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…