Yesterday I had to go to Urgent Care. I’m pretty sure you all heard my groans from wherever you are. I’ve had a tension headache that has been pestering me for about a week, but yesterday it got painful enough that I was getting physically ill and I had a few other strange symptoms.
So I checked in and waited the standard 3 hours that most people wait in Las Vegas. When I finally saw a doctor, he looked in my ears, asked me a couple questions that he didn’t allow me to answer without being cut off. I was annoyed, but he made a good argument for me to rule out meningitis – meaning I needed to be transferred to an emergency room.
I texted my mom saying a spinal tap felt like overkill. As moms do, she said to listen to him. I obliged. I love my mom and totally trust her judgment. Additionally, she gets zero blame for what ended up happening.
About a half hour after they said they were calling an ambulance to transport me, the nurse comes in with a cup for a urine sample. That was not discussed (as you’d expect it to be in an urgent care setting), so I asked her what it was for. She said she didn’t know and to follow her. I asked her to get the doctor again because the sample wasn’t discussed. If it was for blood sugar I was going to decline – there’s no need to waste money on something I can provide that’s at a 5 minute delay (via CGM) compared to a 2-4 hour delay for the urine strip.
The doctor comes in and asks what the problem is. I asked what the urine sample was for and he said, “To rule out diabetes.” My jaw dropped as I asked, “To rule out diabetes?” And he said, “Yes, we need to make sure you don’t have diabetes.” At this point in time I saw red, called him a f****** moron, told him to read my chart, and I walked out of the clinic past the ambulance that was there to pick me up.
“Yes, we need to make sure you don’t have diabetes.”– Negligent MD at the urgent care
Urgent and emergent care should NOT be sub-par, uninformed care.
I drove myself to a different location of the same urgent care company. In tears, I asked to be seen. They asked if I had just been seen at the other location and I answered yes and said I wanted to see a different provider because the doctor at the other property did not listen to me.
They got me into a room within about an hour. Before I saw a doctor, the medical director came in and told me I was supposed to go to the emergency department, not urgent care. I explained the situation. She said she would rather not start a new appointment – I told her I was there for a new appointment and would like to be approached as a new patient. I told her that as long as the provider will hear me, read my chart, and give me a fair assessment, I want to be seen there. She made a couple disapproving grunts and left the room. I think maybe they wanted to go home, the clinic had closed at this point.
Anyway, the doctor came in. She did a physical, including a neurological assessment, and agreed with me that I definitely have a tension headache. She added that I’ve also got symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. She gave me a Toradol injection and muscle relaxers to relieve the headache, as well as instructions for resolving the sinus infection without antibiotics (which is standard for someone like me who is allergic to a class of antibiotics). When I asked, she quietly agreed that the spinal tap felt like overkill, but that she always hesitates to challenge the findings of another doctor.
My takeaways from this experience are many that I have had before. Firstly, when my doctor didn’t listen to my answers to his questions, I should have spoken up. If I had told him this when I first felt shushed, I could have asked more questions to prevent all of the miscommunication. Second, I need to trust my intuition. My intuition was telling me that a spinal tap was not necessary, and the second doctor confirmed that for me. I should have asked to have my appointment transferred to another location for a second opinion instead of storming out. Third, refraining from calling my doctor a f****** moron probably would have gotten me more respect when asking for an appointment at the other location. I’m lucky the staff was as kind as they were – legally, they could have refused me service and told me to go to Emergency.
Hindsight is 20/20, or maybe 20/25 in this case. We all continue to learn from things that have happened in our lives, and this one will be a recurring event in my memory.
Do you have a medical horror story you want to share? Tell me about it in the comments, on twitter, or at email@example.com. Everyone deserves comprehensive healthcare – let’s hold our providers accountable.