Written by Dotty Winters


Doctors and nurses

Knowing big medical words impresses nobody. Dotty Winters would like a sticky-wicky on her bot-bot please.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Some years ago I developed a chronic health condition and, like almost all such conditions, the symptoms were non-specific and really annoying and getting a diagnosis took aaaaages. The process is long and boring, unless you think of it as being a bit like a Panini sticker album where you try and collect appointments with all the ‘ologists’ in each department (I got double endocrinologists, but fortunately escaped the astrologists).

I had been lulled into a false sense of security about medical professionals by my awesome GP, so I wasn’t prepared for the deep suspicion you are treated to if a doctor suspects you’ve done any research about your condition, or have developed pesky opinions to go with your troublesome symptoms.

It quickly became clear to me that if you used the proper words for body parts, or bacteria, or knew the name of your medication (not just what colour the pills are), doctors would say things like:

• You seem to know a lot about this… [suspicious glare].

• It’s really better if you try not to worry about the science and leave that to us (from a doctor who was concerned that I knew thyroids were in necks, as opposed to say, toes).

• Have you been self-diagnosing on the internet? (Honestly, I had been, but this was said in response to be being aware of what SSRI drugs do, following a three-year psychology degree, which I accidentally forgot to wipe from my mind.)

All this has resulted in me developing a massive case of White Coat Syndrome. You know on the first day of the month, when you say “white rabbits, white rabbits” to ward off evil spirits that may curse you? I don’t. I say “white coats, white coats” to ward off the terrifying spectre of medical appointments which will leave me helpless and mute.

“I now communicate with doctors almost entirely in baby-talk: ‘I’ve got a whoopsie, a massive, bleeding whoopsie which is spurting blood on your walls and requires some magic stitches please.’”

White coat syndrome is a recognised condition, most commonly seen when people who don’t usually have high blood pressure have high blood pressure when tested by a medical professional. While it can be inconvenient, the medical profession have some nifty tricks (like 24-hour blood pressure monitors) to work round it.

I don’t have that kind of white coat syndrome, I have a much, much worse, incurable kind. Being around doctors turns me into an idiot and occasionally a mute. At the current rate of progression I fear it may eventually prove fatal.

So I now communicate with doctors almost entirely in baby-talk (“I’ve got a whoopsie, a massive, bleeding whoopsie which is spurting blood on your walls and requires some magic stitches please”), agree with everything they say and wherever possible say nothing at all. It’s been working brilliantly.

So far I have:

• Spent nearly six months regularly having to give large quantities of blood for tests, then being recalled because the tests showed I was anaemic, but never daring to ask whether these two events might have been related.

• Taken medicine which I am mildly allergic to because a doctor assured me that allergies to that particular treatment are very rare (turns out the only case he’d come across was the one clearly noted in my medical records).

• Referred to my own toes as tootsies for fear of appearing too knowledgeable.

• Had the wrong bits of me scanned twice (because doctors know best, right?).

• Had a completely healthy mole removed because a doctor noticed it, and said I must be worried about it and I shouldn’t be, because it was fine, but he would remove it to stop me worrying. I wasn’t worried. I hadn’t noticed it.

So like I say, it’s all working out perfectly, and I have nearly completed my comprehensive mystery shop of all the departments in my local hospital. I did eventually get a sort of diagnosis. It was long and complicated. So, let’s just say that it turns out I had some nasty baddies in my flubber tubes and they’ve been tickling my gremlin whatsits. It’ll all be fine. Can I have a sticker?


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.