I finally had the opportunity to watch the episode of Mystery Diagnosis called “The Woman Who Couldn’t Stop Rocking” that included the story of Janet Long, who was finally diagnosed with Hereditary Angio Edema (HAE) after suffering horribly for 30 years. I missed the first airing on December 1, but finally caught it on December 6. It will air again on December 13 at 9:00 p.m., December 14 at 1:00 a.m., December 28 at 3:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., and December 29 at 3:00 a.m. It was an incredibly touching episode and gives a pretty clear depiction of the agony HAE patients suffer.
I also caught a few other episodes of Mystery Diagnosis that day, as well as episodes of Dr. G.: Medical Examiner. I like Dr. G. because (1) she’s here in the Orlando area (where I live) and (2) she’s incredibly competent.
Which brings me to the latest deep philosophical discussion I had with myself (that was worth blogging about) while brushing my teeth.
In one of Dr. G’s episodes, she determines how a woman died after having a tummy tuck, but she’s not satisfied and starts dissecting the woman’s calves and pelvis (yuck!). She wants to know why the woman developed the condition that ultimately killed her. This is why I love this woman. She meets my definition of competent. Wiktionary defines “competent” as “having sufficient skill, knowledge, ability, or qualifications.” I define “competent” differently because I define it based on my definition of “incompetency.”
First, I have to admit that incompetency is my pet peeve. I abhor it. If you are incompetent, don’t get in my way; I have no patience for people who are incompetent. And I define incompetent as “failure to perform one’s responsibilities to the utmost of one’s capabilities and/or failure to continuously strive to increase one’s capabilities” where capabilities are excellent skills, knowledge, ability and qualifications.
There are many incompetent people working in the medical profession.
Scream bloody murder, I will not change the previous paragraph. I will not alter one single word of it’s single sentence. I do not accept that “sufficiency” equals “competency” in a profession that deals with the lives of the people it is purported to serve. And I have been on the receiving end of incompetence far too many times for far too many years. I did not say that everyone or even most people working in the medical profession are incompetent, so if your panties are in a wad, unwad them now.
At the end of almost every episode of Mystery Diagnosis, the narrator says something to the effect, so-and-so “wonders why it took so long and why so many doctors failed to diagnose her properly.” I’ll tell you why: Competence and the lack of it.
The doctors that know about these “rare” diseases and make the diagnoses on Mystery Diagnosis always say something to the effect of, “Well, this disease is so rare that you read about it once in med school and then never hear about it again.” What a cop out! The doctor that diagnosed the disease obviously kept up on it; why didn’t any of the ones who failed make the same connections he/she did? Incompetence! Not all of the diagnosing doctors are specialists in the rare disease they diagnose. So what makes them different? They are like Dr. G; they’re not satisfied with a simple explanation or no explanation at all. They press and strive for answers. They don’t settle for a “good enough” answer or “I don’t know.” They never stop learning, questioning, increasing their capabilities. They [gasp!] care!
Untold numbers of HAE sufferers have “puzzling” abdominal symptoms and are referred to gastroenterologists. Although HAE is an immunological disease, you would think that gastroenterologists would have learned when they can’t find any known gastroenterological cause for a patient’s abdominal symptoms to look to diseases like HAE, but they don’t! Instead, they tell these unfortunate patients they have irritable bowel syndrome or some “its all in your mind” bullshit. They cop out because they (1) can’t be bothered to expand their knowledge and (2) don’t want difficult cases. They want the walk-in-a-park, don’t have to think, rake it in and go play golf-type cases. Those doctors are not performing their responsibilities to the utmost of what their skills, knowledge, ability and qualifications could be and should be. They are not acting in the best interests of their patients. And that is incompetence. Mixed with a hefty glob of greed.
I found my current immunologist, Dr. H, by cold-calling all the immunologists in the Orlando area and asking if they knew anything about HAE. My doctor was the only one who said yes! When I met him and asked how he knew about HAE, he said “I’m an immunologist; it’s my job to know about all the immunological diseases.” What a fucking amazing answer. This is a man who knows what his responsibilities are and who he is responsible to, and makes sure he does whatever he has to do to perform more than sufficiently. Sufficient is merely adequate. Adequate is not acceptable in any discussion of the medical profession. The medical profession requires excellence; anything less is incompetence.
Dr. H and Dr. G, my toothbrush and I salute you and thank you!