How the other side lives: others’ medical appointments

I’ve been going to other people’s medical appointments lately. Well, I’ve really only been going to appointments for two. The first is my father. He needs someone more experienced to ask the right questions. The second is a friend who just had a baby. I just hold the baby in the waiting room while my friend has her checkup or whatever.

It’s interesting to see how the other side lives. My father has only recently had any health problems, and my friend has had almost none. Yes, I’ve gained some insight into their lives and into what it must be like to have a straightforward appointment with no medical mysteries, something I haven’t experienced since I was a pre-teen. What I find more interesting, though, is the reminder of why “healthy” people find it so hard to understand what we go through.

It starts before the appointment. There’s no major prep. There’s no gathering of pill bottles, lists of questions, or compiling of medical records. There’s no anxiety. There’s no worry.

Then there’s the day of the appointment. It’s no big deal to them. It’s just another item on another day, like doing laundry or buying groceries (which are also no big deal to them, unlike to me.) The appointment itself is straightforward. It’s treated like meeting with a plumber to get your pipes fixed – they ask questions, get answers, and go on with their day. There’s also more trust in the medical establishment. They don’t worry about tests not being covered by insurance, doctors not providing the right diagnosis, or any of the rest I worry about. And there’s so much trust in general! They don’t edit what they tell doctors, worried about being considered a hypochondriac. They don’t worry about being disbelieved. They state any problems and move on.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s the followup, or lack thereof. After most of my medical appointments, there’s a parent or friend wanting to know every detail. Well ok, with my father’s current issues, we’ve been having followup calls with my mother. She wants to be there, but since she works and I don’t, and to be honest I have more experience with doctors, I’ve been going to the appointments. But for my friend, when it’s done, it’s done. I’m sure she updates her husband when they both get home at the end of the day, but that’s it. There’s no rush, no concern, no potentially life-changing news to impart.

Part of me is jealous, but mostly I’m amazed. I had forgotten that it could be like that. It’s a good reminder of why my friends don’t understand all of the crap I deal with aside from how I actually feel. They have no clue about the insurance nightmares, the anxiety, the stigma, or the huge amounts of time involved. It’s completely foreign to them. I might as well move to Kenya and expect them to automatically understand my life there.

I’ll try to remember this the next time I get a blank stare as I explain that even though I don’t work, taking care of my health is more than a full time job. Or better yet, maybe I should get them to come to an appointment with me!

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