Confessions of the Waiting Room
In my neurologist's office, there is a pretty clear demographic, as well as age that is clearly present in the room. Attached to my Adult Neuro waiting area, is the Pediatric Neuro wing.
Every time I come into the office, I have the same questions and try my best not to play the "Guess their diagnosis" game... since I know that people wonder why I walk in there looking like a ghost, alone and quiet.
Wondering about others' diagnosis stories
I wonder how many MRIs that woman has had within her lifetime? I wonder if she's happy with the care she's receiving and if she's received a diagnosis that has ultimately turned her world upside down. I remember walking into that waiting room like a zombie during the months that I was being tested for ALS, multiple myeloma, and MS. Then I start to wonder how many doctors it took to get that confirmed diagnosis.
I try my best not to glance around the room, as the first few months of appointments I had there, I felt what it was like to be stared at and have always wondered to this day what others were thinking about me as I sat there, waiting, hoping I wouldn't receive terrible news each visit. Did those other older men and women and young teens have that same anxiety every time they pressed the elevator button to get up to the Neuro floor?
Do other patients hide how bad it is?
Do others always circle every single symptom or do they lie and leave a lot out like I do as to now make it look like I've been on WebMD for the last few weeks? Do they minimize their symptoms in order to not look like the world's worst patient?
Do they ever cry in the elevator after their appointment for better or worse? Do they hide the tears from the greeting and valet crew as they leave the building like I do?
I wonder if they have more horrible health conditions that don't involve just this office. I wonder if any of them struggle with crippling PTSD, anxiety, and fear going to the doctor's office, solely because their immune system is so suppressed they are scared to breathe the same air as other people. What do they think of me when I wear my mask? (Don't worry, waiting room starers... It's not me, it's actually you).
How far do patients travel for their doctor?
I wonder how many patients leave the office with actual good news versus receiving and collecting new diagnoses each time they visit. I wonder how many times each of these patients have had to sign a HIPAA consent form, have had to sign an opioid agreement and I wonder how far they have traveled every week to get a physical script in order to have somequality of life.
Smiling back at the stares
The stares - I will never forget the stares, as my neurologist mostly deals with degenerative diseases, like ALS and MS and thing I never thought of, nor through I had to... until about 3 years ago. Three years ago, I stopped staring and instead began having out of body experiences wondering what I looked like, sitting in that chair sometimes for an hour before I could get my procedures started.
I wonder what those stares mean and all I can do is just try to crack a bit of a smile in such a serious place to give someone else a little more hope, to get them through the fear of the waiting room.
Avoid the waiting room stares... and when you get them, smile. You have no idea the impact of a simple smile in a room full of anxiety, worry, anger, fear and hopelessness. In a room full of stares, be the one who smiles back.
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