The Dumbest And Smartest Things A Doctor Ever Told Me
Pretty well every person I've ever met who has diabetes (or has a loved one with diabetes) remembers some incredibly dumb comment or recommendation about their diabetes made by a well-meaning but, well, kind-of clued-out physician.
The converse is also true in that most everyone living with diabetes (or having a loved one with diabetes) also recalls some especially helpful comment or recommendation a doctor gave them.
If you've got a story to tell about your own experience with a "dumbest ever" or "smartest ever" comment or recommendation from a doctor, here's the place to share it with the world. We can all laugh or cry with shared frustration and recognition...and we can also (patient and doctor alike) benefit from any wise words you have heard. Send me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE DUMBEST THING A DOCTOR EVER TOLD ME
"When asking my internist about switching to human insulin from bovine (or pork; I can't remember), he said 'why would you switch? It would be like trying to become friends with a new exciting neighbor when your old neighbor was always a trusted one'... My HbA1c was 11 at the time I think." Submitted by M.R. (Editor's note: M.R. switched doctors, switched insulins, and his blood glucose control quickly improved
"I was 24 when I was diagnosed and working as an orderly in the ER of a local hospital. I had been running 80-110 miles per week in preparation for my fourth marathon. I told a nurse in the ER that my eye sight had changed and I was really not feeling well. She did a BG finger stick and the color was dark dark. She drew a tube and I ran it up to the lab, ran some errands and returned to the ER. The entire staff of the ER was standing in a circle with the MD in the middle and when I came around the corner the circle split and the doctor was looking pretty grim. My BG was 932 mg/dL and he was insistent (quite urgently) that I sit down in the wheel chair behind me and be wheeled into the big room for admission to the hospital. 'Your running days are over!' he said. The next day I had a psychologist show up in my room and say, 'I’m here to counsel you on your diagnosis.' That poor guy, I was not very nice to him." Submitted by B.K. (Editor's note: B.K. has run in - and excelled in - many a marathon thereafter.)
Here's a short video about "What not to say to the parent of a child with type 1 diabetes
"I consulted on a person with diabetes who had recently moved to the area. She had seen her new doctor. She was on an insulin pump and had very good knowledge of her diabetes. She requested to know her most recent A1C. The doctor responded 'She should trust him to tell her if she needed to change anything and she didn’t have to worry about her test results and if she didn’t trust him then she should find another family doctor.' She did!" Submitted by M.C.
"Here's my favorite: When I was about 15 I went through a period of rebellion and depression about having diabetes. My mother, at her wits end and desperately trying to keep me safe and healthy, made an emergency appointment with my endo, hoping that he could give me a pep talk. The endo was made aware of the situation, yet when he entered the exam room, where I was curled in a miserable ball on the table, the first thing I saw was that he was eating a twinkie." Submitted by E.C.
"I have type 1 diabetes and the highest my A1C has been in the last two years is a 6.2. Last June I had it tested and it was a 6.0. A few days after the test I was in a major car accident that left me with broken ribs, a C7 vertebrae fracture, a broken tailbone, pelvis and clavicle. When I got to the hospital it never made it onto my paperwork that I had type 1 diabetes. I kept asking about my numbers and they kept just saying, 'Oh it's just high because of what your body is going through!' That same day a nurse said, ‘Oh, are you sure you're diabetic? It doesn't say it on your paperwork that you are? Your numbers aren't that high, and you just were in a major accident, it's all the trauma.’ I'm finally back to normal and have managed to get my numbers completely under control again. My lesson? Be your own advocate!" Submitted by J.B.
"I have a few….like being been told at age 13 that I would be cured in 5 years! And being told that again when I was 18. And again when I was in my early 20. And again in my late 20s. And I remember being told this again when I was in my early 30s. LOL; looks like this 5 year clock is always being re-started!" Submitted by M.L.
"I was once admitted to hospital for a minor surgery and needed to be fasted – I went through the usual rhetoric of how people feel when admitted to hospital, that no one seems to understand what diabetes even is. The resident came in and without warning said that I would need to be immediately fasting – of course I was worried about hypoglycemia. She said that if I get a low blood sugar, just turn up the rate on my IV fluids and I’ll be fine. I looked this up and learned that doing that would be like taking just 5 grams of carbs over the next hours!" Submitted by B.P. (Editor's note: B.P. also has a positive story to share; see below.)
"I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2012. My doctor told me that I could cure myself if I lose weight and exercise. This, of course, is not true, but at the time I didn’t know this. It established a hope in me, albeit a false one. I’ve since learned that I cannot cure myself but I definitely can control my blood sugars levels." Submitted by AG. (Editor's note: Far wiser and far more prudent for doctors to use, at their very optimistic best, the word "remission" rather than the word "cure" when it comes to talking about type 2 diabetes. And even at that, the concept of what exactly, constitutes a "remission" from type 2 diabetes remains controversial and ill-defined.)
THE SMARTEST THING A DOCTOR EVER TOLD ME
"I felt like such a failure when I kept being told to take more and more medication. I felt so much better when a doctor told me that it wasn't my fault, it was my pancreas's fault." Submitted by R.I.
“I’ve been lucky to have great caregivers … My first endocrinologist, the person who gave me my first insulin injection, gave it to me without even explaining what he was doing. He was talking about the March break coming up, rubbed a little alcohol on my arm, pinched it, and stuck the needle in. It sounds a bit obnoxious, but he did it with such style and grace and then insisted that I should go on my ski trip that next week regardless of how nervous I was about this diagnosis. Essentially he belittled the whole thing, which is precisely what I needed at that time. On account of him, when I see patients who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, I am extremely aware of how important these initial moments between caregivers and patients are. To be honest, I see it as a privilege to be the first person that a patient sees and I am extremely sensitive not to screw it up! There’s a lot of work, relentless vigilance involved in diabetes care, but it does not have to all come out on that first day. Patients need to get through that first day knowing that they can lead a life as exciting and as adventurous as their parallel life without diabetes.” Submitted by B.P. (Editor's note: B.P. is, as you may have surmised, a physician.)