Desk doctors

Communication is always important and has a big impact on how we view a company, whether it is through their promotion or direct communication with someone from the company/organisation. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like training in communications seems to be lacking. Companies sometimes seem to forget that people on the phone or at a desk are often the first impressions one gets of a company.

This is a topic that could be discussed back and forth and different examples could be given. However, to explain what I mean I am going to focus on communication in the health care system, as I feel like that is a place where people should, more than anywhere, be trained in basic human communication. They should be trained to treat everyone equal and show sympathy when needed.

commu

When it comes to doctors I have discovered they vary when it comes to the communication part. Understandably, as they are human just like you and me. However, they often have to tackle difficult problems and meet people at stages in their lives that they probably wished they never had to come across.

I have had some great doctors that really went beyond what is expected of them. Two of which gave me their private numbers as I lived in small villages where one should only need the help of doctors between 8 and 4. As they knew I had things going on that might bother me outside of office hours they actually offered me their mobile numbers and told me to contact them directly if that was the case.

When I had just become a single mum of my two older kids I also experienced the most amazing good deed. I don’t think it was because he is a doctor, I think it is just because he is a nice person that cares for others. I had just gotten settled in mine and the kids first flat as a family of three. I didn’t have a job as I was still on a very low budget maternity leave (at this point my daughter was 3 years old and my son was only 7 months) and I was quite lost in life. I had seen my doctor to talk, to get an outlet for my emotions and feelings. He listened and was trying to figure out ways with me to get me back to school so I could make a decent life for myself and the kids. One night I was in my cosy little flat and my kids were asleep and the phone rang. This wasn’t unusual as most of my social interactions were  by phone as one can get quite isolated when they are parents of young kids and lack the net of people around them to babysit every once in a while, etc. What was unusual, however, was that I didn’t recognise the number. I answered the phone and on the other end a voice said:

“Heiða?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Hi, this is your doctor X (I am not going to put his name in here, to respect his privacy).”

“Oh? Hi!”

“This phone call is a little unusual and you are probably wondering why I am calling…”

“Yeah…” I answered quite confused.

“Well the thing is me and my wife bought a lot of meat to process straight from the farm. We have been spending this afternoon cutting it down and packaging it. Some for us and some for our kids.”

“Okay?”

“Well there’s way too much! My wife suggested that it would be nice if we knew anyone in need that some of this would be helpful to, I instantly thought of you. Don’t worry though!! I didn’t disclose your name.”

“Oh, wow!”

“Yes, so I was wondering if you might want some minced beef an if so, how you’d like the proportions to be?”

When you are a single mum with no extra cash to spend you can not afford to say no to such a nice gesture so I ran and had a look in my freezer to look at the proportions sizes I got at the supermarket and said to him: “I would love that, thank you so much! Maybe around 500 gr. in a bag?”

“It might be 400-500 gr. I hope that’s okay?”

I couldn’t help but laughing and told him I could live with that.

Later that night he showed up wit 5 kilos of minced beef! I took it from his hands with a lump in my throat! He sorted out 10 evening dinners for me and my children and probably a little more as we would make loads out of the 500 gr. proportions and then be able to have left overs the night after. I thought it was so amazing that someone had had me in mind like that and whenever I have been in the position to help others I have tried to do so as I know how much it can mean for the person on the receiving side of it, even though it may seem small to me. Pay it forward kind of a thing.

helping-hand-660x400

I’ve also had really funny encounters with doctors. One has to understand that Iceland is a VERY small country with the population of around 350000 and the chances of a person you meet in the street knowing someone you know are huge!

Once I had to go for a check-up at the gynaecologist. He turned out to be the doctor that delivered me when my mum gave birth to me. While he had his head between my legs taking a swab he said, just like it was the most normal thing in this position: “You look just like your mum!” I wasn’t sure what exactly he was talking about!

Another time I went to another gynaecologist. I was prepared to have a swab taken. Stretched out on the bench, legs in the appropriate handles and all. He then opens a cupboard above his head. He closes it again and opens the one next to it. The same happens and he went through a few cupboards and as he opened more of them I noticed he was getting a bit stressed. He then smiled awkwardly and said: “I am SO, SO sorry! This has NEVER happened before but I seem to have run out of the sticks I use to take the swabs with… BUT I do have a box of them in my car. If you would only be so kind to wait, I’ll just run out and get them!”

