Warning: This is a long-assed rant. Sorry, but it is.
Yesterday I took my children to the allergist. I’m not going to use his real name. I’m going to call him Dr. Dung (his real name is one letter off, and rhymes with dung). I had never been to see this doctor. Our pediatrician recommended (two years ago, it has taken me a while to get around to it) that we go see an allergist to get a baseline idea of what my kids might allergic to (hay fever type stuff, nothing serious) – and also to try and help us figure out why Ella continues to get sick so frequently.
Before the appointment I had to fill out detailed new patient forms for both girls – 7 pages for each about every kind of symptom they’ve had (I basically check-marked “sneezing” although there were hundreds of options, and put “Not Applicable” where needed). On the phone they told me it was going to be a long appointment – 3 hours – but when I asked if I should bring an iPad for the girls so they could watch a movie while we waited, they said they would have a movie for the kids to watch so I didn’t bring the iPad.
Long story short, this was officially the worst day of summer for me and my children, if not our lives. They kept us there for nearly four hours and 99% of all of it was total bullshit. First, the nurse (who spoke English poorly and took an unusually long time to understand what I was saying) took me into a tiny room without enough chairs for all of us to sit and interviewed me for one whole hour. She went over literally every answer on the questionnaire, even the questions I answered “No” and “N/A” to. Huh? She would ask me the same question literally three times, and this was done one-by-one for both children until I couldn’t see straight! My mother’s instinct was shouting at me, Something’s not right here, but it had taken me so long to make the stupid appointment and I really wanted to get to the bottom of what’s going on with Ella, so we stayed. After an hour of this bullshit, where everything was in slow-mo, she took us into the doctor’s palatial office. I had thought she was being thorough so she could communicate all our concerns to him (read: sneezing), however I couldn’t help but notice that before bringing us in there, she did not even speak to the doctor.
The only way I can describe this man is that he reminded me of Kim Jong Un and the whole time we had to sit there at his desk – one and a half hours! – I kept picturing Kim Jong Un and what it must be like for North Koreans on a daily basis to be at the mercy of a small man who has a superiority complex. This man was not Korean, he was Chinese, from Taiwan, but the power trip he had going was nothing short of militaristic.
Please note: I have nothing against Chinese people or people from Taiwan. In fact, I’ve traveled there and met not a single person as unlikeable as Dr. Dung. In addition, I have lots of friends who are Chinese, Taiwanese, etc. This is not a discriminatory post about Taiwanese people, it is a discriminatory post about Mean people.
So anyhoo, it took only about 3 minutes for me to hate him.
This was one of those times that as a mother, I made the Big Mistake of not listening to my intuition – which at this point was shouting at me to stop the appointment and get the fuck out. But I did not. As he kept warbling on about nasal passages and dander in a slow, pedantic way, as I kept worrying whether or not Ella was going to lose it and say something to him, as she is prone to do because she is an authentic person, as I worried what I was going to say to him, that baby-faced image of pudgy Kim Jong Un kept popping up into my mind. Dr. Dung went over the same things the nurse had gone over.
It was an interrogation. I’m not kidding.
Without speaking to the nurse or reading her notes, he took me through the same 7-paged questionnaire that she had taken me through, and that I had already spent about an hour at home filling out myself.
And he was: rude, irritable, dismissive. He lectured us – a busy mom and her two children – pedantically on allergy information and human biology that we could find anywhere. He kept shushing me. He kept telling me that what I thought I knew was wrong, or what I had said was wrong, even though I didn’t say very much. For example, he wanted to know how many times Ella was sick this past year. I said that although I had marked it on my calendar it was at home, and I didn’t have the exact number in my head, but he pressed me for specifics. “Once a month,” I guessed. “Sometimes twice a month? Definitely over 15 times,” I said. “On what dates?” he said, and “what were the symptoms?” I said, “Like I said – I have the dates in my calendar, and if you had told me before the appointment that you wanted such specific information I would have brought that and her medical records.”
“But that’s perfectly normal,” he said.
Me: “To be sick over 15 times in one year, probably more?”
Him: “Your child is looking for attention.”
He said this in front of Ella.
Him: (accusingly) “And did you got to the pediatrician every time she got sick?”
Me: “No, but I did go many times, and they are the ones who suggested we do ALLERGY TESTS because they said that she gets sick too often! My pediatrician sent me.” Jesus! I wanted to say, “I am not a hypochondriac.” I felt – attacked.
When he left the room, Fi whispered: “By the time we leave this room, we will have our medical degrees!”
At one point, about 45 minutes into it, Ella got my iPhone out of my purse and began playing Stack the States. This annoyed him so he told her how he’d read the Washington Post piece that morning about how impolite it is to use apps or text on an iPhone while having a conversation. Well, yes, Dr. Dung, it is impolite to text while you are having a conversation however this isn’t a conversation, it’s water-boarding, so in my parental opinion texting is OK. At this point, though, my head was spinning. I was confused, and my maternal instincts were being subverted. It was just a doctor’s appointment, but it was super fucked-up.
