I had a new client come to see me yesterday. This previously well, highly active, Nature-loving woman had been in excellent health until falling suddenly ill eight months ago. It took her docs six months to diagnose Lyme disease. She was the perfect candidate for this diagnosis—extensive exposure to ticks, typical symptoms for Lyme, AND her lab tests were overwhelmingly confirmatory.
The infectious disease “expert” she was referred to for treatment put her on a twenty-one day course of Doxycycline (an antibiotic), which she took in its entirety, but without relief of her persistent daily fatigue, joint and muscle pain, flushing, vertigo, and headaches. When she went back to him to ask for more treatment, he said, “no, more treatment won’t help—it will make you worse.” He offered no other options and sent her on her way.
In despair and disbelieve she got on line and did her own research. She was fortunate to read about Lyme from one of the most respected leaders in the field, and my own mentor, Richard Horowitz, MD. She learned that there was much more to do.
Then she got my name from ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society). When she called to inquire about an appointment she asked my assistant, “will she just treat me once, then never want to see me again?”
I am both broken hearted and infuriated by the way my new client was treated by a medical colleague, who felt his job was complete after prescribing the single treatment that failed to work, sending her away with no solutions, no ideas, and still sick.
What a moron.
This is not normal, not appropriate, not remotely humane. Responsible physicians may not send you home with all the answers, but they always do their very best for you. If they don’t know what to do, they seek help, or refer you to someone else. They NEVER send you out the door with nothing.
However, I hear these stories every day. Every single day. Damn.
Enough with the docs who don’t listen.
Enough with the docs who fail to empathize—to truly hear and connect to their patients.
Enough with the docs who betray the very oath they took when becoming doctors—to do no harm (how is sending a sick patient away without treatment anything other than harm?)
Enough with the docs who are too weak to question the politics of Lyme and stand up for what they know—sick people are sick and deserve compassion and treatment, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone, even if you have to go learn something new (ILADS has great scientific conferences on Lyme Disease for practitioners).
Enough with the docs who treat Lyme disease like it is something alien to any other infectious disease—for which they would roll up their sleeves and tackle, exercising both their knowledge of the evidence and the genius of their creative, skilled, and practiced doctor-minds.
I am so weary of this. And so are my patients.
And I am grateful and honored to be the champion of these folks—though it shouldn’t have to be this way. I am committed to offering a safe haven for those who need a place to tell their stories, to be heard, and to work together to find solutions. And to treat whatever we discover using the best of our available scientific evidence as well as creative know-how (remember, the art of medicine?) And, in the end, treat the whole patient. Never sending them away without hope.
I ask of my colleague: will you please have a heart?
Thanks for listening!
Karyn Shanks, MD. How We Harm Our Patients With the Need to Be Certain (and Right). 2017.