My Worst Experience with a Migraine Doctor
Holly was recently kicked off her private disability plan. After a year, she won back her coverage. In this series, she walks us through the various steps she took and what it was like to navigate this experience.
I’ve had my fair share of difficult encounters over my five decades of living with migraine and have experienced challenges with every one of the following: the front staff (administrative and nursing), the location, receiving a comprehensive evaluation, and the manner of the doctor.
Thankfully, I currently am under the care of a wondrous migraine specialist who is compassionate, knowledgeable, kind, and supportive. However, my private disability insurer recently required me to attend an appointment with an “independent” doctor. At the time, I was ignorant of the fact that this would be the first step toward this company kicking me off their plan. But regardless of the reason for the appointment, this turned out to be the worst interaction I’d ever had with a doctor for migraine.
What was wrong with the location?
This doctor's office was in a sketchy part of town with bars on the windows. The office was run down and felt dirty. The waiting room had a musty smell. When I came into the examination room, it was also dirty and the examination table was covered with messy files. There was nowhere to sit on the examination table. Instead, there was only one rickety chair, which faced a large window with no coverings that looked out on a bright parking lot.
The doctor did not greet me and sat with his back to that window so that I could barely see his face. He sat, turned with his shoulder to me, facing his computer. As I sat down, he left to get my case file, which was over 5 inches of loose-leaf paper that he had clearly just printed out. He had obviously not looked at it prior to my arrival. He looked at me in surprise and said, how long have you been disabled and why are you here? I replied I had been disabled for over 10 years and that I had no idea why I was there.
What type of examination did I get?
The appointment lasted less than a half hour. Unlike any other migraine evaluation I’ve experienced, this doctor did not ask that I fill out any assessments regarding migraine frequency, severity, or type. He did not do any disability assessments. He also did not lay hands on my neck or head.
I was wearing a mask, a hoodie covering my neck, and a hat the whole time which he didn’t ask me to remove and yet I was there to be assessed for migraine and cervical dystonia.
The only type of examination he did was to have me walk back-and-forth in a line and then he tapped on my knee and foot to check my reflexes. He had me point my finger out and to my nose and that was the only physical exam he did.
How did the doctor treat me?
He asked a series of random questions about my history but rarely allowed me to finish my sentences. Every time I began to answer, he would interrupt me in order to begin typing my answer (with one finger) into his computer. His line of questioning was not comprehensive or logical.
Each time he looked away from me, I put my sunglasses on due to how bright the window was. I did not point this out to him as I was trying to be polite and felt uncomfortable. I was also wearing a hat to manage my light sensitivity.
His accent was thick, and he was wearing a mask which made it difficult to understand his questions. Worse, he was impatient to repeat them to me if I did not understand them.
Did he know much about migraine?
This doctor, paid for by a private disability company seeking reasons to remove me from coverage, did not specialize in migraine, but rather in sleep. This fact was made clear as his only questions specific to migraine were sleep-related. When I told him I had been evaluated at the world-renowned inpatient treatment clinic, MHNI, he had not heard of it, nor had he heard of one of the most famous migraine doctors in the United States. He also had not heard of several of the new class of migraine drugs.
This experience was definitely the worst I’d ever encountered with a migraine doctor. If I had attended this appointment to consider him as my doctor, I would never have returned. We must feel a respectful and engaging partnership with our migraine doctors and that, ideally, they are available (or have a system in place that is responsive) to us. This doctor fell short on every front.
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