Dr. Kenneth G. Varley / Insulting physician - terrible experience
This was the most negative, demoralizing experience I have ever had with a health care provider or with anyone for that matter. Strangely, he refused to review my MRI films or reports, years of medical records and all the documentation of tests I've undergone. He not only dismissed each and every one of my long-established diagnoses (that I'd been receiving treatment for almost the past decade and a half), but he also ignored the surgical scar on my neck from a recent discectomy/anterior cervical fusion and he did not even conduct a physical examination on me. Basically, he managed only to insult me, waste my time, deprive me of treatment, waste my insurance company's money (as well as my co-pay), roll his eyes and brusquely argue that nothing was wrong with me! He was arguing so hatefully and haughtily, speaking to me as if I were a complete and total idiot. Just unbelievable. As soon as he stepped into the exam room, he immediately started in with his dismissive, antagonistic tirade.
Since the mid-1990s, I've undergone numerous tests ordered and reviewed by not only GPs, but endocrinologists, rheumatologists, neurologists and various specialists, who are among the state's top doctors. Those tests not only confirmed diagnoses; they ruled things out. So, my records contain very definitive medical evidence. When I was in my early 20s, I was diagnosed with an AI problem that causes chronic pain and physical impairments, and has to be monitored & treated effectively with physical therapy and successful treatment of the chronic pain to help me function normally. I detest having to take medication of any kind, but it's a simple fact of life I have to deal with. It isn't a choice. If I want to function normally and overcome my impairments, medication is just something that has to be incorporated into my treatment. A health care provider with no compassion for a patient's pain has no compassion, period. There is nothing wrong with medicines, if they are taken correctly and the patient is following the doctor's treatment plan correctly.
Anyway, at the time I saw Dr. Varley, I'd been treated for this problem for almost 1/3 of my life; I'd also been injured in a car accident, which only worsened the chronic illness. I couldn't believe he was so hostile, rude, demeaning, argumentative -- and wouldn't look at a single page of my records, yet he'd somehow made up his mind that nothing was wrong with me whatsoever. He directly accused me of lying to try to get "drugs, " when I never said one single word about medication, and never ASKED for anything! This was TOTALLY off base, inappropriate and unprofessional. I was thoroughly shocked and insulted. It was all I could do to not get up and walk out right then. But I felt that maybe it was some type of test to see how patients react, because pain doctors do assess the behavior and personality of new patients. If this was what he were doing, mind you, it would be an extremely unorthodox manner in which to do it, but it was so outlandish that I felt he couldn't possibly be serious... because there was nothing at all on which to base his accusatory statement.
In my mid-30's, I look younger than my chronological age. He tore into me and said, "You look fine. You don't look sick." People who suffer from disabilities and/or chronic illnesses, particularly autoimmune disorders and spinal injuries, are all too familiar with such statements from doctors who are ignorant. Often, people who deal with chronic ailments push themselves to function and do their very best to cover up all their symptoms and impairments so no one will notice. We don't want pity; we don't want attention. We just want to live normal lives, be good parents, good employees, good spouses or partners - and be no different than anyone else. Drawing attention to our health problems is not something we want to do.
So often, chronic illness sufferers do not wear their health problems on their sleeve - and at a glance, they largely look no different than anyone else. Consider the diabetics, people with heart disease, RA or other forms of arthritis and the many, many other problems people suffer from that are largely not immediately visible to others. This does not negate their problems. Just because an illness or condition is not obvious does not make it less real, less painful nor does it marginalize it to any degree. One does not have to possess a slovenly, sloppy, hunched-over appearance in order to legitimize their health problem. Any physician worth his or her salt should KNOW this. Additionally, speaking to any patient with utter contempt, sheer disrespect and treating them like common trash is reprehensible for a health care provider. Such an attitude should preclude one from seeking a career in the medical profession -- if there is such contempt and hatred inside that one would feel compelled to make a person feel less than human.
