WHEN THE PATIENT IS A DOCTOR…

I always like to make use of every opportunity to stress that, doctors ARE human beings, and we do fall ill, too. The worst part is that, our diagnosis is often complicated by an exaggerated psychological disturbance, maybe because we are “oversavvy”. For example, because I know that chest pain is a common symptom of hundreds of diseases, I would easily put myself through loads of laboratory and radiological tests just to rule out the potentially life-threatening causes. Who wants to die?!

Soon after I began my clinical training, I started feeling a strange discomfort in my chest. Kanu Nwankwo’s diagnosis of a valvular heart disease was still trending then… Dr. Okolo gave us a comprehensive lecture on cardiac pathology… Oh my God! It was as if he was talking about me. Next thing I noticed was that I was having a stabbing chest pain which radiated to my back. Then, I started having palpitations, loss of appetite and poor sleep.

I turned to my textbooks, pretending as if I was reading for exams. But I was just making sure I wasn’t going to die suddenly from heart attack, lol! When I couldn’t bear it anymore, I went to the staff clinic and met a medical officer who obviously hadn’t read as much as I had recently read then. After explaining my predicament to her, I went ahead and schooled her on what I thought the diagnosis and treatment should have been. Thank God the lady calmly reassured me that what I had was merely peptic ulcer. I still wasn’t convinced until I had an ECG which turned out to be normal, Alhamdulillaah!

Another subset of “oversavvy” patients are not actual doctors, but they have bagged PhDs from googling and “wiki-ing” every single detail before going to the clinic. Fine, it’s OK to know about the possible causes of your symptoms. In fact, it makes the consultation easier and more fun. However, it’s not appropriate to just go and tell the doctor what diagnosis you have arrived at and demand for specific prescriptions. Rather than saying, “I have malaria and I want quinine”, say: “I have fever and headache, I think it might be malaria because I’ve been exposed to mosquito bites lately”. And please, don’t carry all the articles you printed out from the internet just to argue with the doctor. That’s why it’s called a “consultation” room, not a courtroom!

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