Now I’m Nervous for My Brain…


I’ve been getting migraines and bad headaches since I was twelve, but besides home remedies, I never did much about them. But since seeing two doctors who are invested in what happens within the grey matter inside my skull, I started thinking about going to a neurologist for my still-very present headaches.

I can’t call it luck that I have an amazing therapist and an amazing psychiatrist, because I chose them after a lengthy period of research, but not everyone is who they seem on even a professional website. My doctors are, though, and because they are two caring individuals, they insisted that when I looked for a neurologist, I find someone caring.

My therapist said the same thing when I was looking for a psychiatrist over the summer: “Look for someone who cares. They’re kind of rare, but you can find them.” For all my past experiences with less-than-awesome doctors and the stories my mom sometimes brings home from the hospital, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this comment, but I was. Like… why would you get into healthcare if you didn’t like people, or at least care about making them better (which I assume, perhaps erroneously, would make you care about the people who have the problems.) But my experience today showed me that not only was my therapist right about that, she may also be right about being able to tell the quality of the doctor by the tenor of their receptionist.

I’d read through the information packet sent to me by the neurology office when it arrived a month or two ago, but since I am now just a few weeks away from my appointment, I wanted to read it over again. When I was confused by the circumstances under which you need a referral, I called the number the packet tells you to call if you have questions like that.

ME: (rattles off preliminary speech about when my appointment is and my confusion)

RECEPTIONIST #1: Um, this is Penn Presbyterian Hospital.

ME: I know.

RECEPTIONIST #1: So… you meant to call us?

ME: Yes, I’m holding medical papers from you in my hand.

RECEPTIONIST: Well, this is the emergency room number, I don’t know how you got it.

ME: It’s in the informational packet I was sent.

RECEPTIONIST #1: Well, I can’t help you. I’ll TRY to transfer you to the neurology unit.

(Extremely loud holding music plays, so loud that I have to put the phone on speaker and put it on the other side of my bed.)

RECEPTIONIST #2: Hello? (two second pass) HELLOOOOO?!

ME: Hi. (Previous speech.)

RECEPTIONIST #2: Wait, wait, wait- this is Penn Presbyterian.

ME: I know. I have papers from you in my hand.

RECEPTIONIST #2: Okaaaaay…when were you discharged from the hospital?

ME: I haven’t been a patient yet, my appointment is on the 22nd.

RECEPTIONIST #2: Uh, well, the emergency room told me that you had been discharged from this unit. If you haven’t, I can’t really help you.

ME: Okay… I was transferred to you after calling the number in my information, so I don’t know where to go from here.

RECEPTIONIST #2: I’ll get you the number of the operator. I don’t have the neurology number, but they should.

ME: Great, thanks.

(More incredibly loud holding music. The operator picks up and I give him the rundown.)

OPERATOR: Oh. Um… uh… I really don’t have that information, so I don’t know what I can do.

ME: You’re the third person I’ve been transferred to, I really don’t have any other way of reaching the neurology office.

OPERATOR: Well, uh… I GUESS I could maybe find the number for you… hang on.

(He figures out a way to transfer me, like an operator does. I finally reach the neurology office…’s answering machine. Awesome.)


Now the question is, will they call me back or will I go in without a referral, only to have them tell me (as the packet warns might happen) that they can’t see me without one and reschedule me for six months from now?

If my therapist is right about the receptionist reflecting the warmth of the doctor, I’m afraid I might just have an ice pick stabbed into my brain.


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