Confronting the ghosts of medical experiences past

Two weeks ago someone I know through my chronic pain support group asked if anyone could give her a ride to an appointment in a town that she can’t get to by public transportation. I volunteered. Little did I know.

It wasn’t until after I volunteered that I thought to ask where in that town her


Where I walked after confronting today’s ghost.


appointment was. It turns out, it was at the same medical center that I went to for my entire childhood. It’s the place where I was treated badly over and over and over again.

My first reaction wasn’t a good one. I pictured the ride up that elevator. I remembered the waiting rooms. I flashed back on the parking garage. And I got really anxious.

And that’s while I was still sitting in my living room!

If figured I could drop her off, find someplace else to wait, and then pick her up. But I was still worried about how I’d react when the time came.

Then someone else in the group volunteered to take her. I told her that if she didn’t mind, it would help me out if she could go with the other person. I never told her why – why cloud her opinion of the place? I was incredibly relieved, but still, the entire thing brought back a lot of memories I’d managed to block out.

Today was different. When a friend called and said she was anxious about an appointment and asked me to go with her, I asked where it was before I answered. I’d learned my lesson. It wasn’t until we arrived at the office (which I’d never been to) that I saw the name on the door. Oh my!

This was the surgeon who messed up my treatment when I was 18. On top of that, he was a real prick. I never call anyone that, but he was. He was a jerk. An asshole. He told me that I shouldn’t complain about the pain I was in because the Olympic gymnasts (it was during the Olympics) were in worse pain (who would he know?!) and look what they could do.

If I was better at standing up for myself back then, I would have pointed out that they had a choice. I didn’t. And I would have pointed out that he was a real jerk for talking to a 17-year-old like that. And I would have never seen him again.

But I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I returned to him and let him perform surgery on me. What was I thinking?

And I saw him today. My friend asked me to go into the appointment with her. I put my feelings aside and acted like I didn’t know the guy. I supported my friend. I took notes. I asked questions.

And now I’m not sure how I feel. I went to a pretty wooded park and walked around for a bit after that. I pet a couple of dogs that people were walking (because any day I pet a dog is a good day!) But I didn’t think about that doctor at all.

Maybe I’ve moved past it. Maybe I dissociated from that guy. Maybe I’ll have nightmares tonight. Maybe this will catch up to me in a week. I don’t know.

All I know is that right now, at this moment, I’m feeling ok. I’m focusing on that. And I’m going to try extra hard to avoid horrible doctors and terrible buildings from past experiences, but I know that might not be possible. After all, I’ve seen a whole lot of doctors in over 20 years of living with chronic illness in Boston. I guess it was inevitable that I’d face some of these ghosts again. I just hope it’s the last time for a while….

Have you had experiences like these? How did you handle them? How do they make you feel?

2 Responses to Confronting the ghosts of medical experiences past

  1. Lorna says:

    My goodness, you are so amazing! That was a lovely thing you did for your friend. I don’t know how you did it.
    My hubby saw the same Dr that had been really patronizing and dismissive of me. I went with him to the appointments and because he recognized my hubby as an ex employee of the hospital he was a completely different man and hubby got some good advice.I just asked lots of questions. The Dr didn’t remember me.
    I felt quite put out to say the least and I refuse to be referred to him again. Hugs xx

    • chronicrants says:

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Lorna. Honestly, if it had been a doctor who had more recently mistreated me I’m not sure if I could have done it. But I saw this guy around 18 years ago, so I’ve had some time to move on. I hope you don’t have to see that doctor again!

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