Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Red Letter Day in Health Land

So, today was the big day. My once in a while annual physical. Meaning, my last physical was in 2004, so even though it's supposed to be annual, it's only whenever I get up the courage to go.

I have always hated going to the doctor's office. When I was little (4 years old), I didn't want to get off my mother's lap for a check up or a shot or something at the doctor's office, and the doctor grabbed my legs and my mother grabbed my arms and they lifted me up onto the examining table. I was kicking something fierce, and kicked the doctor right in the stomach. I immediately knew I was "bad" and when the appointment was over, I went into hiding.

I've had a strong dislike for the medical profession ever since. That doctor and the ones to follow have never been unpleasant or mean to me. I had an excellent doctor in Boston, but have never really felt comfortable with any doctor.

Till moving to DC.

When you're F-A-T fat, it's hard to find a doctor you can rely on to talk to you and listen to your concerns without saying, "if you'd just lose weight, this issue would go away." Because frankly, I've been overweight most of my life, and it hasn't slowed me down any.

Moving to Virginia, though, the writing was on the wall. My dad became diabetic, and it was clearly time to make sure I was doing OK. The General of course, doesn't have these issues, so he was ready to go.

Living in Boston, we had been turned onto a website that lists doctors who are "fat friendly" and had added our PCP there to the list. Coming to VA, it seemed natural to try that list to find someone, and I liked the write up about a Dr. David Leonard. So I gave a call, and went in for my first head-to-toe inspection in at least 5 years.

If anything, the writer understated the excellent care you could receive from Dr. Leonard and his staff. The office is proudly adorned with articles from Washingtonian and Washington Magazine touting Dr. Leonard as one of the top doctors in DC. One magazine surveyed 54 of his patients and he scored 100/100 points for all areas of satisfaction.

If I could give him 200, I would. And I would for every last doctor on his staff. I have seen the 2 women doctors there and went with the General while he consulted with the other male doctor, and we have been treated with courtesy and respect by every last person on that staff, from the receptionists to the nurses to the lab techs.

Still, old habits die hard, and until one of his associates informed me over the winter that I should be darned sure to get my butt in for another physical, I kept on putting it off. Finally, the General announced we were going and I should make the appointments, and for some reason, that seemed right and I did.

Our appointments were this morning.

I got called in first, almost as if they knew I might chicken out, and was given an EKG to check on my heart. It was 100% fine, shipshape. The nurse gave me a gown and then Dr. Leonard arrived and he actually took the time to re-acquaint himself with me as a human being and not just some specimen on a table. We talked about my family and the major causes of stress in my life. He listened very carefully to all my concerns and asked questions about my family's medical history and we discussed warning signs and things to look out for. He asked me what I was most afraid of health-wise, and he helped me create action plans for how to improve my health without condemning me, making me feel guilty, pressuring me, telling me to start a whole round of medications or thinking about surgery. He handled every poke, every prod and every needle stick with caring and professionalism.

I suppose I'm gushing a bit, but after 30 years of abject terror of going to the doctor, it is so nice to see someone who treats me like a human being. My other doctors were competent, professional, and overall caring, but this guy is above and beyond.

If you're looking for a fat friendly health professional in your area, or would like to nominate someone to the list, you can visit the list at:

It's just so nice to be treated like a person and not a number on a scale. I'm glad it's over for another year, and this time I just might not wait around for 3 years before my next check up, and I feel like if (God forbid) something shows up that's not great in my blood tests, we'd work it out as a team--not him as the dictator and me as the minion--and it would be OK. AMEN FOR GREAT MEDICINE!

3 pearl(s) of wisdom:

nettiemac said...

I love it. He needs to rub off on my own primary care physician -- who is terribly knowledgeable, up-to-date on electronic medical records, and has all the warmth and personality of 3 day old shredded carrots.

He was the one who suggested gastric bypass to me. I told him (more or less) that the subject was NOT to be brought up again with me.

Of course, when I went in to see him last October, he was tickled pink at my progress on WW...... and I honestly think I shocked the living shinola out of him. TAKE THAT!

Talmadge G. said...

Did you know that extra poundage (also known in medical terminology as "being too fat and in need of losing weight") is the root cause of any number of ailments, ranging from ingrown toenails (fat builds up in your toes, causing the nail to veer off course) .... to sore throats (more throat = more real estate for which a soreness to develop) ... right down to anemia (yeah - extra cellulose causes red blood cells to die off, it's proven in a recent article in the Philip Morris Medical Journal).

But all sarcasm aside, I'm very happy you've found such a doctor. You find one like that, you hold on for dear life.

--Talmadge "Overweight? Over WHOSE weight?" Gleck

Kate/Susan said...

Michael brought up gastric bypass, as he and I discussed it before, and the doctor said that if 2 people were as healthy as he and I were, the numbers on the scale didn't mean a thing and that would be an option of last resort.

He said he doesn't care what the numbers read as long as the bloodwork comes back fine and even then, he doesn't start to worry about much until you hit age 50, unless it's diabetes. In which case, it has to be dealt with. Everything else, particularly of two active, healthy people of childbearing years, he hasn't in his practice seen anything to worry about.

As I said, to be seen as a human and not a body is totally refreshing. We discussed lifestyle, we discussed family, we discussed work... It was amazing.