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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Not for Me

I am doing ok, but I have to work at it... really hard.

After 6 months of deliberation, I finally decided that I would try talking to the psychologist at the hospital who works with cancer patients.  Several of my friends meet with him and have found their discussions to be helpful.

So, I figured, maybe he would have some insight or approach that I have not thought of on my own.  Also, maybe I would get a better perspective about whether my feelings are "normal." I hoped to get some "objective" feedback about whether or not I am coping as well as I think.

This past Thursday, when I checked into the oncology ward, I made an appointment for 11:30 with the pyschologist.

Then I did my stuff... blood tests, meeting with my oncologist, getting my shot, etc.  I even got a short massage.

Then I went to meet with the psychologist.  His door was closed and the substitute secretary told me to sit and wait.  So, I sat and waited....and waited....and waited....

I asked if I should knock on the door and was told not to knock.  I asked them to call him, but he did not answer the phone.

So, I waited....and waited....and waited.....

After two hours (without exaggeration), I saw a friend approach the door and knock.  I asked her why she knocked and she said she always knocks, adding "how else would he know I am here?"  The psychologist popped his head out and told her he would be another minute. 

Sure enough, less than five minutes later, he emerged from his office.

I took the opportunity to ask him if he was aware that I had been waiting for him for two hours.

I was very careful about how I phrased the question and that my tone reflected that I was just looking for "verification," lest he feel I was criticizing him (which I was not). Since we did not have a relationship yet, I wanted to be sure we did not start out on the wrong foot.

Well, I was in for a surprise.

"Did you make the appointment with me?" He asked me, not at all concerned that his tone was aggressive.

"No," I answered innocently, "I made the appointment this morning with the secretary." 

"Well then for me you do not exist," he answered curtly.

More than a little shocked, I explained that I made the appointment with the secretaries and they told me not to knock and just to wait.

"This does not concern me," He responded, "it's like you are telling me that your car stalled.  It has nothing to do with me."

I could not believe how insensitive he was.  I had sat there for two hours, waiting for him.  I gathered, from his responses, that I had not followed the correct procedure for making an appointment.  I did not know.  I was not angry about the mishap.  Mistakes happen.  I had my coffee-and-chemo-date with me (triLcat) and I enjoyed talking with her while we were waiting.  I never plan anything on chemo days, so I was not upset about the delay.  I am very patient at the hospital.  I did not even complain to the secretaries about the wait (though I did remind them that I was still waiting, after an hour and a half, and then, again, after two hours).

When I approached the psychologist, I just wanted to confirm that he knew I was there for him.

I also expected some acknowledgement of my having waited so long. 

I expected empathy.

Would it have been so unreasonable for him to say, "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, here's what you need to do to make an appointment, please leave me your number and I will get back to you."

Instead, I felt berated for wasting his time by talking to him.  As he ushered his patient into his office, noting that they were already behind schedule, he turned to me and told me how to make an appointment, "should I still wish to talk with him."

If this was a cursing blog, I would insert all sorts of profanities here.

No, I did not still wish to talk with him.

I was outraged.  Though that was not my dominant feeling at that time.

After he was done blowing me off, I just wanted to cry.

I am glad someone was with me, to witness the interaction.  I needed a reality check:  Was this guy's reaction reasonable?  Did I do something to antagonize this guy?  Am I overreracting?

My friend reassured me that it was not my imagination, and that the psychologist had been excessively rude, with no provocation.

Even now, writing about it, I want to cry. 

How can someone treat another person like that?  Especially a cancer patient? 

I am not there for fun! 

How can a psychologist be so incredibly insensitive?

That is one door that I will not be knocking on anytime in the near future....



Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,
RivkA

36 comments:

Robin said...

Oh wow, what an (insert strong curse word of choice). I'm so sorry you were subjected to that kind of behavior, from someone who should clearly realize how unacceptable that is. Can you report him to someone?

Dr. Rona Michelson said...

I agree. Whoever employs him (I was going to say whoever is superior to him, but that would be everybody) needs to know what happened. That is not acceptable under any circumstance. He needs to be job hunting.

michele said...

I am so upset for you. This guy is a ....

I can't believe he does this for a living.

Was this at HH or SZ?

mikimi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah said...

This is so out of this world unacceptable. I usually just have a live and let live atitude...but I'm begging you...please report this one. Nobody, but especially a physchologist..ESPECIALLY a psychologist should treat ppl this way.

Dave Egyes said...