Some doctors do not care one iota about patient care; their goal is to garner invitations to as many medical conferences as they can possibly get so their egos can be fed by standing in front of a crowd of their peers spouting off what passes as knowledge. Recognition and prestige are more important than actually helping people achieve wellness. This is such a shame, especially when unhealthy people find their way into the exam room of such a health care provider. It can be simply devastating, as it not only delays proper treatment, but it prolongs and compounds suffering to be treated so hatefully by someone who is supposed to be a respected doctor.
After dismissing all my health problems, proclaiming me "healthy" because I'm not overweight and show no immediate signs of illness or impairment (except for the fairly fresh surgical scar he STILL missed) - and accusing me of grubbing for "drugs, " he began talking to me about invasive procedures like nerve blocks and epidurals. Now, I went from having "nothing" wrong with me to needing an expensive intraspinal injection that costs several hundred dollars! I thought he would at least recommend physical therapy or some kind of non-invasive treatment that included standard intramuscular injections, but he vehemently said that he only performs intraspinal procedures. But, naturally, these are not recommended for all types of chronic pain conditions, and definitely not with someone who has a spinal fusion. Plus, I'm not supposed to be administered any kind of steroids. When I brought up my surgery, he was DONE with me!
He became even more dismissive because I cannot undergo invasive procedures due to my spinal "hardware." He so crassly and cruelly lambasted me after asking me if particular prescription medications had helped me. When I told him they hadn't, he looked at me with utter hatred and contempt and said, "WHY NOT?!" His hateful tone of voice took me aback. During the entire visit, he was accusatory, rude, curt, aggressive, hostile and completely demeaning. I already felt bad enough, but to be spoken to like a lesser being brought me to tears. This experience was nothing like being at a doctor's office. It was obvious this arrogant, impudent, elitist bully thinks everyone else is ignorant and beneath his feet. This is not the type of bedside manner that anyone deserves to be confronted with. This is not the behavior or attitude of a healer. This is not the demeanor of a positive soul who cares about others and seeks to guide the sick and injured to improved function and wellness. A true healer and a real medical professional would keep an open mind, thoroughly review files to better understand a patient's established diagnoses, and would NOT make stark generalizations that go beyond implications into full-blown accusations.
During the time of the visit, I was having a lot of problems with ataxia. He actually rolled his eyes and huffed sarcastically, as if I was putting on an act. This was devastating. I'd been suffering falls - and I continued to have them after this visit because nothing was done. I was so profoundly weak, lethargic and in extreme pain, so it was extremely demoralizing the way he methodically disparaged me personally, renounced each of my diagnosed problems (that I had to tell him about because he would not even review my file), and resolved to develop no plan of care for me. Because he did not examine me, he also missed some serious problems that weren't yet diagnosed. For three more months, I suffered until I finally found a wonderful physician who is quite knowledgeable and has a very positive, upbeat personality with his patients.
I feel very badly for people who are surprised and very insulted by such ill treatment when they are only seeking effective medical treatment so they can get better and live normally once again. I definitely understand what a tremendous setback it is as far as wasted time, being absolutely castigated and told you are faking all your health problems. It was the worst experience I've ever had interacting with a health care provider. It's just downright unbelievable how rude, insulting, scornful, arrogant, contemptuous and accusatory the bedside manner is. I got a good laugh when I read several doctor ratings website where it was quite obvious that one of his staff members wrote the review! They called themselves "charming and wonderful staff." It couldn't have been any more obvious that his staff was responsible for that little blurb. They obviously learned their mannerisms from their boss, because they were just as rude and hateful as the doctors in their office. The other doctor will trap you in his office and just go on and on obsessively, talking about the pit bulls he breeds.
Every single person I have spoken to had the very same experience, so that definitely confirmed their insolence had nothing to do with me personally. I just wish I'd gotten up and left after the first minute of hostility and insults.