*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
When my mother was a teenager, she would accompany my grandmother to all her doctor's appointments to serve as her translator. My mother was bilingual, while my grandmother spoke only their native language, Portuguese.
My mother and my grandmother went to one of my grandmother's appointments, and the doctor was pleasant enough, but he told my grandmother she needed to lose some weight. That's something most patients don't want to hear, and my grandmother was no exception as my mother translated the doctor's order.
Then the doctor ordered my mother to lose weight, too. She was even more upset about the doctor's demand than my grandmother had been. Who could blame her? My mother wasn't even his patient.
"I was furious," my mother told me. "Who asked him? It was humiliating."
To add injury to insult, my mother says the doctor gave her a flu inoculation despite the problem that she wasn't his patient, hadn't filled out paperwork, and had neither asked nor agreed to the immunization. "At least he didn't make me pay for it," she said.
My mother was in shock and disbelief. She wondered why the doctor was giving her the same medical advice and treatments he was giving her mother. However, neither my mother nor my grandmother questioned the doctor at the time.
"He was the doctor," my mother told me. "He was an authority figure. It didn't matter if I didn't like what he said or did. I didn't feel empowered to argue or disagree with him.
"It was crazy. It was like I had a doctor who didn't even know it, or. I didn't know it. That would never fly nowadays. First, a doctor today wouldn't hand out free medical advice. Second, I'm sure a doctor could get in trouble for something like that now," my mother said.
More than half a century has passed since the day my grandmother's doctor treated my mother as if she were his patient, and my mother is still angry. At least she has a good sense of humor about it.
"It's a good thing your grandmother didn't need surgery," she told me, "because that doctor probably would have wanted to operate on me, too."
My mother has always been wary of doctors. She never liked the idea of anyone poking and prodding her. Even when she was young and healthy, she felt scared of going to the doctor.
Now that she's older and has health problems, her fear has only grown stronger. She's convinced that every doctor is out to get her, and she's terrified of any kind of medical procedure.
It all goes back to the experience she had with her mother's doctor as a teen. I have to give her a lot of credit. Despite her lifelong dislike of going to the doctor, she keeps all her appointments with only minimal complaining. I'm just happy I don't have to go with her to translate.