Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Squeaky Wheel

Excerpt from "Squeaky Wheel" as seen in Sick Girl Speaks!

A friend went in to see her specialist complaining of numbness in her legs, extreme fatigue and strange tingling sensations up and down her left side. Casually, the doctor mentioned that it could be Multiple Sclerosis, among other possibilities. Because her mother has MS, it was obviously the possibility that stuck out in her mind and sent chills of fear through her aching bones.

They took blood and promised that the results would be back on Friday, 4 days later. 4 very long, scary and uncomfortable days. During that time her symptoms grew worse and she began to have additional ones; the primary being painful white bumps on the back of her throat.

Thursday came and went with no call about her test results. At my urging, she decided to be a “squeaky wheel” and call before the end of business on Friday with two objectives. 1. To see if her blood work results had come in 2. To offer her new symptoms as they may be a key in figuring out what she was dealing with.

She called at 2pm and the office had already closed at 1pm. Choosing to go against her instinct to be “nice” and wait until Monday, she called the emergency number given. Surprisingly, the doctor himself answered the phone. She began to tell him her newest symptoms and he gave her a quick over-the-phone diagnosis. Before she could ask what her blood work showed or if the new symptom was related, he had another call and had to get of the phone immediately. She held on the line waiting for him to finish the other call only to be met with an impatient click and “What else do you want?” She could barely get any words out before he once again claimed the urgency of the other call and hung up. Naively, my friend thought he would call back. He did not.

At some point it dawned on her that he may have not even remembered her case and the fact that he had said she may have Multiple Sclerosis. He thought she was calling the emergency line about white bumps in the back of her throat!

Had it been me, I like to think I would have called him again, but I can’t be sure of that. For people that are not used to or comfortable with being assertive, it is often very difficult to push the issue with the medical team. For my friend, calling the emergency number was a bold move and calling it again seemed out of the question. The result is that she got spend the rest of her weekend being very sick with no idea what was happening to her. For the doctor, it was two more days. For a patient, it is a lifetime of worry and contemplation.


As a patient, I have learned the value of being a squeaky wheel. As someone who works in a doctor’s office, I have learned the necessity of being a squeaky wheel.

There is a fine line between being a Squeaky Wheel and being a Pain In the Butt that will make people not want to help you. I like to qualify it by saying; you must be a humble, polite, persistent squeaky wheel. Don’t assume they are putting themselves in your shoes. Don’t assume they are thinking about you at all. Fight for your information without alienating the team. Do not be afraid to be that Squeaky Wheel in order to get the best care possible!


Jen! said...

Hey Tiffany! This is Jen (Sonnati) Eisenmann! My mom just sent me a link to your blog and I am excited about reading it! I could not agree more with this post - I find that most of my friends and family have this "God complex" when it comes to doctors and whatever they say goes without question. I guess having been to SO many doctors in my life I learned to be more aggressive (but pleasant!)

Jeanne said...

Hi Tiffany--I love your blog.

I have another squeaky wheel story for you. I had a mole on my arm. (One of many, but this one looked different.) Two doctors (a dermatologist and a medical oncologist) in the past two years had told me it was OK. But it still didn't look right to me.

Another dermatologist removed it two weeks ago, and it was melanoma. Fortunately, it was still very thin, but what if I had waited? Doctors are not gods.

The Assertive Cancer Patient

Megan said...

Wow jeanne. I've had several moles removed. I guess that's a sqeaky wheel story for me too. I've been told I'm at a very high risk for melanoma and now INSIST that I get any "questionable" moles removed.

Femail doc said...

Hi Tiffany,

I would like to post your squeaky wheel verdict on my web-site, citing you as the authoress of course, with a link to your blog. May I?

Judy P, Femail Doc