All in the Family…


One of the aspects of being a physician that I have not explored much for you kind people is what it is like being the doctor in the family.

Health brings out the worst of those closest to you and even if you are now a doctor, it is still very hard for people who knew you back when you finger painted walls with poop to take you seriously. They want to. They really want to…

But they just can’t.

It all started early on in medical school when my brother called me all in a panic wanting to know if his girlfriend might be pregnant. Easy. Take a dang pregnancy test, I said. But somehow that was not a good enough answer. I was supposed to psychically calculate the likelihood of pregnancy and assign a risk ratio to a cost analysis of a pregnancy test on a student budget and then arrive at…. Hell, I don’t know what.

She wasn’t pregnant, in case you were curious.

Then other family members took to asking my thoughts on this and that. Just let me give you a piece of advice: never, ever ask a medical student for their thoughts on anything medical. They do not know enough to know that they know nothing and they are all floating around with big heads full of self importance. As such they can be quite dangerous. No one died because of me, thankfully. It will leave it at that.

Sometimes, family members want you to be their surrogate physician. Resist. Case in point, my father-in-law, who was a terrible diabetic and on the heart transplant list due to his congestive heart failure would always want me to check his blood pressure and comment on the treatment he was receiving. I spent hours and hours with him, educating him, or so I thought. Meanwhile, he would show up at the house with two dozen glazed donuts and a burger and fries from a fast food joint. Finally, one day, I had had enough. “I am not your doctor! You are on a list to get a HEART transplant and you won’t even take care of the rest of you. Your sugars are killing your kidneys and everything else that will be left behind. The sodium is going to land you in fluid overload again. When you start doing what you know you should do, I will be happy to check your blood pressure and blood sugar again. But for now it is just making me angry.” We did not speak for many months. He eventually took himself off the transplant list and went onto hospice.

My father hates doctors. Loathes them. In fact, he goes out of his way to do the exact opposite of what he is told. He and my mother stayed with me for a few terrible weeks after my mother’s knee replacement surgery because he had had another seizure and was not supposed to be driving for six months. I came home early one day to find him tooling through the neighborhood in their little red car. I could just see the headlines: “Five dead in horrific road accident after father of local physician seizes while driving….” When I confronted him about it, gently, he exploded and packed his stuff. He drove back to his own home in the little red car and never came back.

Last week, my mother in law set fire to the kitchen when she left the house with some eggs boiling on the stove. Firemen were called by the alarm company. I can tell you now, this is going to be messy.

Sometimes, I would like to NOT be the doctor…


98 thoughts on “All in the Family…

  1. I’ve always wondered what it’s like for doctors dealing with their own family members. I’ve imagined they get pestered for medical advice all the time, especially if they have a bunch of hypochondriacs in their family. Seems a little different in your case. Your frustration is that they won’t listen to you. Some people don’t like knowledge when it brings them news they’d rather not hear.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Would it make it any better for you to know they wouldn’t listen to you even if you weren’t a doctor? That they’d still put you in the middle of things, stomp off, act like you are MEAN, even if you just flipped burgers for a living? Cuz you know…

    Liked by 8 people

  3. I had to laugh at your second paragraph. My daughter went to high school with a rather wild young man. Who talked whom into shoplifting, I’ll never know for sure. Nor will I know who supplied whom with liquor when they went to college together. I’ve always hated that guy for those shenanigans. Wouldn’t you know it? He went to med school and is now in his residency. I don’t know what I would do if I went to the ER, and he walked in as the doctor on duty. Thankfully, his residency is at the other end of the state, so it’s not too likely to happen, as least not yet.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Victo, what a nightmare! You in the “ignored” middle, they not listening, doing what they want, ignoring advice, stomping out of the picture and causing havoc! Think I agree, it all would’ve happened even if you were just the daughter and not the doctor! I’m not at your level as an NP, however I get the calls and questions from family. Most of the time I come up with sensible answers, and then add, call your doctor if you’re not better and this or that happens! So far I’ve been safe, and the family hasn’t stomped out of my life! But then, I’m the old mother and my kids are middle-aged. Very different scenario. Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well I’m not really a doctor. Not that kind of doctor haha but I do know that it’s probably not the best to eat burgers en masse if you have diabetes. Or to smoke after a heart stroke. We all have those in our families I think, and none of them listens. Don’t take it too doctoral πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When people expect you to be their “fixer” without asking you first, consider not fixing anything.

    Simply walk out when you are able to. It save me some trouble…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha! I can just see you stamping your foot in anger Victo. This effect has been pondered for millennia – no kidding- you are in wonderful company. I’m not one to quote scripture nor am I implying your power is equal but here’s one to placate you: Mark 6:4 ‘Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”‘

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My husband is a lawyer. People frequently ask him about real estate or wills. He tells them he doesn’t have a clue. He will draft an international agreement for them …

    People rarely listen to their doctors, whether or they saw the murals. I often wonder why they go (my parents were like that — go to the doctor, think he’s nuts, get an RX, fill the RX, leave it on the windowsill because what does that quack know? I’m sure they’d still be doing that if they weren’t both, ummm, dead.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. No matter your expertise, they want you to tell them want they want to hear. And by “them” I mean “us” . What good are you at your specialty skill set if you don’t tell them they are right so they/we can use it against those already telling them/us what we don’t want to hear…. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have a Psyc degree: Dear extended family, please stop asking my advice on your relationships and then making me watch while you sabotage yourselves. I also have a degree in Criminal Justice: Dear extended family, please stop asking me legal questions (particularly questions that have nothing to do with criminal law). I am not the “family attorney”!

