I showed up to the Emergency Room bleeding profusely from my vagina last January. It is now August and that profuse bleeding only just stopped a few days ago. No, it’s not because I had a condition that could not be remedied easily. I had a uterine polyp. Okay, well, a kinda big uterine polyp. But that wasn’t the biggest problem: the gynecologists I encountered while seeking treatment were.
The on-call OBGYN who first treated me at the ER did an exam, saw the polyp, but told me I could wait a few more days to come to her office to have it removed. That was my first interaction with a gynecologist, but sadly it would not be the last. After going through hell to try to secure health insurance that her office accepted with no luck, I finally gave up and found a new gyno, who also did not immediately remove the problem polyp because she claimed it was too big and would require surgery.
One very uncomfortable hysteroscopy– a procedure that allows the doctor to look inside of your uterus which feels pretty much like you are a turkey being stuffed and basted– and one other gynecologist who did nothing to help later, I found a wonderful lady doctor by the name of Dr. Zaheda Muhammad who removed the pesky polyp in a basic in-office visit. After months of bleeding and discomfort and ping ponging between doctors, I finally had my life and my body back.
My story sucks. But more important than its sucky-ness is its obvious utility; my story can be used as a cautionary tale full of lessons that any woman should know when seeking the best possible medical care. Here are 5 Signs That You Have A Great Doctor (based on my experience with a polyp removal).
1. A great doctor loves his/her work and the way they interact with you will show it. Of the four gynecologists who treated me, two of them had horrible attitudes. It was obvious that they were over-booked, overwhelmed and over their jobs, because I felt like our appointments were always rushed and my questions had not been answered.
I most certainly never felt that way in Dr. Muhammed’s presence. She consulted with me for quite some time and patiently listened to my thorough rehashing of events leading up to my visit with her. After some deliberation and seeing how desperate I was, she decided to just go ahead and remove the growth.
“If you think you are bleeding too much after the removal, don’t hesitate to go to the ER,” Dr. Muhammed said, “and make sure to tell them that you are my patient. Any questions they have, direct them right to me no matter how late or how early.” It was obvious she loved her job and took pride in her work, which of course made me feel great to be her patient.
2. A great doctor works in a great facility. There were obvious differences between the four offices I went to seeking treatment. The office owned by the doctor who did not take my insurance was very upscale and welcoming. Her receptionist was kind and helpful and tried to work with me to help me secure insurance, even though that sadly didn’t work out. Two of the other gynos worked in chaotic clinics that were obviously disorganized and seemed somewhat like a disaster. As desperate as I was to get the polyp removed, I was still immediately put off by those facilities.
Dr. Zaheda Muhammad’s practice was centrally located near a hospital (Jersey City Medical Center), in a building with several other practices. The space was clean, quiet, organized and the receptionists were pleasant. It was easy to tell that the facility was held to a high standard, which made me feel that much more comfortable seeking care. Though I’m sure there are some fantastic doctors who just happen to work in offices that are mediocre, I think it’s safe to say that generally a doctor’s workspace reflects his/her level of professionalism and commitment.
3. A great doctor lays out the facts and lets you decide the best treatment option for you. The first doctor that saw me in the ER and diagnosed the problem — a uterine polyp — which was the culprit for all of the heavy bleeding told me that the growth would be no problem to remove in her office. I begged her to remove it then and there, but she assured me that her office would be better suited for the procedure. I was never able to received treatment by her, because she it did not accept my insurance.
The second gyno I saw, however, claimed I would need to have surgery in a hospital’s operating room because the growth was so big she thought I would bleed out if she tried to take it out. When I explained that I had been seen already by a doctor who told me it could be removed in-office, she plainly told me that was not an option. She ordered the hysteroscopy and referred me to her colleague that did gyno surgeries, but was going on a vacation and was essentially unavailable for quite some time.
I did some research and decided not to wait. I found another gynecologist and explained that I simply could not deal with the bleeding anymore and wanted treatment immediately. She elected to remove the polyp during a routine visit, per my request, but warned me that if there were any complications I would have to go to the Emergency Room. I accepted the warning and decided to move forward with the procedure, which she respected. In a matter of minutes, my vagina was brand spanking new.
4. A great doctor takes your discomfort seriously.
Here were some of the statements not so great doctors made in an attempt to minimize my discomfort:
“It’s already been months, I’m sure you can hold on for a few more weeks.”
“Stop exaggerating, I’m sure it’s not so bad.”
“You are bleeding a lot but you should only go to the ER if you feel light-headed or like you are about to pass out.”
Here is how a great doctor responded to my concerns:
“I don’t know how anyone could leave you bleeding like this for months. That’s just horrible,” Dr. Muhammed said with a sigh while doing the examination. It was right then and there I knew she would do everything she could to get my life back to normal as soon as possible. A great doctor would never minimize or trivialize your pain or discomfort.
5. A great doctor does not view patients as dollar signs. While there is no way to know for certain why that ER OBGYN did not remove the polyp when she did the exam and saw how much bleeding it was causing — the reason she gave was that it would be more comfortable in her office, but I wasn’t buying that — I would not be surprised if she was simply trying to make more money by having me as a personal patient. Patients are not dollar signs and should never be treated as such. A great doctor would never put off your treatment to make more money for his/her self.
“The doctor you saw in the ER really should have took care of it then and there,” Dr. Zaheda Muhammad said. I completely agreed. It would have certainly spared me months of distress.