Your doctor isn’t superhuman and is allowed to call in sick

I mentioned having a migraine this past weekend, and was somewhat surprised by how many people commented and wrote to me, surprised that a doctor, let alone a neurlogist, would actually get migraines.

What’s up with that?

I know this may be hard to believe, but we get health problems too.

I see this odd view surprisingly often. People who somehow expect us to be beyond the health concerns of non-doctors.

We may be doctors, but we’re also humans. Prone to the same illnesses, bad luck, and erroneous judgments the rest of mortals are.

When I have to take a sick day (rare), and Mary starts frantically canceling people, most of them are fine with it. But we get the occasional person who gets angry because I’m sick. In their minds, apparently, that’s impossible. So I must be making it up to go golfing.

In 12 years I’ve had 3 patients change neurologists because I was sick and had to reschedule their appointments.

As a neurologist, I also take care of other doctors. I have patients, who are also doctors, with epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s disease, and more routine stuff. I’ve seen young doctors die with brain cancer.

Being a doctor doesn’t protect you from the things that ail others. Including bad karma.

On the flip side, sometimes we’re surprised when something serious happens to us. At times there seems to be an unspoken belief that by devoting ourselves to caring for others, it should magically protect us from those same diseases we fight. Nope.

If anything, the high stress nature of our work makes us more likely to have bad things happen. We often ignore our own issues because of the time needed to care for others. Most of us live sleep deprived, caffeine-overdosed, and on food that we’d never endorse to you.

I chew out patients for not exercising, or a poor diet, or forgetting to pick up their prescriptions. But I likely do the same stuff as much as, if not more often, than they do. After a long day at the office and hospital rounds, and picking up kids, and Mrs. Grumpy having an after-work meeting, when do I have time to pick up my Lipitor and get something decent for dinner? So I put the pharmacy off for another day and grab a pizza. And hope that over the weekend I’ll find time to exercise. My average work week is about 60-70 hours. I doubt that’s conducive to longevity.

So yes, I get migraines. And if you think your doctor is superhuman, they aren’t. Even if they try their best to make you think they are.

“Doctor Grumpy” is a neurologist who blogs at Doctor Grumpy in the House.

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