McKeithan Column|My mission: Confirmation of self-diagnosis: STAT

Published 4:00 am Friday, June 26, 2009

Associate Publisher

A doctor’s worst nightmare
I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, but seldom as a patient. I hope never to return.
Let me say from the get-go that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for those in the medical field. I have seen, firsthand, the incredible healing of family and friends under the care of talented doctors and nurses. I’m your biggest fan.
Unfortunately, there’s another, less heroic side of the tale of the good doctor: The bad patient.
This is my story:
I’m on constant alert. At the onset of any perceived “symptom,” I leap into action. That’s right; I Google it. I have an amazing ability to — with one click of the mouse — diagnose my disease or infirmity. Usually, it’s a very rare, terminal illness.
Then, I’m off to the doctor’s office. I am not going to reveal who my doctor is (thank me later, Dr. Teixeira) because the following is a fictionalized account, based on real life experiences.
I don’t view my frequent doctor visits casually; they become a multi-phase mission. Here is how a typical “mission” goes:
Front-desk person: May I help you?
Yes, I need to see Dr. Not-To-Be-Named (NTBN) immediately. My name is William Ray McKeithan. I am a male, and I filled out your forms last week when I was here for malaria. Here’s a copy of my living will, my medical power of attorney and my safe deposit box key. I have prepared a complete family medical history dating back to 1865, listed my drug allergies and copied my insurance card and my college transcripts. You have all you need.
We don’t have an appointment available until September.
That’s no good — I’ll be dead by then. I think that defeats the purpose.
Then I went there. I started shouting medical terms to get respect and to show everyone in the lobby that I meant business: “This is a code purple, people!” I shouted. “I need to see the doctor, STAT … I may need to be quarantined!”
I then calmly took a seat, knowing I’d see the doctor soon.
First phase of mission: Complete.
Just three hours later, as I sat reading the October ’87 edition of Southern Living, I was whisked back to triage.
Nurse: Let’s hear it — what is it this time, Ray?
I had a headache yesterday.
Any other complaints?
Yes, someone tore out the fried Moon Pie recipe from Southern Living.
No, I mean MEDICAL complaints!
Well, what are they?
I’ll save it for the Doc, if that’s OK with you Nurse Friendly.
Phase two of mission: Complete.
I had only waited two hours in the exam room when the doctor rushed in:
Doctor NTBN: What’s ailing you this time, Ray?
Headache, Doc.
Any other pain?
Well, please describe it.
It hurt.
Was it a sharp pain or a dull pain?
At home.
No, I mean where on your body?
Enough of these games, Doc. Give it to me straight: How long do I have?
Well, I leave for lunch in five minutes.
I think you can see where this is going. He didn’t come out and say it, but the doctor thinks I’m a wimp. He’s probably right. I offer no apologies to true wimps who may be offended by these comments.
(I don’t have to worry about them anyhow — because THEY’RE WIMPS.)
I left the doctor’s office empty-handed. Not one needless test was ordered. No unnecessary scans or biopsies occurred. No follow-up appointment was scheduled.
My symptom(s) miraculously disappeared and I returned home to delete “The Bubonic Plague and You” bookmark from my computer.
Mission terminated.
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher of the Washington Daily News. This column is a repeat because Ray has been preoccupied this week. Any negative comments about him or his writing can be sent directly to: