The Doctor Will See You Now


Is there a doctor in the house?

Well, it would be bloody handy if there was! Even a doctor who just stopped by for a drink one weekend and conveniently left their prescription pad behind.

The amount of time we’ve spent at medical appointments over the past 23 years, it would have been quicker for one of us just to have gone to medical school. Why on earth didn’t I elect to study medicine instead of arts at university? Oh yes, that’s right, grades.

I could have married a doctor, I suppose. If one had ever asked. I never really met one I fancied apart from the doctor who delivered Happy Chin and it’s fair to say my chances of netting him were pretty slim. I was not really at my best that day, what with the epidural and 24 hours of prolonged labour and all. I may have been able to land the red nosed obstetrics registrar who wandered in off the golf course midway through to boozily enquire whether it was alright to give me an internal, but Mr August glared at him so hard it was probably unlikely.

Anyway, a doctor spouse is all very well in theory but has its disadvantages. It’s much easier to call your husband in tears and demand he come home right away because your child has just put his fist through yet another window when your husband is not a person who may be in the middle of resuscitating someone.

I mean, Shirley’s lawn will still be there to mow tomorrow, right?

Hang on, I hear you cry, you were the one that wanted kids! Endless medical appointments are part of the shit you sign up for when you become a parent, didn’t anyone tell you this?

I can’t remember, but I was 26 and probably wouldn’t have listened.

So in the spirit helpfulness, I am writing this piece. Young People, heed my words! This is your future if you elect to have children! You too will lose valuable hours of your life sitting in waiting rooms trying to stop your kids commenting loudly on the other patients’ personal attributes while destroying the selection of 70s era Little Golden Books! It’s not too late to go and study medicine!

All parents spend a lot of their time ferrying their children around to all sorts of appointments and we do it because we want our kids to be healthy, able to achieve their full potential and have a good life in general.

As a parent of a child with a complex disorder, I spend so much time in waiting rooms that you’d think I’d be a Jedi Master at it by now.

On the contrary. At our second to last visit, after waiting 25 minutes to be seen, Happy Chin simply walked out the front door, ran straight across the road into the bakery with me in hot pursuit and helped himself to a fizzy drink. Dropping a fiver on the counter, I managed to get him safely back across the road and into the waiting room where moments later the shop assistant from the bakery appeared.

‘Is this your change?’ she asked, handing me 80 cents.

‘Keep it,’ I said, ‘he’s stolen one of your magazines.’

Happy Chin is as good at waiting as you can expect a young man with poor impulse control and low frustration tolerance to be. He really does do very well considering the amount of medical scrutiny he is subjected to.

We currently have 8 specialists on our team taking care of his medical, psychological and therapy needs. Then there’s the hospitals he visits regularly, and the professionals we see there. In any given year he’s poked, prodded, asked to say ‘ah’ or simply just talked about while he has to sit patiently, by at least 50 or 60 people.

We are pretty good at navigating the system, have the whole general anaesthetic thing down pat and know a few tricks here and there. For example, I always go to specialists clinics in business attire, full make up, hair done and with my laptop bag over my shoulder (I’ve learned not to wear heels in case I have to chase HC down the hospital corridor). I am sorry to say this inevitably gets us seen quicker. On the last occasion, the specialist actually apologised for having taken up so much of my time!

I have noticed those in the medical profession treat me remarkably differently when I am in my Serious Professional Woman outfit compared to my Tired Mother in Trackpants get up. They don’t talk to me like I am in Grade 5, they even sometimes listen to me!

But as Tired Mother I am often treated with condescension. This is partly because I have resting Dumb Face. I get so bored with having basic concepts explained to me in the kind of sing-song voice generally reserved for talking to toddlers that I drift off and start thinking about what to have for dinner or whether I have booked the car in for service. My face meanwhile takes on an expression indicative of an IQ lower than your average potted plant.

The doctor, NDIS planner or hospital receptionist then leans forward, looks at me pityingly and asks in a very slow voice, ‘do you understand?’

I actually understood in the first 5 seconds, I was just employing my time for the remaining 7.5 minutes you were speaking to think of more important things, like the Lamington’s ingrown toenail.

When you spend your whole life chronically short of time, it is incredibly annoying to have your time wasted. Coordinating a visit to the GP simply to fill out forms, which you also have to coordinate with your son’s carers so they can drive him 40 minutes from home to the surgery, in order to sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes just so that the doctor can sight HC in order to get paid by Medicare is the most ludicrous thing I can think of. I will be the happiest person in Tasmania when we finally get access to Telehealth.

I’m not blaming medical staff, and I do understand there have to be rules. And the staff are probably just as frustrated as I am. They are also under resourced and overworked.

Especially in hospitals, where there are similarly baffling rules. Being asked to arrive at hospital at 7.30AM for a day procedure when your child ends up waiting until 3PM to go to surgery (hungry, thirsty and bored) is, quite frankly, cruel.

I have been known to just let Happy Chin wreck the waiting room just to get him bumped up the theatre list. Sure, he may be older than the other kids, but he is frightened and unable to understand what is happening. He is also likely to escalate, lash out and scare the other children. So just get us done and we’ll be in recovery before you know it, then on our way and out of your hair (just as soon as we’ve gone through a box of icy poles and all of the vegemite sandwiches).

It’s when I read statistics about poor health among carers that I really have to reach for the gin bottle and the cheese twisties. A 2008 study of 5,000 carers found that around twice as many carers were in poor health than people in the general population.

Well of course our health outcomes are poor! When do we have time to go to the doctor/dentist/skin cancer clinic/toilet?

The last time I went to the dentist was in 1995. I remember because they offered me a root canal at $600 or a tooth extraction at $60. Can you guess which one I chose?

It’s not good for carers to neglect their health. We are needed. If we fall then it all comes crashing down with us. And I do try, I really do. I don’t want my sons to lose their mother any earlier than they have to, especially not from something preventable.

But I have to bank my sick leave for HC’s neurosurgery next year, I average two appointments a week with HC and the Lamington and then there’s those annoying things like working, shopping and cooking. Oh, and sleeping.

If only I had time to go and see my local member about this! Does anyone out there know the Health Minister? If so, please invite him round for a drink. Ask him to bring his prescription pad!

Thanks in advance,

Tired Mother in Trackpants


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