I’ve been raised to always be polite to someone even when they might not reciprocate such civility. Manners cost nothing as my therapist used to say, often when I told him of the multiple times I’d been on the receiving end of cultural abuse or narrow minded intolerance from a variety of places, most of them systemic from my employer or one of the many large governmental agencies present in modern day Britain.
Getting angry in a public office doesn’t help your cause one iota. The belief that the Brits fear direct confrontation and will do anything to avoid it, thus bowing to individual wishes ended with the day Thatcher took on the unions and won. The American influence of suing for anything from physical damage to mental distress now works both ways and many governmental buildings now have a sign paraphrasically stating “We will prosecute you if you abuse us”.
And rightfully so.
But that doesn’t give the government the right to be incompetent or intolerant at their profession and then expect to get away scot free.
No, uh-uh, not happening.
Last week I had an NHS referral to check out my left knee. I damaged it back in September ’12 when I was in New York and it’s been uncomfortable ever since. Following much private examination (paid for out of my own pocket) from my chiropractor and a physiotherapist attached to my local gym and one NHS funded MRI all the tests have returned negative. Neither ligaments nor patella has any acute damage. This is a great relief.
But I’m still in a lot of discomfort; the knee has no load-bearing strength, and stiffens easily. So I asked for a referral.
I arrived an hour prior to the stated time, the waiting room being virtually empty. The receptionist tried to bump me to the front of the queue but the therapists in question was having none of it. Apparently he’d rather wait for his patients in order, despite the fact that neither of the patients before me were present. Okay. It allowed me to go and get something to eat, along with my mom who was riding shotgun, and we had a chat about things; mainly the forthcoming NFL draft, feminism and all its pitfalls and Putin.
In the end the man was only 5 minutes late; which is practically on time for the current NHS.
And to say I had a premonition that the appointment wouldn’t go well would be an understatement.
Before he laid a finger on me he’d totally misread my outfit. And for a physiotherapist – or any clinician who’s planning actual physical contact with their patients – this is can be a terminal faux-pas. Wearing skinny jeans that showed off my un-skinny ankles he informed me that I didn’t need to change (I’d brought along shorts to wear so he could have the necessary access) as I could just hike my trouser leg up. I don’t know why he said this. Either he was so inattentive he didn’t cotton on to the contours of my outfit or he’d said the same thing over and over again already to patients he was just running on autopilot. I put him right by saying I had shorts and dragged the paper curtain between us before prompted.
And for me to take the initiative in anything clinical is unusual. I’m chalking my sudden onset of decisiveness up to the “none fool tolerance” I mentioned earlier.
He asked me the potted history of the injury, which I repeated again and watched him make notes. He brought up the results of the MRI on the computer, noting the lack of damage to the cruciates, collaterals and patella tendon. Which I can honestly say relieved me greatly.
But when I told him my job and the fact that I often “crawl around on the floor” of operating theatres he looked sceptical.
That is if he looked at me at all. Throughout the appointment his eye contact was dreadful. Truly stereotypically bad; like the 18 year old checkout girl making less than minimum wage in Tescos, who’d rather text on her phone than serve customers. It got to a point where I was turning to look at what he was looking at, solely to make a point, which sadly I don’t think he got.
But he clearly questioned my accuracy of my job. But I was adamant. This IS WHAT I DO.
Moving on… he then had me walk across the room, asking where I felt pain, was it on motion or on impact? And jotting things down accordingly. Then I was on my back on the bench having a manipulation and being told thoroughly that my injury was hamstring-centric and my knee was fine. He then proceeded to prove this theory my manipulating the joint in every possible direction while I winced and protested.
“Have you done any stretches? Any exercises?”
Uh-huh. If you’d listened when I told you I go to the gym at least once a week you would already know that question. What do you think I do at the gym?
Anyone who knew me at that point would realise my patience was becoming threadbare.
I showed him the three exercises my private physiotherapist had recommended, all three of them focusing primarily on the opposite hip (my right hip is bearing a great deal of discomfort right now on account of my reluctance to overtax my left knee). He looked unconvinced, before asking me outright what those exercises had to do with my left knee. If he’d listened to any of my initial history he would know why I was doing those things. Clearly what I was saying was unworthy of his interest. I was the patient and he was the therapist so I should just listen and nod.
Instead I interrupted him mid-sentence and whipped the paper screen back between us in order to change back into the denim so I could leave this pointless waste of a day as quickly as possible.
He took the hint.
Before asking if I was “upset” with the diagnosis and how the session had gone?
Honestly, hand on heart, I wasn’t. I am pleased I got to see the MRI results in person. And I’m happy that I know the problem is more hamstring and muscle in origin than ligament. But his attitude to the situation was abhorrent. It was clear to anyone with a clue that he was more focused on obtaining a diagnosis that required me not to have surgery (and therefore cost the NHS money) than actually finding and fixing the source of my discomfort that has being going on for over eighteen months.
As an end note he asked “Would you like to see if I could get you some physiotherapy or d’you want to keep working on your own?”
Okay, first of all I have a private physiotherapist and chiropractor who are aware of my condition and do their best to help me work through it. You would know this if you bothered to listen. I didn’t say the last part, it would be a broken record and I don’t repeat myself unless I have to.
And second of all, of you had bothered to do a smidge of personal history you would find out my shoulders are almost as bad as my knee and doing any exercise shoulder-centric (like a rowing machine, which he suggested in order to “strengthen my knees”) would be the exercise equivalent of chemo. It fights the cancer but the rest of the body takes a pounding.
In the end he tried to get me onto the NHS physio list for the hospital I work for. Only to find it was fully booked for that day’s allocation. EH? You can only allocate a certain number of patients for physio on a specific day? Once the quota is full that’s it? So he gave me some paperwork to try and contact them in my own time. Great. Thanks.
In the end we parted cordially, and he showed me back to the waiting room. My last words to him being “Thankyou, have a nice day! *expletive*”
The last part coming under my breath, but at that point I didn’t care if he heard me or not.