I asked Ella to hand over the iPhone and she wasn’t having any of it, so there was a small, awkward battle between us in front of Dr. Dung that stressed us out even more and made me feel even shittier. Finally, she handed it over. I feel bad that I made her do that, because she was bored out of her 8-year-old, cotton-pickin’ MIND. And poor, diplomatic, Fiona, my child who loves harmony and balance! She could see I was becoming Angry and could sense that things were going to get worse. It was just an awful situation all around.
A few minutes later, Ella sat with her knees up, picking at a scab while Dr. Dung droned on about sinuses-blah-blah-blah and allergens-blah-blah-blah and he stops and says, “Ella! Ella! Are you listening to me?”
That’s when I snapped. I don’t know if you know this about me but I can be really shitty and direct when I snap. Ever since I was a child, when pushed, I was always the one to point out when the Emperor had no clothes. Some people might see this as a bad thing, but I regard it as one of my Very Best qualities. I also find that with power-hungry people like Dr. Dung, you’ve got to be proactive, not passive. Otherwise they will goose-step all over you.
I said, “Excuse me, just because she isn’t looking directly at you does not mean she isn’t listening to you. She’s an 8-year-old child –”
He tried to stop me and talk over me. I continued talking.
“An 8-year-old child and this has been a very long appointment. Frankly, she’s bored!” (They had no kid-friendly things at all anywhere in the office, either. Not even a Highlights.)
He cut me off in what I can only describe as a Narcissistic and militaristic kind of way, and continued to ask and re-ask the same questions I had already answered and which I had answered for the nurse.
“I’m sorry,” I interjected – several times – “but I have just spent the past hour answering these same questions for the nurse, and I’m not sure what we are doing.”
I don’t even remember what he said – just blah-blah-blah-dust mites-blah-blah-blah-air-conditioning-vents.
When he tried to scold Ella again for not paying attention I just handed her my iPhone, defiantly.
He continued water-boarding us with his words, taking us hostage with talk of indoor allergens vs. outdoor ones, with shit about bee pollen, dust mites, basically he could have been reading the information packet inside a box of Clarityn. After we had been there for two-and-a-half hours, I wanted to kill him.
He continued his interrogation, and I’m not exaggerating, it was really an interrogation. He would ask me a question, I would answer it, he would raise his eyebrows dismissively as if I as the mother was somehow making it up or trying to fudge the truth. Did she have sniffles, or post-nasal drip? Teary-eyes, or itchy ones? Did she sneeze in October of 2008? That sort of stuff. He would ask the same question over and over again, he would try to tell me my answer was wrong and then he would ask Ella and she didn’t know what the heck he was talking about so it became very awkward. I am sure that he was in the army. I am sure that he was trained in how to interrogate prisoners and that instead of being a pediatric allergist, he wanted to be a general and command and abuse people. Instead, he was sitting in front of an 8-year-old who was more interested in picking her scab than in showing any kind of bullshit deference to elders who don’t deserve it.
The thing I really like about Ella is that she has great taste in people. She is a barometer of character, so when she encounters people like this, she doesn’t put on a mask and pretend to like them, and she doesn’t do what they say – she just is who she is.
He started – finally – trying to hone in on why Ella gets sick so frequently, and this is where it went into the shitter and I got belligerant, and so did he.
Him: “Ella, Ella! Please listen to me.”
Ella looks up from her iPhone at him.
Him: “How many headaches do you have?”
Me: “What do you mean, how many headaches does she have? How can an 8-year-old answer that question? Over what period of time?”
Him: “Well, Mommy, why don’t you answer the question for me?” (Did Kim Jong Un just call me ‘Mommy?’)
Me: “I really can’t tell you how many headaches she’s had in her life.”
Him: “The last year? The last month? When did they start?”
Me: “I – I’m not sure when they started.”
Him: “What, surely you must know? One year? Two years?”
Me: “Last year?”
Him: “Ella what did the headache feel like?”
Ella: “Which headache?”
Him: “Headache when it started.”
She looks at me, confused.
Him: “What did it feel like? Punchy-punchy? Boom-boom? Throbbing?”
Ella: “Throbbing?” (she didn’t know what that meant)
Him: “It was throbbing?”
Me: (see below)
Me: “She’s not saying it was throbbing, she doesn’t know what throbbing means.”
Him: “Was it punchy-punchy? Boom-boom?” (Punchy-punch? Boom-boom? WTF?? Are these medical terms?)
Ella: “Which headache?”
Him: “Last year.”
Me: (see below)
Ella: “Well – it just felt…like…a headache. In my head.”
Him: “But where in your head? Where? Here? Here?” (he moved his hands all over his skull)
Ella: “Here.” (she put her hands on her forehead)
Him: “Mommy where was the pain? Did you observe?” (Did he just call me “Mommy” again?)
