How to Deliver a Message

Sometimes I wonder if people, especially those in the medical field, truly understand the impact of how they deliver a message.  I like to be told the truth and given the facts, but blunt and scary comments with no additional information doesn’t make my medical etiquette list.

I got a call from the assistant at my rheumatologist’s office.  She told me they had the results to my recent labwork.  It sounded like a comment that would have a more important, troublesome comment to follow.  I asked her for the results.   She told me there was a specific value elevated.  I asked if it could be attributed to the meds and she replied no.  Then she said ‘you have kidney disease.’  Huh!?!


When you’re given a statement like this it’s like driving in the dark on a remote country road – you don’t know what’s ahead and you can only see a short distance.  It’s difficult to hear the news and come up with good questions.  I was silent for a moment.  Then she said the labs needed to be rechecked in four weeks.

This is not the first time I have received a call like this.  When I first got the rheumatoid diagnosis I was told by the doctor’s assistant who called and said ‘your labs are back, you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should see a rheumatologist.’  That was the entire message.  I was stunned as I knew absolutely nothing about this disease. I was left standing there holding the phone, uncertain what to do next or what to expect.

Why is life today so insensitive?

I strongly believe that most difficult news can be delivered in a compassionate way, especially when it is health related.  I understand medical professionals deal with these issues every day and it is very routine to them, but it is not routine to me.  At the very least these types of calls should be made with compassion, sensitivity, reassurance and even, hope.

Hope – it’s crucial. Hope doesn’t necessarily mean everything is going to turn out exactly like you expect it to or that life has no hurdles, but it does mean that you will be given answers, suggestions or a plan of action.  It’s something to hold to while you are lacking necessary information and perhaps even scared. It’s comfort in a time of uncertainty.

I receive great comfort from my cyber-friends who share the same diagnosis that I have.  We share information.  We reassure.  We provide links to legitimate, helpful resources.  We comfort.  We encourage.  We are sensitive to each other.  Most of all, we understand.

I am very thankful for those in medicine, regardless of the position.  I treasure the laboratory technician who can find a vein easily, the nurse who can converse and calm and the physician who makes it a partnership.

It’s been four weeks and I’m ready for my repeat labs.  I hope it was just a quirky result and everything will have returned to ‘normal’, whatever that is.