I should have been forewarned when I was given a referral to see a specialist for a physical ailment.
This one practices at the sprawling Quadrangle in Lake Success. There is no shortage of doctors on Long Island, but why do so many have offices at the Quad? The complex itself is a maze of twists and turns. The roads are named after faraway states — Ohio, Delaware and Dakota — which is where I thought I was after driving around for a while. The directional signs have no rhyme or reason, and patients could get sicker circling the maze, and worse still when they leave.
I arrived perspiring after finally finding the office, hoping I wasn’t late. I needn’t have worried.
I signed in and was called after a long wait. I was escorted to an examination room and sat in my undergarments on the edge of a cold table with a sheet over my lap, waiting for the doctor. I sat for 20 minutes, studying every chart and advertisement on the walls. I seethed waiting for this god to appear.
Just as I was about to skidoo, in swaggered the doctor. He exuded confidence as he strode over to my shivering person and asked, curtly, “What can I do for you?”
Had he not read the reams of papers I filled out to explain my condition — including my grandmother’s last gall bladder attack?
I started to tell him my litany of symptoms when he cut me short, felt my abdomen, squeezed my body parts and ordered the nurse to give me a prescription for a CT scan. He was out the door after five minutes. I yelled after him, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” But he was gone.
It seems to me that some doctors fail to see each patient as an individual. Tomatoes come in many varieties, and so do people. But some doctors treat every patient alike.
I had prepared questions I wanted to ask him. I wanted to share theories I had as an individual tomato. He hadn’t paid attention.
The nurse said there was no rush to do the scan. I left the office and circled the Quad, trying to find the exit to Marcus Avenue. I arrived home totally frustrated.
Should I book the scan or should I write the doctor off as a bad experience? The next day, I decided to follow his instructions and called the radiology department for an appointment.
When I arrived for the CT scan, I waited for about a half hour, filled out more papers, and then went into the room for the test. I partially disrobed and then was asked whether I had fasted for the required four hours. I said, no, no one had told me about that. I’d had breakfast before coming over. The technician, slightly taken aback, looked at me and said we couldn’t do the test. I could wait around all day or go home. I went home.
Then I called the specialist’s office to explain what happened. I spoke to three staff members with patronizing attitudes. They said the doctor was too busy to take my call. I persisted and was able to speak with a physician assistant.
Here was a real person who listened. She laughed and told me to cancel the scan and start with an antibiotic. She arranged the prescription.
I wondered, how could this specialist make a living employing a multitude of assistants, nurses and receptionists unless he reduced each patient to a mere five minutes — including travel time between rooms?
I never saw him again. His assistant had treated me successfully over the phone.
Where are the kindly doctors who looked you in the eye and wanted to know how you felt? Maybe they’re retired because they couldn’t make a living.
Reader Maxine Stone lives in Great Neck.