“Right…okay..” It wasn’t like I was going to leave with out having what I came for. However, we were on the 5th floor and this would take him a little while. Being in Iceland, in a rush he put a scarf and coat on and popped out the door, 2 seconds later his head popped back in and he said with an awkward smile: “You just try to be comfortable while I run out!” Any woman that has lied on one of these benches knows there is nothing comfortable about them!    

imperturbableflawedhoneyeater-max-1mb

Unfortunately, I have also had some bad experience with doctors. When I miscarried for the first time I was 22 years old. I was at home and all of a sudden I started bleeding. I got really worried and didn’t know what to do, still I hoped maybe it wasn’t all that bad and I was reading to much into it. I called the doctor on call in my village and grumpily he said: “It’s simple! You’re are miscarrying, it’s gone, all done! There is nothing we can do!”

With that he hung up. I felt horrible. These news were devastating and I felt so disregarded as I would have thought he wanted to see me and check up on me. It was dinner time and I got the feeling I interrupted him while having his evening meal. Half an hour later he called back and was a little more sympathetic and actually asked me questions and explained the procedures if this was the case. Once I got over the biggest shock, I imagined his wife had heard him and told him off for talking to a woman in this position the way he did. That probably wasn’t the case though, he must have realised afterwards that he’d been a bit hasty. And I do take my hat off to him for actually calling back and kind of making amends.

Another time I miscarried and was sent with an airplane to a hospital to be monitored. The morning after a gynaecologist examined me. He brought a student with him and didn’t ask if it was okay with me that he was present and I didn’t say anything, I probably would have said yes, but one should ask. He then examined me and spoke “doctor” to his student, pointed at the screen and never said a word to me. The two of them then disappeared behind a curtain where they had a computer and they kept “talking doctor”. After a few minutes I had worked up the courage to ask: “Can I put my clothes back on?” The answer was a short, annoyed yes and then they kept talking amongst themselves. For a while I stood there like I didn’t belong and felt like I shouldn’t be there. However, I ended up asking “I am sorry… Is it gone? Have I miscarried?” This specialist sneered back: “Yes! That is if you were ever pregnant!”. With that I left.

Having doctors that talk to people in situations like this, communicating like that is horrible. Afterwards I felt like I didn’t only have to deal with the shock and sorrow of miscarrying but also this treatment. To be treated like a second-class citizen.

broken heart love sad
Photo by burak kostak on Pexels.com

In England I have come across what I would class as very unprofessional behaviour. Not from the doctors themselves but the first person one has to go through before getting to the doctor. The receptionists. Desk doctors as I have started referring to them as.

In December, when I discovered I was pregnant I looked on NHS’s website to see what the procedures are here, as I have never been pregnant in the UK before. It said if you have discovered you are pregnant you should contact your local clinic and get an appointment with a midwife or a GP. Which I decided to do, especially with my history, I knew I wanted it on record in case of worst-case scenario. Therefore, I called my local clinic and asked for an appointment. They have appointment slots every day which they only fill in on that day. So, you are supposed to call in the morning and get allocated an appointment later that same morning. I told the lady on the phone I needed one of these walk-in appointments (this is something they have just started and came instead of the walk-in hours, to avoid people coming in and having to wait for hours). She told me they didn’t have walk-ins. I tried to explain I needed one of these same-day appointments and she told me they only had appointments next week. After going back and forth explaining to her what I was talking about she said: “Oh you are talking about (insert the official name of the appointments)”. I told her that was correct. She then asked me what the problem was, which I am not used to as in Iceland it’s the doctors business not a receptionists. I told her I had just discovered that I was pregnant and as the NHS website stated I wanted to see a GP. She told me that had nothing to do with the GP and that I needed to see a midwife but only if I was around 10 weeks pregnant. I then explained to her that first off I wasn’t sure how far on I was and then I told her I had had 7 miscarriages and needed the support and assurance of a doctor. “I don’t know what  he’s supposed to do for you! But I’ll book you in any way!”. I felt like she had been rude and couldn’t believe her last snappy answer as I had just shared with her my history and explained that I was very nervous. There was no sympathy, just cynical remarks.

