Code Redhead

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“But my diabetes is doing great, doc.” He shrugged.

The man was a brand new patient. He had stopped his meds on a whim a few years back, deciding that he did not need them. He had not been back to a doctor since then. 

His wife had made him an appointment for a physical, hoping he would start taking care of himself again. At least she cared. She sat in a corner quietly, meekly watching the exchange.

“How would you know? You are not checking your blood sugars, are you?”

“I don’t feel bad.”

“You probably don’t recognize that you feel bad, you have ignored it for so long. Your pee? You are spilling a ton of protein. All if that sugar has poked holes in your filter and you will end up in kidney failure if you keep ignoring it. Try to find a pulse in your feet. It isn’t possible. That is why you no longer have hair below your knees, unless you have started waxing. I bet you also are having some erectile dysfunction…”

“You dye your hair don’t you?” His eyes narrowed.

“Yep. I sure do, covers the grays.”

He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, smirking. ” I knew it,” he said to his wife. “Fake red head.” 

“I am going to write a prescription for some diabetes medication, something for your cholesterol, and we have got to get your blood pressure down so I am going to start you on a medication for that, too.”

“Why did you start dying your hair red? That isn’t your natural color is it? We should check your pubic hair, that would tell.” He smirked. “You weren’t getting any sex were you? That’s why you did it…” His smirk turned into a sneer.

He was feeling out of control. He liked being the big boss man, in charge of everything. He had a problem with women. Giving any amount of control to a woman was going to be hard for him. This was his way of trying to wrestle control back, by trying to humiliate me, knock my feet out from under me. I could let this escalate by being rude or defensive back or I could turn it around and make him laugh to diffuse the situation.

“Nah, sex isn’t a problem for me. I get plenty of that. But you are right that men either fear or lust after the hair.” I leaned over to his wife and whispered loud enough so he could also hear, “Either way I get what I want…” I winked at her. Then I turned back to him. “By the time I am through, YOU will fear the hair…” Then I winked at him. 

They both laughed.

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113 thoughts on “Code Redhead

  1. You amaze me, this man-fear or not, was sexist and controlling and I can freely admit that I would not have treated him, so it’s obviously good that I am not a physician. I wonder at what his wife lives everyday with a man like that…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That was an excellent response Victo, if you wanted to care about your patient – which obviously you did. It wouldn’t even occur to me to make a personal remark, let alone a derogatory one, to a doctor or any professional, for that matter. Definitely a case where you stepped up to be the bigger person. I used to try to train my staff to respond like that to clients who were abusive or derogatory. It takes a special caring, a good day, a centered perspective that identifies the response as one of fear. Training people to “be the bigger person” is an ongoing challenge for any leader, and is, in my estimation, the mark of a leader in and of itself. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Nice way of diffusing what could have been an even uglier encounter, one that ended with him not getting the treatment he needed because of his and your walls going up. But how icky that must have felt. Makes trying to hear a heart beat in a crying toddler or getting peed on by an infant not seem so bad…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree that you handled it brilliantly. Not all physicians who are female would not have that option because they would not be as quick-witted. One does not need to be rude or defensive and should not have to resort to humor–or even smile (that universal expectation of women)–to respond professionally to someone who is reverting to form under the influence of fear. (Granted that a smile or humor can most times greatly help!)

    So many women are not socialized to be assertive without feeling that are being rude or defensive. What might work, perhaps:
    “Mr. X, we both know that what you’re saying now is not okay, so please think before you speak, because I really want to keep you as a patient. I understand you don’t like what I’m telling you now, but you know I’m giving you my best expert professional advice as a doctor, and I’m doing this to help you.”

    Liked by 2 people

      • Similar insults to sexual ability are not uncommon – or insults involving incest (with mother, sister, etc), penis size, inability to perform. Like I say, the comment came out sexist, but there are plenty of comparable male to male abusive comments. Insulting personal attributes or sexual behaviour is just as common same sex as it is between sexes. In fact, if anything, I would say that I have heard more male to male sexually abusive comments than I’ve heard male to female.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have heard the things you speak of used as jokes and not as serious attacks but I am the first to admit that my not seeing it does not mean it does not exist. This fellow wasn’t jesting, though. That being said, it is always possible that I believe this was sexist because it is coming from a member of the OPPOSITE sex. The same attack from a woman would not feel the same way because it would feel somehow less sexual.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes the best response is the counter joke. Follow it up with the “rub it in” joke and you have verbal 1-2 jab-hook knock-out that brings down the defence. I avoid this as I am prone to dabble in “British” sarcasm.

    Humour is sometimes your only defence even when it makes you vulnerable…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! What an amazing turn around to a situation where my first instinct would be to slap him. My second inclination would have been to refer him to a male colleague. Third inclination would be to set him up for a very painful, very invasive test or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have to deal with that on a daily basis…..I work in an inner city hospital and non-compliance is a huge issue. The defense mechanism of switching the conversation so the patient feel empowered happens on a daily basis…it is based on their fear and I generally handle it like you do…with humor. Humor is one of the best patient teaching methods there is. Not giving them the response they are looking for but, making them feel empowered is an art form that comes from years of experience….eventually they learn they can trust you but, they still remain non-compliant…at least we try lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are a class act. I was thinking about this encounter this afternoon while I was working…(it reminded me of multiple encounters my daughter # 3 had in two different work settings) It has left me with zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks! Your poor daughter, though. I feel for her. Sometimes there is just nothing to be done about it but grit your teeth. Being a woman is a marvelous, powerful, beautiful thing but it does come with some occupational hazards. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great insight! It’s not easy to look for the underlying issues when someone is trying to push your buttons or get your goat. That insight kept you from kicking him out of your office. You claimed your authority, gave a little of it to the wife, and the wink took the edge off. Marvelous job! I hope you can let us know if he comes back. Either way, he has to respect you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, you are one wise doc! Being a redhead myself, a. I would have let my temper “flare” and b. I would have insulted him outright! With his controlling attitude, he probably won’t be a patient of yours much longer…he’ll be dead. Loved the story though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. So, you weren’t tempted to say, “Oh, everything looks great. You must be doing something right, Mr. Troglodyte.” Then his diabetes would get worse, he’d die and the world would be better off.

    Hats off to you, Victo. I don’t know how you do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Even if I were ever to completely lose the use of my mental faculties, and decided that I just had to pick a verbal battle with a member of my favorite gender, I can assure you it would neither be with yourself, or that wonderful Wayfarer that you were just talking to. After all, I want to survive the encounter.

    Liked by 1 person

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