We had a letter from our local doctor’s surgery a few months ago, inviting Ellen for an ‘annual health check’. I read this letter with a mixture of surprise, pleasure and absolute dread.
Surprise, because it seemed to me that for once, the NHS was being proactive. Ellen hasn’t been to the doctors for about ten years, but I was fully expecting another ten if not more before an invitation such as this arrived on the doormat.
Pleasure, because I was aware that this would be a perfect opportunity for Ellen to experience going to the doctors without the added pressure of actually being unwell. In my mind’s eye I could see all the social story preparations preparations and the experience sharing afterwards which would be so beneficial to Ellen’s RDI journey.
The dread was because, as anyone who cares for someone with special needs will know, they can be somewhat unpredictable. The last time I remember being in the doctors surgery, she took some I’ve been to the doctor stickers off his desk and stuck them on a photograph of his two daughters. Right over their faces. Yup.
But he’ll have forgotten about that – hopefully – and despite answering every question he asked her with ‘car‘, Ellen submitted to the examination pretty well. By pretty well I mean that he managed to listen to her heart and lungs and examine a small cyst she has under her eye. She point-blank refused to have her blood pressure taken (even over her jumper) and bent forward, covering her arms over her stomach when he asked whether he could examine it – fantastic non-verbal communication!
Her refusals weren’t helped by his poor choice of expressive language. Doctors will (despite prior briefing) insist on beginning every sentance with ‘would you mind if I...? Which obviously gives truculent patients the perfect opportunity to answer ‘no‘ at every turn, thus immediately stymying the doctor. Much better to open with ‘Now I’m going to.….’ but they never do, it’s obviously not in the training.
Still, I think it was a pretty successful visit. Ellen particularly enjoyed putting a Santa hat on the model skeleton and putting it in different poses, and as there were no stickers in sight, the rest of the office remained unmolested. This time anyway.