Know thyself

know thyself pic

Dear future teenage daughter,

If you don’t enter adulthood armed with the words and understanding needed to accurately describe your body and what it’s feeling, I HAVE FAILED as a parent.

Me: “So, what brings you in today?”

Patient: “I think I might have an infection.” (may look or gesture briefly southward to indicate the general region we’re talking about)

Me: “And what are some symptoms that you’re experiencing?”

Patient: “I don’t know…”

Me: “Okay… (waiting) Are you having burning or pain with urination?”

Patient: “I don’t know…”

Me: “…an increase the frequency of urination?”

Patient: “I’m not sure… Maybe?”

Me: “Have you noticed a change in your vaginal discharge?”

Patient: “Um…what’s that?”

And so on. It can easily take a full 20 minutes just to figure out why my patient scheduled the appointment in the first place.

Here’s the thing. I don’t have magical powers that allow me to simply look at a person – who is now staring at me expectantly, as if I hold all the answers to the mysteries of the universe AND their “down there” infection – and identify the reason why they’re feeling what they’re feeling.

But your words matter. They matter a lot. Most patients seem to think that when it comes to figuring out what’s wrong with them, the exam is, like, 80-100% of the diagnosis. In reality, the history – the story you’re telling me about what you’re feeling and how you ended up in my exam room – gets me at least 80-90% of the way toward my diagnosis.

So, my sweet precious daughter, one thing you will get from growing up in my house is lots of practice using words to describe what you’re feeling.

“My tummy hurts.”

“Where does it hurt? When did it start? Is it sharp pain, or feel more like pressure? Does it feel like it’s moving to somewhere else? Into your back, or your shoulder? Do you feel hungry? Do you feel like you have to poop? Do you feel like you want to throw up?”

I know, our place sounds like a total party, amiright?

(especially since “my tummy hurts” is usually code in our house for I’m hungry/I’m tired/I want attention and maybe a little TV.) (or a lot of TV.)

But at least you’ll know how to describe your UTI when you’re sitting in that exam room someday.

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