I've been privvy to some pretty obnoxious behaviour on the part of "helping" professionals, but this goes beyond the beyonds. There is simply no excuse whatsoever for that kind of conduct -- even on a bad day. The only possibility I can think of is that he's disgruntled, burnt out, busy dealing with his own unresolved issues, and is looking for a way to cash in on his pension.

I'm outraged that you had to go through that experience.

Rebecca said...

There is no excuse. I hope you complain.

Anonymous said...

אין לי מילים

I have no words,
ariela

odm said...

That's insane! And sorry you had to go through something like that -good you had someone with you!
I second everyone - report him. Not only is he in the wrong profession, he's probably causing pain to plenty of others.

G6 said...

That is unbelievably horrifying.

If he is burned out or something, he should get out of the profession before he does (any more) real damage.

You should mail him a copy of this post, along with the comments. Sometimes people need to be brought in front of a mirror to truly see themselves....

Cheryl said...

That is an outrage! And this person is supposed to be able to help people work through difficult times??? What a jerk. I know, name calling is not nice, but really, ugh.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, ditto, and ditto.

REPORT THE GUY!

Liba said...

I am appalled. I am so sorry you were subjected to that.

Anonymous said...

And why didn't the secretary know he wouldn't take you?

Anonymous said...

Report him . That is unacceptable behaviour.

Anonymous said...

nothing new to add, except my own support - i wonder if anybody in HR (or PR for that matter) at the hospital keeps tabs on patient satisfaction/complaints on the internet - maybe someone could bring your blog entry to their attention.

big hug
BW

rickismom said...

I'm speachless....

RivkA with a capital A said...

Wow, who knew this would get you all so riled up!!

Thank you all for your support!!

Let me emphasize that this pychologist has helped several of my friends (and I imagine many others as well).

I am assuming this guy just had a bad day.

We are all human, after all. Everyone has their bad days.

It is true that his behavior was unacceptable. And I would appreciate a sincere apology. But I'm not looking to punish this guy.

That said, I am not going to spill my guts to him either.

On my way out of the hospital, ran into my oncologist and let him know what happened. I think I told someone else too (maybe one of the nurses).

That's enough for me.

In the scheme of things, this is really not that important.

----------------------------------------------------------------

To answer the question about why the secretary did not know: The regular secretary was out and the substitute just did not know. It was an innocent mistake.

Rahel said...

I realize that you don't want to get him into trouble, Rivka, but still... what he did was unacceptable. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

Anonymous said...

ooo -- that's terrible!
ABH

malkah said...

I think the laws of shmiras haloshon kick in here, so you might want to consult a rav. my personal opinion is that this episode needs to be reported. how can this man make tshuva if he doesn't know how much harm he did? he appears to be clueless, which means he'll do it again. you would be helping him, as well as his clients.

Bernie said...

This doctor was not only rude and insensitive he was very wrong. No one should be treated the way you were. You absolutely should write a letter stating exactly what you have told us, it may not help you sweetie but it may help someone else. This man (I refuse to call him Dr.) needs to be taught that other people's time is just as important as his is.....wonder how he would feel if he had been the patient and you the doctor or even if it were one of his loved ones being treated so rudely as you were. It is just wrong........:-) Hugs

Ester said...

Rivka,

A great way to be empowered by this situation is to pray for this person on a regular basis. Ask for blessing for him and his family and all his endeavors. In an unconscious manner he has dumped his angst on you because he knows on a soul- level that you can handle it and he knows you could help him. What this person is saying is "help me." Imagine that he is your brother and you desire all the best for him. It is obvious he choose you because you are a beacon of light (isn't that what your fist name means anyway...) I promise you that even though you will be doing this for him later on you will realize what a gift this was because it will bring you to deep peace. I have done this many times and have always benefited greatly. I love you.

Hasya Ya'ara said...

I am so sorry that you experienced the worst possible behavior from a man who took an oath to heal.

You are not at fault. So many doctors have egos that could fill a stadium. It's sad that they lose their drive to help others, or never really had it at all.

Is there someone else you can see other than him? Keep trying, the right doctor has got to be out there.

You are in my prayers, dear friend.

Love Hasya

Shelly said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this! And I think your attitude of not wanting to punish him, is healthy for you - but I would tell someone what happened,along with mentioning your understanding that he does often help people - someone should talk to him so he doesn't hurt other people - it's not justified by the fact he sometimes helps.

I hope you can find someone good to talk to.

Karen said...