lucille-portable

I told the doctor about the answers and comments I had received. She apologised and couldn’t believed how I had been spoken to. She said the reasons for my visit were none of the receptions business and if I wanted to see a doctor, I should get to see a doctor no matter what it was for. She then told me she would send a request for me to see a gynaecologist at the hospital so I could be monitored. I should also book an appointment at the reception for a meeting with my community midwife. When I got to the reception the “lovely” receptionist from the phone was there. I told her I needed to book an appointment with a midwife. Very loudly (so loudly that everyone in the waiting room knew exactly why I was there) she asked me how far along I was. I told her I wasn’t sure but was about to see a specialist to get that clarified as I didn’t know. Loudly, again, she said: “You don’t know!?!” I felt really embarrassed and like I had failed in filling out my sexual encounter diary to make sure to have exact dates and records. Again, I told her I was sorry but I didn’t. She told me the only appointment she had was at the beginning of February and I accepted that. Again, she stressed that the midwifes REALLY wanted to be sure of how far along women were when they saw them. I just looked at her awkwardly and said: “Well, I don’t know.” She booked the appointment and murmured: “Well you should be around the correct time by then anyway…” I wondered how on earth she knew more than me!

After this I waited for a letter which would tell me when I was to come into the hospital to see a gynaecologist. A week later my letter arrived but my appointment wasn’t till January so I called the hospital. When I got through to a receptionist, they told me I was just seeing a midwife for a normal check-up. I explained that wasn’t correct. That I was going to see a community midwife but needed to see a specialist at the hospital due to my history. She didn’t budge. After a while she transferred the phone to another person and I got the same thing. I ended up crying out of frustration and simply told her I was scared and I felt like no one was listening. Finally, I got transferred to a receptionist at the pre-natal care. This person had been filled in on why I was calling and once she got on the phone she asked what she could do for me. I started crying loudly and told her all I needed was to see a specialist and that was what I believed my doctor had requested but for some reason I was being told I would only get to see a midwife and that wouldn’t happen until January. As I was very emotional (and a “little”) dramatic by this point I told her I was doubting it all though and I felt like I didn’t understand anything and maybe it was because I was nothing more than a foreigner. She calmed me down and had me breathing in and out before assisting me.

giphy

She booked me in, told me I’d see a midwife who probably would have a specialist do a scan on me the same day.

Once we arrived, I spoke to yet another receptionist. She told me to pee in a cup. I told her I believed I wasn’t supposed to as I might be going for a scan as I wasn’t sure about my dates and I knew a scan so early on require a full bladder. She hissed at me and told me I wasn’t booked in for a scan and therefore there wouldn’t be any scan that day and I should basically do as I was told. Quickly I sensed the fact she was not going to budge so, upset, I took the glass and went to the bathroom. When I returned my fiancée told me he had tried to talk to her but there was no way to get her to listen. For the first time in my life my blood pressure was measured quite high and I know it was only due to upset. Once I finally saw the midwife I felt better. She was caring and understanding. She understood my worries and as the specialist she normally would have me see was gone for the day, she wanted to book me in with him later but offered to have another doctor have a quick look then and there just to set my mind at ease.

This doctor was very cold. To begin with he saw the bubble the fetus should be in but couldn’t detect a fetus. The midwife held my hand and comforted me as tears ran down my face in silence. She asked him to do a more thoroughly examination. I had to remove my clothes and he did. He could detect a fetus this time but couldn’t confirm there was a heartbeat and told me that his file would therefore say there was a fetus but that there was uncertainty about vital signs. More tears ran down my face and he left. I apologised to the midwife for the crying and she asked me please not to apologise. Told me communications weren’t his strongest point which was why she was there, to translate his words into human interactions. Both she and my fiancée said they believed they saw a flickering and we would know for sure in a few days.

heart.gif

As my readers know when I went back there was a heartbeat and we are now in our 10th week.

After this I have been treated very well but I am sure that there are notes on their system about communications with me. It has been frustrating and hard to deal with health care employees that treat you like any other number. That even make you feel like you are wasting their time. I know we all have bad days, but if you cannot mask them and your job is to deal with real people with real emotions maybe you should be doing something else.

These receptionists were my first impressions of the English health care system when it comes to pregnancy and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. I might have listened and not pushed for what I needed. If I would have I would have missed the amazing service I have had after getting passed these gatekeepers. I would have had weeks of wondering whether everything was going okay or not and I would still be waiting for the confirmation on it.

you shall not.gif

Feeling Powerless

Christmas is coming and my heart is mainly filled with joy. I have had my stepdad over for 6 days and as uni had broken up for Christmas when he arrived we strolled around town and did loads of “Christmassy” things. He left today and my baby brother (he’s not really a baby anymore as he’s 21) arrived and will be here over Christmas. My kids didn’t know he was coming and were overcome with joy when he greeted them by the school bus.