    By the way Victo, I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was expecting to hear about rashes at a party. This particular problem isn’t limited to doctors except that you are the professional and the rest of us can say we don’t know. My mother-in-law had dementia. At the beginning she would corner each one in the family and ask us if we thought she was crazy. What do you say? No matter how we responded she told other family members that we didn’t agree with them when they tried to take her driver’s license, etc. I am sorry about your father-in-law. I had a cousin who had bypass surgery but resumed his unhealthy life style. He told everyone he had made a conscious effort to live as he wished even if it meant having a shorter life. I love your rants!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so funny. You went about it all wrong. When it is family members coming to you for medical advice, you forget that they are the real experts, not you. Your first question must always be: “Well, I know I am the doctor, but what do YOU think the problem might be?” Then, let them tell you. Praise their brilliant diagnostic abilities. Tell them you agree with them.

    “But, just in case we are both wrong, and it is (xyz) instead, do you think you should see your own doctor for the (abc) test–just to make sure? Because if we ARE both wrong, and it IS (xyz), your penis will fall off.”

    I think this approach will be far more effective.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. My baby sister is an RN, we do have a working relationships when it comes to this topic. We pay her in apples for her advice ( and we listen) πŸ™‚ Last year our apple harvest was down and she got first dibs on the Honeycrisp.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. My situation is the opposite of yours in a manner. I have more education, degrees and certifications than all of my family, all sides put together. And I am still treated like I do not know anything. When I was a director for a MRDD agency, I had an in for my nephew-in-law to get into a group home, which was feat back then. My SIL was too busy to finish the paperwork. Her poor son now, 27, lives in his bedroom, no job, no friends. When I worked in TV, I built 2 different TV production studios from scratch. But my then husband would not allow me to hook up the house cable. Getting positive affirmation from my family is never going to happen. I had to take a deep look into why I still tried and why I allowed the practice of being put down to continue. On the list of important endeavors, I do not bother trying with them anymore. All it did was perpetuate a hurtful existence. I get paid to do what I do and that’s enough.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. My wife’s sister is an oncologist here in Edmonton. When Maureen got breast cancer and needed a mastectomy last summer it was really nice to have her. Treatment was streamlined and the best surgeon was picked. And Maureen did her her part by following the treatment plan to the letter. But, I can see where a situation like this could have been frought with danger.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Amen, sister. There’s always relatives and friends trying to obtain approval or support for some strange completely non-scientific advice they’ve heard or been given that they will willingly follow, but not that of their doctors. That’s what meditation is for…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I got nuthin much to say about this because I aren’t a doctor. But my brother in law is – in Africa! an’ he writes huge letters to all of us about every bloody operation he has performed on a hundred tribesmen who had a war with another tribe and all they had were machetes and AK47s. Or about the girl with a fistula whose family had ostracised her and she’d walked a hundred thousand bloody miles to get to see him so he could fix her and what’s more he send lots of photos of massive ulcers and I don’t read his emails anymore and I much prefer reading about all the frustrations that swirl through your mind and all that goes on in your head because it’s the same in mine and also I probably love you more than I love my brother in law even though I have never met you and you aren’t related in any way and anyway I don’t like pictures of blood.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sometimes, it can work the other way. I remember when my sister as a 2nd year nursing student ( with a psych emphasis) became very vocal in “diagnosing” all of the family’s mental health issues. It was hard to shut her down.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. You capture the raw tension of family dynamics so well! I’m pretty sure we’re related πŸ˜€

    My poor husband, the psychologist…if only we had a penny for each time he has been asked for advice then was trumped by Oprah, LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: My Article Read (3-23-2015) | My Daily Musing

  21. I come from a medical family and friends who do as well. One of the funniest but scary things is when parent of the doctor is so used to getting advice from offspring doctor that they ring them in an emergency instead of 000 or 911. “This is Mum. I have chest pains. Am having a heart attack. What should I do?” Not uncommon and so scary!!
    The thing I find interesting is that I offer the prospective of the overcoming patient and I have no doubt that I’m doing as well as I am because I am active: physically and mentally. Sometimes, I get stroppy about having to do so much because I’m tired. I’d like to just sit in a chair and veg. Do absolutely nothing. However, my mother is constantly offering me advice she doesn’t follow herself. My brother has fibromyolgia and admittedly has tried things and has built something of a protective layer around himself and he’s very difficult to reach. They never look at how well I’m doing and ask for help. They seem to want to be miserable.
    By the way, I’m reading a book you would love. Have you read: “The Brain which Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge? He’s put out a new book: “The Brain’s Way of Healing”. He specialises in brain plasticity and it’s a mind-blowing book. I would love to get a group of people reading it at the same time to compare notes. xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I can understand your frustration — between being a paralegal for more than a decade and a professional photographer for another decade, I’ve had way too many people want my “professional advice”… but what always got to me was those that didn’t… My Grandma and birth mom never seemed to trust that I could handle their legal needs such as making their wills, etc. The fact that I did stuff like that every day for strangers meant nothing… they wanted a real attorney. (Never mind that the attorney they paid tons of money to handed the job off to his paralegal who did exactly as I would have done.) But yeah, I can definitely see why you would feel frustrated with those family members.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Sorry that I have not been over to Victo Dorlore in the last few weeks, no excuse except giving myself too much to do!! Anyway I decided that I would have a browse this morning and found this gem that Victo published earlier in the week.. the challenges of being a doctor in a family. It is almost as bad when you go out with one and take them home for the first time to meet the family…. disaster.


  24. AGREED!!! My mom fought esophageal cancer for a couple years and I was her nurse. Near the end I asked her if I could just be her daughter for a little while…..

    Love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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