Nurse practitioner disbelieves and shames fat patient for not eating because she’s full of ulcers

Mary Duncan
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*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

I am going to hazard a guess and say that a lot of women out there reading will agree that they’ve been rebuffed during a medical exam and have had their ailments blamed on their weight.

My weight has fluctuated all my life, I have been anywhere between 175 to 260 pounds in my adulthood, almost a hundred pound difference, and as the years pass the weight comes and goes, goes and comes back.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been told that my medical complaint is directly tied to my weight and could be solved by losing some of that weight.

Stomach ache? Lose some weight. Knees arthritic? Definitely lose some weight. Completely unrelated topical skin infection? Well, you know, you could stand to lose some weight.

It gets to the point for some people, like me, when you hate to go to the doctor for preventative medicine because you don’t want to get the weight loss lecture.

This is why I ignored my heartburn for much too long. I knew I had GERD - gastro-esophageal reflux disease, and I have been taking pills daily to deal with that for years. A while ago, though, my heartburn that was usually controlled by the medicine started to really act up at night, keeping me from sleeping.

It got so bad that it hurt to eat, my acid flares were so bad. So, I ate very little and very bland things for weeks, and I quickly lost a lot of weight in avoiding those triggering fried and fatty foods.

Finally, though, I couldn’t take the pain at night anymore and went to the doctor.

On the day that I went, my usual doctor was unavailable and I had to see a Nurse Practitioner that I’d never met before. I sat on the exam table in my paper gown and when she came in she looked at me and then looked down at my file, saying a quick hello.

“What brings you in today, Mary?” She asked, sounding bored already.

I explained to her that my acid reflux was so bad I wasn’t able to eat anymore, it just hurt too much, and I was getting concerned about the sudden weight loss.

The NP looked confused.

“According tot he weight we measured today, you’ve lost forty pounds since the last time you were here. That’s an acceptable amount to lose in that time frame.”

“But you don’t understand, I’ve lost it all in the last few weeks because I can’t eat.”

It was like the NP hadn’t even heard what I said.

“We don’t often recommend losing so much weight so quickly, but in your case it’s more important to get the weight off.”

“Are you hearing me? I can’t eat because it hurts so much.”

The NP nodded and prescribed me a stronger antacid and sent me on my way, and I left there fuming mad.

The next week, I started coughing up blood. I went to the emergency room where they did a scope of my esophagus and found me riddled with bleeding ulcers, something the Nurse Practitioner may have noticed had she actually given me a physical exam and asked the right questions.

I took a copy of the report from the emergency room and wrote a letter to my actual doctor, telling her how her NP treated me while she was away. The next time I went there, my doctor apologized profusely. The NP had been fired after my doctor received my letter. In my opinion she shouldn’t have just lost her job, she should have lost her ability to practice medicine.

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I write about relationships and parenting, life, society, people, and sometimes also beer.

Connecticut State

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