the destructive power of assumptions.

Those who follow my blog and know me personally would remember my association with Dercum’s disease, a collection of fatty deposits all over my body. I went for my routine (every 6-9 months) check-up today and it left a deep enough impression to blog about. I spent the chunk of my day with Keith Yeo and I was glad he was there to witness what happened.

A quick background – each check-up costs about $70 and lasts no more than five minutes. Today, I arrived on time and waited 40 minutes before I was served. And I was done within one minute – Keith’s surprised expression when I exited the room verified the swift consultation that just transpired. While I was treated by the best in the business, today’s check-up amounted to $65, or about $1 per second. Cut throat? You tell me.

I walked to the counter and was ready to pay, but as I took out my wallet, I felt uncomfortable – that’s not cost-effective at all! I spent all that time waiting to be told something that I already knew from the last visit – that regrowth is normal and that I should wait for a lot more lumps to grow before I decide upon another operation. So I decided to walk back to the room to perhaps, negotiate with the doctor.

I knocked on the door gently as there was another patient in the room but the nurse curtly shooed me away. The way she told me to take a seat was rude and unnecessary but I tolerated it and waited as instructed. A couple of minutes later, the patient left the room and I entered it.

Before I could even present my case, the doctor suddenly became extremely defensive and started to put words in my mouth.

“If you feel it’s a waste of your time, you can drop the case immediately.”

“If you want a subsidised price, you can close this case and reapply through a polyclinic.”

“If you think that I’m overcharging you, you can always change a doctor.”

And all these were fired at me before I could even utter a word.

Now, I was caught off guard because this wasn’t the doctor whom I’ve interacted with for the past three consultations. And certainly neither professional nor acceptable for a man of his stature. I was taken aback and I stopped him in his tracks.

“Doctor, why are you putting words in my mouth, when I haven’t said anything at all?”

“Why are you behaving so defensively and taking this so personally?”

“All I wanted to do was to come in here to clarify the fee, but I was quite ready to head out to pay the full amount of this consultation.”

“If anything at all, I don’t think I’m the kind to be unreasonable – I just needed to hear an explanation.”

“Why did you jump to so many conclusions before I even asked you anything?”

“I think you should have a word with your staff about the things she told you before I came in…”

I think I must have caught him off guard too, with the way I retorted his (baseless) accusations. And I think he didn’t see that coming from someone who’s probably half his age. He composed himself after a couple of more defensive statements and I remember counting three verbal apologies from him; it was a professional apology though, not a genuine one. But I decided to be gracious about it so that he had some space to 下台 (retreat).

I couldn’t help but to assume three preconceived ideas he had before our little exchange:

  • his nurse fed him with the wrong information
  • he felt that I was about to attack him professionally and personally
  • he probably had a bad day

I left the room feeling confused but something that annoyed me more was the injustice that I experienced. I felt maligned. I believe the medical staff owe me an apology. I was surprised though, that I didn’t lose my temper during the exchange. Instead, I spoke calmly, gently yet assertively. I asked the Spirit to help me respond like Jesus. Still, I left the hospital feeling 不爽 (unsatisfied).

On my way home after leaving Keith, I brought this before the Lord and asked Him to help me make sense of it. I haven’t heard from Him but I am glad that in my anger, I did not sin. Conversely speaking, I’m proud of my conduct and my reaction in the aftermath.

So this is what I am going to do now… I’m going to write this doctor an email to affirm him of my appreciation of his skills and expertise, make him reflect upon his (regrettable, haha) words and actions, close this incident, ask for his composed response to what happened today and tell him I look forward to see him again two years later at my next appointment with him.

Finally (and this is where you can join me), I am going to pray that this would lead to a divine opportunity for me to share the Gospel with him. Of course, I may not get a reply, but if you never ask, you never know.

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About Joey Asher Tan

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.

Posted on March 15, 2011, in Extraordinary Mundane, Heart Upon Sleeve, In Your Face, Mentoring Minutes, Quote & Unquote, Retrospective Reflections, Spontaneous Conversations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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