My father-in-law will spend Christmas with us as well. I have baked and got my hands on some Icelandic meat and drinks.

But then why am I stating that I feel powerless? Why such a dramatic title?

Well the thing is, it was my birthday on the 9th of December and we got a VERY big surprise! We discovered that we are expecting an addition to the family. Again, why is that not pure joy?

test

We are very early on, I believe I’m about 6 – 7 weeks in, but  we will get that confirmed at the doctors on Christmas eve. The timing is perfect, as if our calculations are right, the baby should arrive just as I hand in my dissertation, I could then go straight on to maternity leave and once I finish that I could pursue a carrier related to my studies. Then that would be that, as we are not planning to add more people to this planet once we have this one.

However, I feel very stressed and helpless. My story of pregnancies is far from easy. I have had 10 (now 11) pregnancies but only have 3 children. When it comes to being pregnant I feel faulty and a bit broken.

11 Short stories

The first time I got pregnant I was young and reckless. When I was told I was pregnant I had this feeling of protection and motherly love come over me. I would get my ducks in a row and get my life straight as I needed to be responsible for my actions. Soon after I got the news I miscarried.

The second time around it was similar but a little bit more dramatic as I was sent with a plane to a hospital in a different part of Iceland to get to a fully equipped hospital.

The third time gave me my darling daughter who is now 10 years old. She threatened to come too early and I was made to stay in Reykjavík for 10 weeks as I lived very far away from a hospital. Eventually she arrived on time and even refused to come out once the time actually came and she had to be delivered by C-section.

The fourth time was a hidden miscarriage. My breasts and my womb grew even though the foetus I thought was growing inside of me had been deceased for 4 weeks. I discovered this when I went for my 12-week scan. For the first time I had to go through a scrape. While waiting for the surgery I had to stay in a maternity ward and listen to new born babies cry. I even heard parents in the next room to the waiting-room listen to the heartbeat of their unborn child. The heartbeat I never got to hear.

The fifth time my wonderful boy arrived. He is 8 years old now. When I went for a 10-week check-up the midwife couldn’t detect his heartbeat. I was mortified, please not again! Thankfully, he was just hiding a little and from then on made sure I knew he was there and still does! The birth took hours but with the help of an epidural I powered through. It was wonderful to get to experience both a C-section and a natural birth.

The sixth time was the cause of me and my current fiancé being a little too reckless. We were startled to begin with but within 24 hours that changed into excitement and we started planning everything accordingly. It’s funny how your mind works. But I miscarried. We decided it was a little too early and we wouldn’t go for another one for the time being.

Once we got to the seventh time a year had passed. Things had been really busy and I had messed up when it came to taking the pill. That resulted in a human being growing inside of me. Well, almost. We miscarried. My gynecologist was worried I had something called “molar pregnancy” which thankfully wasn’t the case. Nonetheless, I had to go through another scrape and in the process a medical mistake was made. The doctors accidentally made a hole into the side of my uterus. At this point I was very busy at university, so I kept my chin up and finished school.

At this time, we knew we wanted a baby so the eight time I got pregnant was more than welcome. We got a positive pregnancy test while we were visiting England. He had just proposed by the Thames with a phoney ring and a beautiful poem, which he wrote for me. Once we knew I was pregnant he was sure everyone would think that was the only reason he proposed. However, we didn’t care. We were happy and believed that this third time was a lucky charm. Soon we discovered we would have to wait a little longer for our happy ending as I miscarried yet again.