I agree with the others that you should report him, but I understand if that isn't your way of dealing with it. However if you had decided that talking to a psychologist might help you, don't let this incident change that. I'm not familiar with the mental health services offered through the kupah but I assume you can get a certain number of visits, especially in your situation. I know, it's another place to shlep, but it doesn't sound like we're talking about long-term therapy. It sounds like what you need to hear, more than anything, is that your feelings are normal. I'm guessing that they are, and that most people with your diagnosis take it a lot harder than you do. But go get yourself checked out, and hopefully you'll get some coping tips too. (If you want to go private I know some great people, but I don't know if they have experience with these specific issues.)

If you want to address the problem without looking like you're consciously getting the guy in trouble, you could call the patient advocate, or whoever the appropriate person is, and ask whether the therapists rotate or whether you could see someone in a different department of the hospital, since this guy is such a putz. Maybe you'll get lucky and someone else comes in on a different schedule.

Batya said...

Complain to the hospital the oncology department etc all in writing. He sounds like the worst possible government clerk.

The complaint is two-fold:
1- appointment procedure
2- the rude "creep"

HSaboMilner said...

I am so sorry you had to deal with this - and waste two hours of your precious time.

I know you may not want to complain, and you seem to have an awesome attitude about it (not surprised bc you totally rock) but if it happens to another person who isn't as level headed as you, there could be a major upset. So complain to save the next person some stress.

You have an aweseome attitude. Keep on keeping on.

Anonymous said...

I am humbled by your forgiving nature. We should all learn from it.

Susan Tipton said...

I'm so glad you had a witness to the incident just for your own peace of mind. May the rest of your week be full of rational humans:)

Sarah said...

This post has been on my mind since I read it yesterday! I even had a dream about it.

I agree that you have a great attitude about what happened, and that for your own sake, if you don't feel a need to complain, then you don't have to. You have other things to focus on.

But what a shame for the next person! You have an opportunity to suggest to him, or to the hospital, that he himself get therapy or in some other way work on how he deals with stress. Obviously he has frustrations with the bureaucracy at the hospital or with his caseload, but he shouldn't be telling patients they "don't exist." That is what one of my friends calls "beyond beyond."

If you don't want to spend too much time on it, just print a copy of your blog post, attach a note, and drop it by the oncology department the next time you go in.

Please let us know if you do it. I don't know why this touches a chord, but obviously a lot of us here are riled up, as you say, and I just want to go to the hospital and throttle that guy!

davidz said...

a psychologist without empathy is like an engineer without geometry.

I don't think sensitivity can exist only when the clock is ticking.

Even on a bad day i can't imagine such a response sounds unusually cruel. i think you met a real live tin man -- if he only had a heart. Maybe we should all feel sorry for him instead of being angry.

if you don't want to report him to anyone else, report him to him--with a letter marked personal and confidential. You may remain anonymous or let him know who you are. I think anonymous might be problematic--if he is not a sociopath, he will feel guilty and should have an opportunity to do teshuva for what he put you through. If not, well, then you might consider whether you owe it to others to take it further.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Thank you all so much for your concern and advice!!

I really appreciate all your comments!! (please forgive me for not responding to you all)

Ester - I am especially touched by your approach. I will pray for him (b'li neder), specifically that God will guide him towards greater empathy and compassion.

David -- I am impressed with your advice. Of all the suggestions, this might be the most effective, as my goal is to help prevent future incidents of this sort. Perhaps, by raising his awareness, that might be enough.

That said, if this guy is so clueless that he can say those things in the first place, I really wonder if he will be able to hear my message. He responded defensively when I was NOT being critical. If I write to him, I will be critical.....

Any thought?

Ester said...

You might want to write a letter to the psychologist. Don't censure it. Get it all out, and then burn it. This way you have said your piece (peace). The most important thing is for you to be happy. You may or may not want to address this to him or the hospital. Ultimately it is your decision whether you want to take this on. Remember the most important thing is for you to be happy and at peace. In the Torah Aaron HaChohen (the High Priest) was the one known to “Chase Righteousness”—“Zedek, Zedek Tirdof.” This actually means he pursed peace; he did this by making peace between people, and not that he pursued the need to be right. Again, I love you.

Andrea said...

Oh my goodness! Unreal... totally unreal. I would have cried!

I'm so sorry that you had to endure this experience, RivkA! How dreadful... awful!!

Love~ Andrea
xoxoxoxoxo

RivkA with a capital A said...

Ester -- thanks. I think writing the blog post was enough for me. I not harbor any negative feelings for this man. The opposite, I feel sorry that he did not have any room in his heart for sensitivity.

The only reason I would pursue this issue would be to prevent someone else from being hurt.


Andrea -- I did cry... almost. The tears welled up, but, thanks to the support of my friend and my oncologist, I managed to hold them at bay.