Assertiveness and the Doctor

Anticipation’s a bitch, isn’t it? It practically ruined my day. I had to keep reminding myself to stay in each moment, that my knee injections would only take a few seconds, and that until 3:45 p.m., there was no sense worrying about pain that may or may not happen.

But I still did sometimes. Worry, that is.

Synvisc has been a godsend to my dilapidated knees. Every six to eight months, I have a series of three injections in each knee over a three-week period (six injections in all). The medication replaces the synovial fluid I lack, providing a cushion for my kneecaps. I no longer have chronic arthritic pain, or at least most of the time it’s minimal, between injections.

The injections are painful because the needle must go between two joints and deep into damaged tissue. When done right and slowly, it’s not too bad. I go to my happy place and relax and it’s over in less than two minutes. Most of the time, my favorite orthopedic assistant/specialist, Steve, gives me the injections. He calls me things like “Scooter” and “Buddy” and makes me feel relaxed and safe. During one of the series of injections 8 months ago, Doogie Howser walked in the room with Steve and I immediately tensed. Doogie was a med student, Steve explained. I asked the young pup skeptically, “How many of these have you done?” He answered enthusiastically, “I’ve been doing this for two weeks!” “Um, son?” I said. “I have underwear older than you. Your two weeks of injecting needles into knees does NOT impress me.” He laughed nervously, like maybe I was kidding. Nothing in my body language indicated I was kidding, though, and thankfully, he listened to Steve’s advice and the injections went smoothly.

Last week, however, Miss Newbie Med Student, whom we’ll just call “Barbie,” walked in with my actual doctor, not Steve, and took control of the needles and jabbed each one in, all three inches, without so much as a breath of a warning. Bitch. I had a hard time walking the rest of the night and my knees ached the next day. I’ve had dozens of injections and none of them felt that bad. I can take pain and I wasn’t being a big baby about it, but I was pissed. But did I say anything? Heck no. I’m too nice. I got home, limping, and wondered how I’d tell my doctor this week that I didn’t want Barbie within 10 feet of me with needles.

Why is it so hard for me to be assertive with my real doctors? God knows I have enough of them with all this freaking arthritis. I do pretty well with the wannabes, but why am I so intimidated otherwise? The anticipation today made me nuts. I kept playing the scenario in my head of me being kind yet firm if another newbie walked in the room ready to inject my knees like they were porterhouse steaks. I’m always assertive and successful in my daydreams, but I usually fall apart in real time.


Again, my real doctor, not Steve, walked in the room followed by a tall lanky young newbie who stuttered (in nervousness) when he said “Nice to meet you” and shook my hand. His hand was sweaty, too. My doctor said he’d been taking some ribbing all day and was feeling a little “off.” Off? OFF? Some kid who couldn’t handle some teasing was going to put needles in my knees?

I didn’t think so. Something like courage bubbled up inside me, uncontrolled, protecting me.

“How many of these have you done?” I asked him.

“A few,” he said, smiling.

“Doc, I gotta tell you,” said the voice coming out of my mouth. “Last week, that girl really hurt me. I couldn’t walk well for 24 hours.”

In response, my doctor actually apologized. He asked me if I’d feel better if he did the injections and I said yes, but if he’d talk Mr. Tall and Lanky through one, I’d be OK with that. I turned to Mr. Tall and Lanky and said, “Here’s my advice. Go S – L – O – W. Don’t attack my knee like it’s dinner.” He turned 20 shades of red and I’m sure he was pretty close to wetting himself, but god love him, he found the joint, injected the needle slowly, and it didn’t hurt. Well, didn’t hurt as in I didn’t want to shoot him when he was done. The injection hurts, that’s a given, but I shouldn’t have a “knee-jerk” reaction to kill the injector when it’s happening. My doctor did the other knee and all was well and tonight, I’m walking without holding on to the furniture throughout my house. Yay!

Walking out of the doctor’s office this afternoon, my stomach wasn’t hurting anymore, my shoulders were relaxed, and I sang a Peter Frampton song all the way home. I was assertive. I told my doctor what I needed. And it felt good to do it.

I have one more series next Thursday. I won’t ruin the day with anticipation now that I know I can say, “Hey! Don’t f up my knee, ok?” Well, maybe I don’t use the F-bomb. But damn, being assertive is way much better than fretting and staying quiet.

5 thoughts on “Assertiveness and the Doctor

  1. Several years ago I had a nurse (who told me I was a baby that she’d been giving iv’s for 40 years) give me an iv that affected the nerves in my hand for over a month. I’ve bitched at every nurse that gives me an iv now because I don’t want to endure another month of pain because of someone’s lack of ability. Be assertive!! (I need to take my advice when I see the urologist in a little over a week. I’m so tired of the kidney pain…)
    Hey did those recipes I emailed you reach you? My computer has had a couple of glitches lately.

  2. You are very brave to let anyone inexperienced give you those shots. I have gotten them and they sure can be very painful if not done correctly. They are also very expensive and I think the doctor had some nerve. He should be giving the shots himself. It’s hard to be assertive especially with a doctor but we all must learn to be. You did good!

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