The ninth time we discovered as we came back from a holiday in Tenerife. I had my aunt Irma visiting (my periods) and everything seemed as it should (or not as we were trying) but “she left” very abruptly. I took a pregnancy test and BOOM I was pregnant once again! This time around the miscarriage was very dramatic as it took longer than the others, there was more bleeding and more pain. For a period of time the doctors thought I might have an ectopic pregnancy but told me it was hard to determine as apparently it is like looking for a black cat, on a black roof in the middle of the night.

cat

Once we got to this point, we decided to get examined. See if we could in fact have babies. We had a blood test where our DNA was examined. Which for some reason, I found a little creepy. The test came out fine and we were told that I should come in for a more thorough check. They wanted to fill my uterus with salt water and see if it was intact after the scrapes and births etc. When it was getting close to my appointment, I got this strong feeling, I was sure I was pregnant again. I took a test and it was negative. The feeling was so strong I couldn’t push it away, so I booked an appointment with my GP and got a blood test done, which also came back negative. I had to face it, all these pregnancies and miscarriages had made me crazy, I wasn’t pregnant, it was just hope and my imagination. A few days later it was time for my salt-water-session and I just couldn’t push this feeling aside so armed with my stubbornness I went to the pharmacy and bought one more pregnancy test. This was the tenth time I got pregnant! A few months later I gave birth to my beautiful girl, who is now is one and a half years old and is as cheeky as they come! If it hadn’t been for me being so sure they might have washed her out!

Therefore, now that I am facing the eleventh time of being pregnant I am being very cautious. I want to dance and scream and wonder whether it’s a boy or a girl but I don’t let myself. It’s been too tough in the past, watching the dreams come tumbling down. This is why I feel powerless, there is nothing I can do but wait and hope.

One tough cookie

In the past my fiancé told me I was to tough for my own good. He was right but that’s how I have managed in the past. That’s how I have gotten to where I am. While we went through all these miscarriages together I didn’t let myself grieve as I felt like I HAD to function. I might not be able to keep a baby but at least I could do anything else. So, while we went through all that I only took 4 days off work all together, I still got killer grades at school and my kids had a mum that was always there for them. Until one day. One day I discovered my shoulders were tense, my fists were clenching, I was irritated and got angry easily. This wasn’t me at all and I didn’t like it. Therefore, I went and got therapy. Being me, it didn’t mean I stopped anything else, I just tailored the sessions around work, motherhood, school, being a friend, sister and fiancé. It did help and I let myself grieve.

Who to tell?

I have told friends and family as I do not believe in the whole “shut up for the first 12 weeks”. In the past having my friends and family engaged from the very beginning has given me shoulders to lean on and outstretched arms when needed. When things have gone according to plan however, I have had the pleasure of them knowing from the get-go and I simply can’t see anything negative in that either.

a_shoulder_to_cry_on_by_escaport

The only people I am not telling are my children as I don’t want to put them through the shock of potentially losing a sibling. When I was around 9 years old, my mum got pregnant and told me and my brother straight away. We were over the moon! We had been asking for a baby brother or sister for ages. She ended up miscarrying and it was so hard. It was hard to get to grips with the fact this baby we had seen in our future was no more, but it was even harder to see my mum suffer and not being able to do anything to make her feel better. Therefore, I know I don’t want my kids to have to face that.

A mum from a young age

Maybe I am greedy and should be thankful for what I have. I am! I am so grateful for my children! As unexpected as this pregnancy was it is still more than welcome and we had always planned to have one more.

The mum side of me is so imbedded in me. I started babysitting and looking after children and babies while I was still a child myself. I knew from a young age I wanted to be a mum one day. When I got to the age of 11 or 12 I realised some women couldn’t have children and got consumed with fear of that being my destiny. I was sure that just because I wanted babies as much as I did it would be typical that I wouldn’t be able to. Cynical from a young age!

When I was 13 and until I was 16 I took care of my baby brothers as my mum and stepdad worked a lot. When the time came that I was sent into foster care the fact I was taken away from them was what affected me the most. I had taken care of them for so long and suddenly, I couldn’t even speak to them on the phone.

When they came back into my life 5 years later, I had to get to know them again, which was strange for me as I was the one that use to know them better than anyone.

BUT, now it’s Christmas. One of these brothers is here! I have my awesome children and supportive fiancé. After a battle with a grumpy GP receptionists and other staff at the NHS I have a doctor’s appointment on Christmas eve. Therefore, I am going to TRY my very best not to stress, to take it day by day and hope for the best.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, I hope you have a good book to read, fun board games to play, great company to enjoy and delicious food to eat!

I am going to finish this post with a little poem I put together 2 years ago, in the memory of all those that never were:

I mourn you,

the one that never was

I lost you

even though I never had you

I got attached to you

for a little while

I knew of you

for a few blinks of an eye.

You were more than welcome

You were a wish that came true

Oh, you!

My dear baby that never was.