was very painful for her. Now, I know that the scar that ran at least eight inches across her abdomen must have been difficult to heal. When I was six, I was incredibly impatient to run back outside whenever she got started talking about her gallstones. I didn’t really want to look at that thick frightening weal across her stomach. I especially didn’t want to look into the little pill bottle where she kept those nasty gallstones. It seemed as though she could talk about her illnesses, and they were many, into eternity.

If souls continue after the death of the body, I hope her heaven has been to have a willing ear for her pain until she was done talking about it, until she found peace and felt better. But when I was six, I was resistant to listening until she was done. I started to get antsy whenever she began to wind up into an ailment story I’d already heard, with visual aids included. I learned the art of closing down a conversation. So, I know what it sounds like when I hear it turned back on me. That’s karma, isn’t it? I wouldn’t listen back then and now that I need people to listen, some of them are closing down the conversation just like I did.

My problem is that I’ve been encountering that resistance mostly from 'medical professionals.’ There have been five of them. Yes, these people were accredited doctors and nurses, but they acted like the six-year-old me acted when my grandma got going. as if they just wanted to run back outside to play in the grass with their cousins. I could hear them thinking, ‘Why is this woman going on and on and on about her pain?’

These five people made me feel stupid as I tried to understand the physiology behind what was happening to me. That task was especially hard since one of my symptoms was confusion. Plus, I hadn’t spent two to twelve years studying the specifics. I’m not stupid, just not as thoroughly educated in those specific areas. They made me feel like a stupid old woman who wouldn’t shut up about her ailments. How is what I was doing any different than what they were doing, trying to tease out the science behind what was happening in this body? That was the problem. I assumed too much, that they actually wanted to tease out the science of what was happening to me. Those five people didn’t.

It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it?

What, to one person, is a doddery old woman whining about her ailments is, to a real medical professional, a person trying to understand the complexities of illness while they are in the throes of that illness.

As much as I want to, I’m not going to write their names here, the names of those awful doctors and nurses who did nothing to help me, who made me feel stupid and left me feeling sicker than I had been before. I will tell you that if one doctor had done her job a year ago, I might not be sick right now at all. I really want to tell you their names, don’t I?


What I will do is go to the websites that allow me to rate my doctors and I will write about their lack of response, of care, to my illness.

I promise that I will also rate the wonderful cardiologist and endocrinologist that I’m seeing now. I always feel that it’s important to highlight good professionals along with the ones who pose but are secretly miserable at caregiving.

Thank you for listening, jules