Hitting a Nerve

Denial or a call to action?


Now that everyone in my family has been vaccinated, we’re starting to do more.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Last week we met my mom and some of her (vaccinated) friends for dinner at a local restaurant. Except for picking up takeout, I hadn’t been to one since early March 2020.

During the usual chatting about jobs, music, my kids, and trips we were thinking about, one of her friends suddenly said: “That’s funny.”

I asked him what was funny, and he said: “My left vision suddenly went dark.”

It only takes a fraction of a second to shift into doctor mode. I asked a few pointed questions and did a quick neuroscan for asymmetries, slurred speech, the things that, after 23 years, have become second nature.

It resolved after about 30 seconds. He clearly didn’t think it was anything to be alarmed about. He’s intelligent and well educated, but not a doctor. I wasn’t going to let it go, and quietly spoke to him a short while later. He may not be my patient, but pushing him in the needed direction is the right thing to do.

I’ve gotten him to the right doctors now, and the ball is rolling, but I keep thinking about it. If I hadn’t been there it’s likely nothing would have been done. In fact, he seemed to think it was more amusing than potentially serious.

Medical blogs and doctors’ lounge stories are full of similar anecdotes, where we wonder why people don’t take such things seriously. We tend to view such people as stupid and/or ignorant.

Yet, this gentleman is neither. I’ve known him since childhood. He’s smart, well educated, and well read. He’s not a medical person, though.

In reality, I don’t think doctors or nurses are any better. Many of us excel at blaming our own symptoms, sometimes worrisome, on less-alarming things. I suspect that’s more human nature, which is hard to override regardless of training.

But maybe it’s time to start giving these people, like my family friend, a pass, with the realization that denial and different training are part of being human, and not something to be poked fun at.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Recommended Reading

Wrong-site surgery doc says he can’t be sued
MDedge Neurology
Physician fired after slurs, including ‘cannibalism,’ against Israel
MDedge Neurology
Female doctors of color say they feel pressure to change their look
MDedge Neurology
What’s my number? Do I really need $10 million to retire from my medical practice?
MDedge Neurology
Garlic cloves in the nose and beer dreams and pareidolia faces
MDedge Neurology
Limited English proficiency linked with less health care in U.S.
MDedge Neurology
Most U.S. adults age 50+ report good health: Survey
MDedge Neurology
Medicare proposes direct payments to PAs, telehealth expansion
MDedge Neurology
Contentious Alzheimer’s drug likely to get national coverage plan, CMS says
MDedge Neurology
Florida-based doctor arrested in Haiti president’s assassination
MDedge Neurology