Menorrhagia

Light in Boston art museum

She was new to me.

She was mentally challenged although I will admit that I don’t even know what the right PC word is anymore. Clinically I have tons of appropriate labels but speaking to all of you, I don’t know what term to use that will guarantee that I do not offend someone. 

On top of that, she had developed dementia. 

Her sister spent her entire life as her personal caretaker… never married, never had children. Out of her several siblings, she was the one who stepped up to the plate. She genuinely cared. She had watched countless times as the medical community wrote off her sister. She had watched the untold emotional and physical suffering and she felt the unfairness acutely. 

One of the toughest things to deal with in this population is menstrual problems. Periods by themselves are bad enough when you understand them. Imagine trying to deal with your period when #1 you don’t know why you are bleeding from between your legs and #2 that bleeding is irregular and excessive. 

As a physician, working up menstrual problems is especially hard when you have a grown person who is willing to slug you, who screams and cries and is so terribly, awfully afraid of what you are going to do to her. I don’t believe tying someone down, forcing myself upon them, should be necessary. That sort of thing only exacerbates and perpetuates fear but it took us 45 minutes just to draw her blood. I held her hand. Her sister held her other hand. Two other staff members worked together to do the draw. No one got hurt, most especially the patient, but it took us 45 minutes to get her calm enough to endure four sticks to find a good vein.

In fact, it had been years since anyone had even tried to draw her blood because of how much of a challenge it was. Still, it had to be done. And we did it. But for the rest of the day I was running 45 minutes late. I could not catch up to save my life. 

I cannot go in to each patient afterwards and explain what happened. Patient privacy. Takes too long. Etc. etc. etc. But to all of those patients who graciously accepted my ambiguous apology, thank you. Thank you for not slamming me on patient satisfaction scores. Thank you for giving me the freedom to take care of this one person who really needed me.

You made a difference. 

You helped save a life. 

You are all my heroes and I am lucky to have you as patients.

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145 thoughts on “Menorrhagia

  1. It’s so refreshing to see from a doctor’s perspective the compassion that goes into your work, the respect you have for people’s time, and that you remember the good times when people are patient with you and not just when they get angry. As a patient it’s so easy to forget everything doctor’s are trying to do while keeping a schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t usually get upset when my appointment is delayed because I have been the one causing the delay to others several times in my past. When it is you and the doctor takes the time at the expense of others’ time, it really makes a difference and it leaves you open to waiting a little bit longer so that someone else can take advantage of the doctor’s time when they need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember my gyno saying to me once, she was sick and tired of patients thinking she out having tea and cookies when she came in late….she was either in a delivery or her surgery took longer than expected, my hysterectomy took 5 hours longer than she expected….I knew she wasn’t out drinking tea and eating cookies…..I feel for you all….like I used to tell her, if I wasn’t happy waiting I would be happy to reschedule my appointment…no issues….she only wished all her patients understood that….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think most patients understand. I was once at my annual physical and heard commotion in the next exam room. Next thing I knew, there were paramedics in the hallway with a stretcher, removing an elderly patient who had been brought to the doctor rather than the hospital – which he should have. When my doctor finally came in, he apologized for the delay, merely saying another patient had taken a little longer than expected. I certainly understood, and I’m sure those who came in after me did, too. You have to take care of your patients no matter how long it takes.

    Liked by 1 person

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