ISO Of An MD Who Listens


Two weeks ago, I couldn’t fall asleep because there was tightness in my chest and I had a hard time swallowing (as if something was caught in my throat). As a result, I couldn’t catch my breath and struggled to take normal breaths. I changed positions, swallowed hard, massaged my throat, and tried deep breathing – but nothing helped. I started to worry.

After an hour of significant discomfort, I assessed my options: call my husband who’s on business travel (But what could he realistically do? Tell me to go to the doctor and worry.); wake-up my daughter and consult with her (Again, what would that really accomplish?); or wait to see if things got worse so I could feel justified in calling 911.

None of these felt like good options.

Knowing I didn’t want to be THAT person who ignores all the telltale symptoms of a major problem and then drops dead, I put on some clothes and drove myself to urgent care.

They put me on a heart monitor and did an EKG. Everything was normal.

They gave me a vile-tasting Malox “cocktail” to treat possible acid reflux. No change in my symptoms.

They wheeled me down to the radiology room to do a chest x-ray to rule out a pulmonary blood clot. All clear!

Once concerns about major organs were ruled out, the doctor explained, the plan was to treat the symptoms without knowing the cause and have my primary care doc follow-up the next day. Finally, I was hooked up to an IV with a muscle relaxant and my throat loosened up. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home five hours later.

Remembering that the urgent care doc said (not once, not twice, but three times) to see my primary care doc within 24 hours, I called the doc whom I’ve been going to for eight years. Via her receptionist, she advised me that “I could wait for an appointment” until after she returned from vacation – two weeks hence. Time to get a new doctor.

I made an appointment with my allergist to rule out an allergic or asthmatic reaction. She conducted a breathing test (which I passed with “flying colors”) and then suggested the incident was most likely due to acid reflux. She referred me to gastroenterologist.

I went to see the gastroenterologist the following week. However, I spent the majority of my 10-minute appointment with his physician assistant. While she took my medical history, she constantly chit chatted and ended up talking over me as I tried to explain my symptoms. I saw the actual doctor for less than two minutes as he whizzed in, shook my hand, heard a 20-second recap of my history, and recommended I get an endoscopy.

You know, I’m not really comfortable with something being shoved down my throat unless I feel confident that the shover has taken the time to listen to me and understand what’s going on with ME, not what he assumes after 30 seconds.

Still desperately seeking a doc who would talk with me for more than five minutes (AND listen), I went to an internist who’s part of a concierge medical practice. (With a concierge practice, doctors limit the number of their patients so they can provide more personalized, preventive care and, in return, patients pay an annual fee to be part of the practice). My plan was to talk with him, see how well he LISTENED, and, if sufficiently impressed, plunk down my money and just deal with this thing.

Let me tell you, even a $1,500/year concierge doctor isn’t guaranteed to listen.

So, I’m still in search of a new doc.

I really believe that my medical issue is not that severe (and most likely acid reflux). So, why am I so intent on finding a good doc when any old doc can treat acid reflux?

Because I’m at the stage of life when my aging body is starting to do strange, unfamiliar things. And I want – no, I deserve – a doctor who will listen and be a partner in my healthcare.

What do you think, Wise Women? Am I living in a fantasy land? Any stories (good or bad) that can help me out?


  • Sue Says:
    7-28-2010 08:46:34

    My advice – don’t give up! I had a situation a few years ago where, over a period of several months, I was experiencing a variety of minor health problems that I thought were unrelated. As the frequency of the problems increased, I started seeking answers for each symptom and met with a progression of doctors and specialists. In every case, I felt that the doctors were a bit dismissive; the consensus was that my problems were probably related to stress. I finally met with a wonderful, caring internist who also felt the problem was stress, but wanted to run a battery of tests just to make sure that there wasn’t something more serious going on. Turns out, there was — and it explained all of the symptoms I had been having. And once the real problem was addressed, everything cleared up. To this day, I rave about that doctor and recommend him to everyone I know. So keep searching; while it is frustrating, I believe that you’ll eventually find the right doctor. And I hope you’re feeling better soon!

  • Maya Says:
    7-28-2010 08:49:01

    You are not alone, Elaine! The only thing worse than what you experienced is being made to wait up to an hour after your alotted appointment time and then to be given the brush-off by the doctor!

    Long ago, I made a decision that I would go out of network and pay out of pocket for a practitioner that takes the time to listen and is thorough. It’s taken awhile, but I now have several doctors of this caliber. I do end up paying a lot more for it, but to me it’s worth it!

    I’m happy to give you their names, if you don’t mind making the trip in to DC!

  • Kathleen Says:
    7-28-2010 10:54:12

    Elaine, I’ve always been happy with Dr. Wong (that’s not how his last name is spelled, but that’s how it’s pronounced, and I don’t know how to spell it. Starts with an “H.”) at Vienna Family Medicine. Give him a try (if he’s still at the practice. He leaves every once in a while to go work with Doctors Without Borders or something similar.)

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