Bullying not just for kids anymore.

Catherine Aline Shurtz Moe Mount Mercy Nurses School class of 1950

I had the exceptional fortune to be the daughter of a nurse. Not a LPN or AIDE (Both very good nurses!) But an RN, from the old school. The lived in a dorm, took classes the first 2 years, unpaid. They wore crisp white uniforms, white hose, white caps – each one denoted by the type and color of their “Home” nursing school.  They scrubbed the autoclave inside and OUT, they had blood pressure cuffs that had long tails that had to be wrapped properly or “SISTER” would tear it and them apart. She mixed her own medicines for IV’s, sterilized the reusable syringes in the Autoclave. At this point maybe I should interject that my Mom went to a Catholic Nurses School. So the “Sisters” on the floor were REALLY Sisters! If Sister didn’t like the way you folded your “Hospital” corners on the bed, yep she would just rip it to the floor. Which meant that they had to be washed and sanitized all over again. I wanted to tell you a little of the background for my most recent blog.

I went through cancer treatments while my Mom was still alive, sick but still with us. She made sure she made it to my doctors appointment, until it became to much for her. When I was off to a surgery appointment, she sat me down and said “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER (yes, she said it three times!) Let a doctor, nurse or anybody bully you with their brain.” I of course brushed it off as my Mom just trying to help me even though she couldn’t be there.

When I got into the “exam room” the doctor came in and did his exam and told me to get dressed and someone would show me into his conference room. I have to say that it sounded to me that he was fitting me in between his more important patients. I can tell you that my Mom’s words came flooding back. When I was ushered in for my consultation he was already reading someone else’s chart, yes I can read upside down. When he said he could do surgery on a certain date. Not “Shall we?” not “is it OK?” but just a “this is when I can fit you in.” Being my Mother’s daughter I said “Why?” You would have thought I tasered him. “Well, because you have cancer and it needs to come out!”

That was a good place to start, so I asked “What options do I have? Are you planning on doing a mastectomy? lumpectomy? how much of a clear margin do you consider safe?” I don’t think his eyes could have gotten any bigger. I don’t mean to sound well, mean. But I know he has schooling and learning that I will never have but I have something he will never have. I am an expert on ME! I knew when I was sick, I knew that something was wrong long before I went to see him. He got his medical degree by having a desire for medicine – no one would go through all that just on a whim!

I asked about options, he actually sat up in his chair, adjusted his glasses and answered. “Well, we won’t know exactly what we are dealing with until we remove it. I require a clean margin of 2cm all the way around.” This was good because some doctors only require 1cm clear.

“OK, what happens if once you are in there you find it is bigger or more intense than you think now.”

“We will do a lymph node biopsy to see if it has spread beyond what we think now.” Again he pushed up his glasses, I think all doctors have glasses to look smarter! “If I determine that it has spread the surgery might become more involved.”

“Mastectomy? Who makes that decision?” Again Mom is a nurse – ask questions until YOU are happy with the answers.

“Well, I do! You will still be on the table.” Sorry wrong answer.

“If and when you determine what is to be done my Mother and Father will be waiting – you will consult with them. They know me better than you do. They will decide what steps need to be done.”

Again you would have thought I kicked his dog or something! At this point the question was asked “How did you come to be here? Do you not trust my knowledge?”

“I trust you other wise I wouldn’t be here. But my parents know ME better than you do. Are you OK with that?” He actually took off his glasses at this point.

That is just one example of someone thinking they can bully you with their brains. Not only doctors, I know that they spend a lot of time and effort filling their heads with knowledge to help us but, they have to remember we are experts on us. I am reaching an age when most of my friends are on a first name basis with the pharmacist! So as we head to this chapter in life just remember ask questions, and if you don’t understand it ask again, If they try to make you feel stupid or insignificant just remember that your brain has more information about you than that doctor will ever have.

When Mom was in the hospital again, I wanted to talk to the doctor. He was making rounds with some students. As he got to my Mom’s room (cubical really) he stood out side the door and started listing all the things she was being treated for. I listened, one of the things I wasn’t sure about was them draining her lungs of fluid. I walked out and asked him what they felt this would accomplish? How much pain is there? Is this really going to make her feel better? He was a younger doctor and I was standing behind him as he was talking to his group. He rather glanced my way and said that the edema in her lungs was due to her heart a fib. I said I didn’t understand why they were draining her lungs in what would have to be a rather painful procedure. If they treated the a fib wouldn’t that help dissipate the fluid in the body’s natural way? His answer wasn’t exactly clear but he seemed to dismiss me. So I asked again, what would it take to help the heart function so that it would work better? I am not sure what happened at that point but he dismissed the “crowd” and we went into my Mom’s bedside and she asked “What would you expect to gain by doing the drain?” Mom had had it done before and it wasn’t very pleasant. The doctor said that if they could reduce the edema from the lungs the heart wouldn’t have to work so hard. OK, Mom understood that. How about if we try upping the diuretic meds and give it about 48 hours and see if it works. If not then try draining the lungs. Can you believe it, the doctor said “OK, sure” up the meds and she eliminated most of the fluids, on her own. YOU know what your body needs and what your body can do.

Just remember no matter how much information someone has they don’t have the right to make you feel stupid.