A few years back I remember having to go to the doctor because of excruciating abdominal pain on my right side. The doctor I went to diagnosed me with appendicitis and told me I would need to have the tissue removed.

However, he said that it could wait until the following week for a reason I can’t quite recall. I went home but the pain and nausea became so bad that we decided to go to another doctor for a second opinion.

It turned out that I should have been operated on immediately because my appendix had ruptured. When we told the new doctor that the previous doctor wanted to wait with the operation, he actually took the doctor to task.

The said doctor sent me an apology hamper filled with goodies and also personally phoned my mother to apologise since I was so young.

In hindsight, we could easily have sued that doctor because a ruptured appendix could have caused all manner of complications that could have endangered my life and proved to be fatal had I waited a week longer to do the operation.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the doctors I’ve been seeing and how I’ve become comfortable and complacent about going to them because they’re convenient but may not be helping me in the way that I need.

At least not anymore.

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I have a visual disability that’s regressive and very unpredictable in nature.

My eyes look fine, but they don’t always feel it. And sometimes it feels like trying to get people, especially doctors, to believe you is frustrating because it makes you doubt whether or not your pain is real.

I’ve been considering going to a new doctor, but I realise that it’s a big step because it involves a lot of admin and rehashing years worth of history to the new specialist in question.

I decided to reach out to a few folk on social media and asked them whether or not they’ve changed doctors because they weren’t taken seriously enough, or if they’ve had any other reason for switching doctors.

The responses were rather alarming (Names marked with an asterisk aren’t their real names):

*Xoliswa reveals that if she’d been admitted to hospital after the first time she fell sick, her condition wouldn’t have worsened

Last year I fell sick. I woke up one morning barely able to get out of bed. My skin felt like it was burning when I showered and I had a sharp pain that pierced from my side to my upper back.

After getting an appointment with my doctor she examined me, asked a few questions and offered that I may have muscle spasms.
I told her that I knew my body well enough to know this was more serious.

After much convincing, she decided to run some tests and sent me to get x-rays. They showed I had fluid in my lungs. She gave me antibiotics and told me to head to emergency if the pain got any worse.

I could never tell whether the antibiotics were making me feel ill or if it was my condition. I finished the course and when there was no improvement I went to another doctor who admitted me to hospital that afternoon because I’d developed pneumonia.

After speaking to a few other doctors after the incident, they all told me I should have been admitted after that first consultation.

Angela* ditched her doctor after he tried to enforce his religious beliefs on her

The doctor I used to go to when I was younger once tried to use his position to convert me to Christianity. Later, he refused to renew my birth control prescription. That's when I said I would never go to him again. I started going to a lady doctor, who's been wonderful ever since, and has certainly never given me grief about being on birth control.

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Shelley feels like her doctor was just wasting time

I changed GP's because I felt like I was just a time-filler. Not a great feeling. Your GP is someone you should grow some kind of relationship with seeing as they get up close and personal. Have a great doc now, thank goodness. We need to remember that doctors are not messiahs but service providers. If you're not happy with the service you should definitely search for a better provider.

Tracy found a new doctor after her GP wrote her off because of her paralysis

Our GP told my ex-husband to put me into the frail care section of our local old age home after I was paralysed.

At the time I was totally distraught but later I felt gratitude for his comment as it made me more determined than ever to prove him wrong and live independently which I have done for more than 20 years quite successfully.

And, of course, I immediately found myself a new doctor who totally gets me and my circumstances.

The lesson I learnt was that doctors are just people who despite their medical knowledge are still influenced by their own life experience and belief systems.

And they certainly don't know it all. Like with everything in life, you have to seek out the right person who connects with you in a specific way so that you can have full trust in him or her when it comes to making decisions about your health and life.

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Nerine’s doctor ignored symptoms that led to her hospitalisation

My first neurologist ignored my reported severe symptoms due to a reaction to meds that resulted in me having near liver failure and having to spend a week in hospital.

And the inevitable and ugly sexual harassment rears its ugly head.

*Sihle no longer sees male doctors

I will only see female doctors, because when I was in my early twenties, the male GP I went to see touched me in a way I felt was inappropriate and I never felt comfortable with a male doctor again.

The reason people change their doctors are so varied, but all very valid.  There are plenty of wonderful doctors out there – the trick is, like any service delivery option, finding one that works for you and doesn’t let you feel like you’re wasting your money.

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You know it’s time to make a change when:

1. You feel like you’re being treated as part of the furniture

By that I mean that you’re so part of the doctor’s programme that you feel like you’re not being treated on a case by case basis. Instead, you are given general advice, rather than medical expertise that’s tailored to your symptoms and experience.

2. You’re not given more than five to 10 minutes of your doctor’s time and then billed excessively for it

According to everydayhealth.com, a doctor who appears to be in a rush, avoids keeping records and is constantly bustling about in the doctor’s room without making eye-contact is being disrespectful.

Yes, doctors have many other patients and often have designated appointments, but that doesn’t mean you should be left feeling like no time was provided to accurately determine what’s wrong with you.

3. Your doctor ignores your symptoms

As some of the reader responses above show, ignoring a patient’s concerns can have dangerous, and sometimes fatal consequences. 

The number one thing a patient wants from a doctor is for them to really listen to them.

Their knowledge should be combined with your insights and experiences because every person’s body is different – and more importantly, your body behaves differently when you also have, say, a chronic condition.

4. You leave the doctor’s office without any sense of what may be wrong with you

It might be time to make a switch, according to an article on Health24.com. You’re not just going to the doctor to get better (although yes, that is the main objective), but you’re also going with the aim of understanding what’s wrong with you – especially if your condition may end up being chronic.

Don’t be scared to ask questions and ask your doctor to be as clear as possible and to avoid using medical jargon that can end up being confusing.

Remember, it’s your health and you deserve the best possible treatment you can get – and that includes having a solid grasp of your illness.

There are wonderful doctors out there – the key is just to go out and search for them.

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