And then my eyes were opened

Despite my questionable experience with my allergist, I still had a high opinion of doctors when I moved to Portland in 2000. These were people who’d dedicated their lives to people’s health, to save lives. They were intelligent, committed, and sincere in their intentions to help me whenever I wasn’t doing well. That all changed with my first PDX based primary physician.

I don’t remember his name. Not that I’d share it here for fear of being sued. I’ll simply call him “that twat”, because, well, that’s what he was. A twat.

It was a long time ago so forgive me if I don’t remember everything. I just remember that fifty percent of the time I’d call to setup an appointment he was on vacation in the Bahamas or some equally beautiful place. So yes, out of about eight appointments over five or so years he was on vacation, easily an all time record for any physician I’d been under. Didn’t really matter though, if and when he was in the office he wasn’t really present, didn’t really listen, acted nonchalant about any symptom I might happen to share. Indeed, his most frequent differential diagnosis was allergies, despite me telling him flat out I had a lifetime worth of experience with allergies and I was not experiencing an allergy attack. This was especially true the last few times I saw him when I was starting to experience some pretty serious GI issues with a lot of acid reflux. “Allergies,” he said. “No,” I said. He just shrugged and sent me home. I eventually called up a nose, ear, and throat specialist without asking for his okay, and as expected, the guy took one quick look down my throat, exclaimed, “You’ve got some pretty bad acid reflux,” and prescribed a series of changes in my lifestyle along with relevant medications to help.

My worst experience came one day when I said I needed some help to stop smoking. He smiled, grabbed some packs of medication from behind the counter, shoved them in my hands, and said, “Here, they’re free, they’ll help you kick the habit.” Over the course of the next several weeks not only did I not kick the habit, but my moods had started teeter tottering and I’d become extremely suicidal. I Googled the medication (Wellbutrin) only to learn it was of a class of anti-depressants doctors were experimenting with, off label, to help people stop smoking. Wellbutrin was in a family of anti-depressants I knew screwed with my moods, my sleep, and my desire to keep breathing. That mother fucking twat. I did, however, learn one important lesson: if a physician’s office is adorned by swag for a medication they’re pushing on you (especially if they’re handing to you sans cost), chances are they’re less interested in your health than a nice kick back. No wonder he could always afford expensive vacations.

Personal opinion: Doctors who prescribe anti-depressants willy nilly—especially without warning or monitoring their patients—should loose their licenses.

The last time I went to see him he was on vacation (obviously). A doctor from East Portland was covering for him. She was warm, talkative, and most importantly, she listened. She saw right away that the health issues I was starting to experience weren’t allergies and she spent an entire thirty minutes engaged in active conversation about my health care. Unfortunately, since she was only on loan, I couldn’t make her my new primary, but she shattered my illusion that there was only one kind of doctor: the kind that sincerely cares about their patients health outcomes. So with that I never again went to see that twat; he was only a taste of the questionable health care I would receive in years to come.

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