Different patients need different doctors
Diagnosed with bladder cancer, Bangkok-based businessman Alex Lamont discovered the important difference between a doctor who was good enough and the ‘right’ doctor
Like most men in their 40s, Alex was fairly diligent about his annual check-up and for years had been in a routine of going to the same hospital — one of Bangkok’s top private medical centers. But Alex was aware it had been about eighteen months since his last check-up, so he put work aside and went in.
It was a fortunate decision. During the routine check-up blood cells were discovered in his urine, so he was sent for an ultrasound and x-ray, which showed a tumor in his bladder. The doctor told him that ninety percent of tumours in the bladder were cancerous so he should have it removed asap.
“When you first hear you may have cancer, your world suddenly stops”, Alex said, remembering the moment. “My initial reaction was one of numb sadness. The idea of cancer seemed overwhelming. Did I do something to cause it? My lifestyle or diet must be to blame. In hindsight there are many positive things a doctor could have said at that moment but to put it mildly these things were not said.”
“I thought about asking for another doctor, but felt a little uncomfortable doing so. I trusted his medical skills and he clearly articulated the procedures, but he didn’t have a great bedside manner. He wasn’t very personable and gave the minimum in terms of conversation. He was not the first doctor I have met who seemed more like a technician than a healer.”
“It’s difficult to know what you want at that stage — you can feel that your body is becoming a battleground and things happens so fast. If I had stopped and thought quietly I may have looked around for recommendations of other specialists but the world of hospitals, doctors, centres can seem like a jungle, especially when you badly want to trust the person in front of you.”
In the hands of the doctor and with a sense of having little time to waste, he decided to move forward with the physician he had, rather than look for another.
Alex underwent an operation to remove his tumor. The prognosis was good, it appeared small, non-aggressive and the odds were with him that it wouldn’t be back. With a bit of breathing room now, Alex decided to seek a second opinion.
“I was lucky to have a good friend with medical connections and he recommended Dr Isares Saisorn, at Samitivej Hospital” who checked Alex over and confirmed that the previous surgeon had done everything correctly. But this new doctor was different. “Dr Isares had a much better manner. He made it less painful and more pleasant — he talked to me and and my wife and explained things very well.” Alex had found the doctor he needed and decided to stay with him for the ongoing follow-up.
Dr Isares explains his approach: “Different patients need different doctors — the perfect doctor for one person may not be the same for another. You start in the middle and work out what the patient wants from you, and if you are the right doctor for them. You have to be totally honest with the patient — you can’t lie to them. Good communication is essential.”
Patient attitudes are changing, Dr Isares says, “People are starting to ask more questions. They read about the illnesses on the Internet, so they are better informed. I have reduced my patient load so that I can spend more time with them — and even their wives and families — to thoroughly explain things and reassure them. This approach works well for my patients, and for me.”
As it turns out, Alex did have another tumor, but fortunately it was non-cancerous and has been all clear since. He will be going back to Dr Isares every 3 months for a year and less frequently later. Alex and his doctor will be seeing a lot of each other, and he is perfectly happy with that.
“It is the difference between seeing someone you actually want to see who is fun to talk to, who answers all your questions and gives you time, rather than someone who doesn’t make you feel comfortable when asking questions,” Alex says. “A huge part of healing, in my view, is being positive, finding positive people, having a good energy. Its a lot more than just cutting and stitching.”
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