But You Don’t Look Like a Patient

Sitting next to me was an elderly woman stooped to a right angle. Next to her a gentleman tethered to an oxygen tank by a nasal cannula. Everything else – the dated magazines, water cooler, and photographs of farms and birds – looked like any other doctor’s waiting room.

I’d been waiting to see my cardiologist longer than usual. I approached the receptionist

“I’ve been waiting longer than usual,” I said.

“Who are you here to see?”

“Dr. Jones.” (name changed)

“I’m sorry you’ll have to come back another day.”

Puzzled by her response, I kept staring at her.

“But I had an appointment for 2 o’clock today,” I said.

“He’s booked all day.”

This went on a while longer until she realized her mistake.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a drug rep. You don’t look like a patient.”

I’d heard this before from my friends, neighbors, my hairdresser. All of which I interpreted as, “You don’t look sick.” I was never quite sure whether to take it as a compliment or not.

It got me thinking — what do patients look like when they’re up walking around?

With 60 percent of American’s living with at least one chronic health condition, odds are a good number of the people you work with, worship with, jog with and walk your dog with have some type of condition, illness, handicap, or disease that requires them to be under a physician’s care.  And like me, many of them have no physical or outward telltale signs.

Patients are us. We’re all patients at one time or another.

Most importantly, we’re more person than patient whether in a starched white shirt and navy suit carrying a briefcase or sitting on the examining table in a paper gown.

What does being a patient look like to you?

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