Me: “I’m sorry but I am getting lost here. I have no idea which headache you are referring to. This is confusing – I am not a scientist or a doctor –”
Him: (interrupting and trying to talk over me) “I know you are not a scientist or a doctor–”
Me: (continuing to talk over him – kids are like deer-in-headlights now): “If you wanted me to bring her medical records with me you could have asked, because I do not remember how many headaches she had or know what they felt like. In addition, I have already filled out all of the information you have been asking me about on the intake form, and I have just spent the past hour answering these same questions to your nurse. Can you –”
Him: “Yes, yes, fine! Fine! What have you come here for?”
Me: “I just want to get a general test to see if they have hay fever!!!”
Him: “There IS NO GENERAL TEST FOR HAY FEVER!”
Me: “Then what are we doing here? Are you going to test them, or not?”
Him: (testily!) “Yes! Yes! I’ll test them! I’ll test them! But I am a DOCTOR, NOT a technician! It’s not just in and out and thank you, ma’am!”
Our voices had raised now and both Fi and Ella were on high alert, looking at me and back to the doctor as if it was a freak show. My mother’s instinct told me to get the heck out! But I didn’t. I wanted the test. Clearly, here we were – polar opposites, from polar opposite countries, with utterly nothing in common, and if he was Kim Jong Un to me, I was a representation of the indulgent, clueless, entitled American mother who lets her kids use their iPhone and shows no deference to elders if they do not deserve it, because no one’s forcing me to – in his mind I am everything bad about democracy run amok, probably.
So after telling me that “Mommy is feeding the child stories about where the pain is in her head,” and implying that I am a hypochondriac-mom! (ME! Hypochondriac mom? Have you seen me being interviewed on the Huffington Post panel as the featured “anti-hypochondriac” ? (I actually talk about how I would never get a doctor on the Internet. Oops.) I am not a hypochondriac, and to get a BandAid out of me, my kids have to practically be hemmorrhaging. The reason we were there was that our pediatrician had recommended we rule out allergies as the cause of Ella’s frequent illnesses.
After his stooge of an assistant did the pin prick test on the girls, after I stopped her because Ella was clearly about to cry – she didn’t know what was happening and as a Montessori parent, I stupidly had expected this woman would attempt to explain to the child what she was about to do and that it was not going to be very painful. But no! So I said, “Excuse me, she’s asking you to explain to her what you’re about to do – can you help her out?”
She said: “I’m just going to stick you with all these little POKES up and down your arm, and they’re going to itch.”
POKES? POKES? Ella was alarmed now, she imagined they were like vaccinations, that she was going to get a whole bunch of shots up and down her arm.
Oh, it was just awful. Then they herded us into a little room (again without enough chairs!) to watch a video. But it wasn’t Pocohontas or anything, it was a poorly produced, creepy film all about dust mites and how they live in your bed and feast on dead skin cells and how you can never get rid of them. How they are in your teddy bears and all your stuffed animals and if your mommy doesn’t wash them frequently, you’re in danger. How you should not sleep with any of your stuffed animals on your bed.
That night, I found Fi standing beside her bed, afraid to get in because she feared the dust mites.
In my opinion, it was a crappy film to show to children. I went to turn the movie off but they had a sign that said, “Do NOT touch the computer.” I realized that others had been there before me, had seen the link between their children watching that film and developing an irrational fear of bedtime and, possibly, OCD and had tried to turn off the movie.
Dr. Dung finally came in and spent another 45-50 minutes lecturing us about dreaded nasal passages again. Turns out, the kids have hay fever, but what they are severely allergic to is dismissive little men with power trips. After he prescribed us two bottles of Nasonex I thought to myself: the pin-prick test took 20 minutes, the prescription for Nasonex could have taken 10 seconds. All told, we should have been out of here in 45 minutes to an hour, at most.
As we were leaving, Ella told him:
“Mommy told us we get to sleep with ALL our stuffed animals on the bed tonight!”
Take that, Dr. Dung.
Our Ella is one-of-a-kind, a true individual who goes against the scuttling herd, and although it might threaten some types of people, we love that quality about her.
We ran from Dr. Dung’s office, although I was so furious I wanted to goose-step. We punched the elevator buttons with our fingers and when we got out of that building we sprinted to the car! We met my husband for dinner at a restaurant, and he asked me where I found Dr. Dung. When I told him sheepishly that I had found him on the Internet, he Yelped him. All sorts of dreadful reviews popped up including words in shouty caps: “IRRITABLE!” “RUDE!” “DISMISSIVE!” and, “WORST doctor I have EVER met!” My husband then explained to me that Dr. Dung was probably scamming – getting paid by the insurance company per hour and he was going to bill my insurance company for two people for four hours each and make a killing! I wish I had more street sense and had figured that one out sooner!
I’m going to find somewhere to go lodge a complaint. It’s not something I usually do, but in this case, I’m gonna.
- Do not be stupid and try to find doctors for your children off the Internet.
- If you do, then at least Yelp them first and read some parent reviews.
- Always, always listen to your gut. Mother’s instinct resides in primal brain, where there is no bullshit, only Truth. Your intellect will try to talk you out of what your gut says to do – but when it comes to your kids, always listen to your instinct.
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