One of the hardest things to cope with in life is knowing that you’re not being heard. Knowing that your voice is drowned out because others believe they know what you feel better than you do. Whether it’s your emotions or how you physically feel in your body, it’s a difficult thing to accept when your feelings are dismissed or ignored. It can also greatly affect the way you interact with others and how you feel when you walk away.
I was in the hospital for almost one dozen days three years ago – 11 days to be exact –, while doctors and nurses streamed in and out of my room around the clock monitoring my condition. They adjusted the tubes in my arms that led to multiple IV bags and changed those bags countless times when the medications they contained had emptied after flowing into my body one drip at a time. They scheduled tests and procedures for me to undergo, for which orderlies punctually arrived and wheeled me to, through mazes of sanitized hallways. The only thing they didn’t do was listen to me.
Even as I lay in the hospital bed writhing in unbearable pain, they refused to hear or believe me. For close to a dozen days, they did not listen to me when I described the intense pain in my lower abdomen. They did not listen because according to them, the condition they incorrectly diagnosed was never accompanied by such high levels of pain. They gave me the lowest doses of pain medications to appease me and take the edge off my ‘imagined’ pain and continued to flood my body with other medications without doing the proper probing or listening to arrive at a correct diagnosis.
That experience of not being listened to continued, for almost a year. It wasn’t until I was seen by an Anesthesiologist completing her Fellowship in Pain Management, almost 11 months later – at the pain clinic where I am now treated – that someone finally spent the time asking me a lengthy list of questions and listening closely to my responses, that I was believed. The compassion and patience she extended to me during our first meeting, and during each meeting that followed until the end of her Fellowship, made me feel huge relief; and the first report she wrote and sent to my other doctors led to a monumental shift in their attitudes about my illness and my treatment plan.
Had I not met that doctor, I’m not sure how I would be coping now. Her willingness to listen to me and act on what I told her changed so much about how I perceive my illness and its symptoms. It also helped to temper the negative perception I was developing about the other medical professionals who were involved in my care, and those who still are. I know she was doing her job, but her approach made all the difference, and I hope the patients she continues to work with will have experiences similar to mine.