Let down -A letter to the medical profession

August 16, 2009

When I was ten years old, I let Joey Mueller touch my breast behind the mulberry tree at William Schmidt elementary school. Before he was granted access to my personal blooming boob garden, a national treasure in my mind, there were a few conditions. Joey Mueller had to pinky swear that he and I would be married someday. We would first have one boy named Joey, Jr. and next a girl named Jenny. Joey Mueller agreed eagerly to all of my demands. I interpreted his enthusiasm as great love for me. I granted him exactly five minutes, which I timed. Joey Mueller struggled to find my breast at first. Admittedly, they barely filled my new training bra. Joey Mueller bumbled around for a while. Eye contact was barely made. When I announced that time was up, Joey Mueller seemed pleased with his performance. Me, not so much, however, confident that Joey Mueller would never let me down, I was off to plan my wedding.

Later that week, I decided to call Joey Mueller on the telephone. I thought it important to discuss with him my song choice for our wedding, the Bay City Rollers, I Only Want To Be With You. To my great surprise, Joey Mueller would not take my call. In fact he would not take any of the fifty calls I placed after that first one either. On call number fifty-one Joey Mueller’s mother politely explained that Joey did not want to speak with me ever again and she suggested nicely that I call one of my girlfriends instead. Joey Mueller broke my heart. Joey Mueller’s mother let me down easy.

Trust is always an issue. When I was ten, I naively trusted Joey Mueller with my heart. At age forty-three, I can see clearly how my motivations and Joey’s were not the same. I forgive you Joey Mueller. And I love you, Joey Mueller’s mother, for your kindness at the end of a string of fifty-one consecutive phone calls. Still, trust is an issue.

There are three people in this world today that I have no choice but to trust, not with my heart this time but rather with my life. Those people are my oncologist, my surgeon and my primary care physician. Not one of them will take my calls.

Last week I caught my first infection since my chemotherapy regimen began last June. I was so ill, so fatigued that I could not climb the stairs to my bedroom. I was lightheaded, dizzy, confused and worn out, physically and emotionally. There was weakness in every muscle and numbness in my arm. This was rock-bottom for me. The glass was almost half-empty for the first time since my diagnosis. I called my oncologist. The nurse was warm, kind, and listened well to me describing my symptoms. After she advised me that these did not appear to be the result of the chemo treatment, I realized that her motivations and mine were not the same. I tried the surgeon next, with nearly the same results. After speaking with the nurses from both offices, I was reminded of Joey Mueller’s mother. I envisioned Dr. Joey Mueller standing next to them in the office silently shaking his head no and refusing to come to the phone.

When my primary care physician had an open appointment that same day, I was thrilled. Finally, I had reached a doctor to see me, to hear me and to treat me. I was not going to let this one go. I carefully explained my symptoms and my frustrations with the earlier calls to the other doctors. I explained that I am a half-full kind of gal and not a complainer, but I really need some help right now. I mapped out my set of expectations as specifically as I did that day behind the mulberry tree with Joey Mueller. You will read my test results first thing in the morning, you will call my oncologist and the two of you will decide what is next to be done so that I can feel better. The glass was closer to full once more. Confident that I would not be let down, I was off to plan my kids birthday party.

Two days later, in the mail, I received a plain white envelope -inside it, a copy of my test results. I don’t know what it means because it would take a medical degree to understand. I received no call. No cover letter. No kind voice, even if it was just to say, “Please don’t call here again.” Perhaps I should have required a pinky swear?

I have been let down. Joey Mueller touched my breast, then broke my heart. Each one of you, my doctors, treated my breast and now I am not sure I should trust you with my life.

Dr. Joey Mueller, if you are so pleased with your performance, is it too much to ask that you come to the phone?


6 Responses to “Let down -A letter to the medical profession”

  1. Friend Says:

    Unlike Joey’s nice mother, I’m Ronnie’s mean friend. And I will personally bitch-out or ef-up anybody who isn’t doing what they are paid good money to do. Just say the word. You may not have the umph to do it, and I do.
    I got yer back.

    On the other hand, didn’t it work out pretty well, without Joey?


  2. Dixie Says:

    There is only one person you can have faith in and that is God Dr.s need to respect their patients and answer the damn phone , I bet they would if you didnt pay your bill.

  3. Bonnie Says:

    Those doctors have no idea the HELL that Ronny’s mom and her sister can dish out. If this ever happens again we can insure them they will know. For now I am going to vent on the nurses because they truly think that is there job . . . to screen patients and decide who gets to speak to the doctor if anyone. . . and it is not, you are a nurse not a doctor. So from now on when my DAUGHTER calls and is upset you best let her speak to the doctor or at the very least tell her you will have the doctor return her call AND DO IT.

  4. Tamara DeLand Says:

    Ironically, and on a lesser scale, my daughter went through similar carelessness by suburban Minneapolis doctors when she shattered her elbow. My ex-husband and I, having lived in a city of only 60,000 for 25 years, had her driven to our community for surgery here where we knew the medical professionals. An hour-plus away for her to get the care she needed and deserved! As usual, I have ideas for your writing. 1) Send a slightly edited version, with a link to your blog, to the editorial board at the POST-DISPATCH. That could get you some attention. 2) Send a verbatim printout to the MO Medical Association. You may or may not be heard, but won’t it FEEL good?
    Meanwhile, keep calling the doctors. Be the mosquito buzz in their ear until they respond.
    Wishing you well with those test results and, as always, keeping you in my prayers!

  5. Kim Says:

    Great letter. Maybe you should send it to some magazines for publication. Some doctors might read it.

  6. keri Says:

    Doctor’s attention should be a given, not a struggle…especially when all your energy needs to be focused on getting well. I hope they are listening now!

    I also hope that your body is healing and strengthening, day by day.

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