Building a Dream Team of Doctors: is it Worth the Effort?

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Medicine is a team sport, I visited Neurologists for Isaacs’ Syndrome (a rare neuromuscular disorder), Rheumatologists for chronic conditions like Lyme disease, (a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks), Nephrologists for Membranous Glomerulonephritis (a progressive disease of the kidney), and Ophthalmologists for Glaucoma (an eye condition that damages the optic nerve often caused by high pressure).

It was during an initial hospital visit when I was countlessly visited by a team of doctors prescribing clinical investigations, medicines, treatments, etc. My father closely observed it all and sarcastically recalled the days when there was one family doctor, called Vaidya (a term used for a senior practitioner of medicines who was trained to take care of all their medical needs and was not only aware of their health issues but also had familiarity with their family history) who gave medicines if required else the common infections such as colds and coughs were accepted as a part of life and were dealt through herbal remedies. Most of the tailoring was done by such practitioners based on their skill sets, intuition, and experience. And today, the axis of looking at things has shifted and so have the ways to deal with them. The doctors seem too occupied with many patients waiting in the queue. They lack personal attention even to that one patient who needs them the most. Can doctors have enough time for all their patients, even if they might try?

For many reasons, it was scary when my doctors addressed me as ‘rare’. I and my family experienced countless challenges, many sleepless nights, and frequent running to temples for prayers while trying to gather as much information as possible. Every one of us had many unanswered questions about the entire situation. Any description of those spine-chilling memories would be an underestimate that no one could truly understand, no matter how I explain it.

My health condition did not give us much lead time to research as the decisions were taken on the feet. I couldn’t refer to Support Groups or associations that could be of help. There is a list of forty-four specialists spread across different genres that I met to date for varied symptoms like cramps, fasciculations, body weakness, muscle loss, stiffness, etc. In my initial days with the complexity of my health conditions, I was unable to identify which of these specialists could be the captain of my ship and craved a single point of contact who could be my guiding force. Though research plays a great role when it came to hospitals, symptoms, medicines, diagnosis, various dos, and don’ts, etc. but when it came to putting a dream team of specialists in place, there was no reliance on Google. There were several challenges like a hospital that had some good names in Neurology didn’t have other adequate support systems and so on.

In the due course of 8 long years, I found my way through referrals and feel fortunate to have a set of seven doctors across allopathy, homeopathy, ayurveda, and some alternate therapies. The following traits in this team of doctors comforted me and my family:

Worked in collaboration: – it always proves beneficial in complex cases when doctors apply innovative ideas and collective efforts to solve mysteries. With me, their collective work led to minimal medical errors with an approach of diversity towards the subject. There were many instances when their collective decision refrained me from treatments like Rituximab and its side effects. Instead, they settled me on some oral medicines with alternative therapies. It always infused confidence in me and my family whenever things came up from their collective desk.

Knowing their subject well: from time to time, I was presented with befuddling symptoms. I appreciated the fact that the team of doctors showed enough curiosity about accurate diagnosis through whichever means possible. They went out of their way to research their subject at length, consult other senior members of their fertility, and spent time with me to understand the pattern better.

Clear Communication: – is the key to any effective collaboration. It was a free flow of information and answering of questions from the team using language that was clear to me and my family. Instead of a monologue, the team studied my symptoms, and medical history, and gave us a listening ear before getting down on any decision. It was a learning experience how they kept us on the same page by being honest about the situation, motivated me to do better, and offered hope.

A sense of Empathy: – my mother wondered how one of the key doctors, a neurologist always remembered our last discussion and finally discovered that his juniors were instructed to make notes at length. I think it was just his way to show that he cared. I remember how the doctor’s team was always curious to know more, they made notes of the minutest things to research further and showed their availability at any given point in time which made the doctor-patient relationship even stronger.

A Problem-solving attitude: – this was one thing I looked forward to meeting my doctors the most, together they were a team of solution-finders.

In specific, I dedicate this post to my key Neurologist who passed away during the Covid times. I miss his patient-centric approach and the way he encouraged me to smile harder. The energy in the room instantly shifted to hope whenever he entered. His sense of calmness towards decision-making was incredible. In my experience, I only wished to have a little more than just a doctor though it was certainly a time-consuming process to establish a Medical Dream Team however the effort was worth every bit for obtaining the best treatments and results.

I wish you good luck if you get inspired by this blog and decide to have a team that brings more value to your health care process.

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