All this talk about doctors and waiting times has reminded me of a few, both good and bad…
Relevant background information: my mother has spina bifida occulta, an incredibly minor type of spina bifida that was only discovered when she had x-rays for something else. It's basically a slightly deformed vertebra; it doesn't directly cause problems (her spinal cord itself is just fine), but affects how a couple of muscles attach to that bone, so makes her more vulnerable to problems with those muscles and her hips. I don't have the same defect, but at the time this happened we didn't know that.
My previous regular GP had gone on maternity leave and then decided to take a long leave of absence, so I was kind of doctor-hopping at a multi-doctor practice while waiting to find another one who 'clicked'. Sometimes this worked out well, like the time I had a shattered toe bone and got randomly sent to the sports medicine specialist; other times it worked out… not so well.
I had been getting some pain and mobility problems in my hips and needed to get it sorted out (having one leg fold up underneath you when you're climbing stairs will make you realise something's getting serious) and trotted off to the clinic, where I got randomly assigned to the waffliest, wishy-washy-est doctor it has ever been my luck to be misdiagnosed by. I was about halfway through telling her the details, and got to "Oh, and my mother has [explanation] so I thought that might need to be ruled out--"
She cut me off right there. I don't remember her exact words, but it was a rambling monologue in a sort of airy, sing-song tone, with no pauses in it for me to interject, and boiled down to "Ohhhhh that's almost certainly the problem but we can't tell for sure without doing an x-ray and we won't be doing that
because it's too close to your ovaries so the only option we really have is to wait until it gets much
worse and then do surgery to fix it." And then she smiled at me, like I was supposed to be happy that she'd just told me she had no intention of actually fixing my problem.
I was polite. I paid, and left, and started looking for a better doctor, because… well, they were my
dang ovaries, and if it was going to take an x-ray to find out what was wrong with my hips (and had nearly pitched me head-first down a four-storey stairwell) then it was going to be my
choice as to whether or not I risked zapping my hypothetical future offspring. I mean, really? One x-ray? When they can do lead drapes and so on and focus the emitter to reduce exposure to bits of you that you don't want zapped? I was going to take that INCREDIBLY MINOR risk instead of suffering on, potentially for years, with random severe pain and the Amazing Randomly Collapsing Legs (and did I mention nearly DYING in a TRAGIC STAIRWELL ACCIDENT?!) until it got to some arbitrary point where it was 'bad enough' to actually do something about, possibly to be followed up by being told "Oh, oops! It wasn't spina bifida after all! We could have fixed it years ago!"
I got a new doctor (who frequently ran late, but had the best bedside manner ever, wasn't afraid to admit he didn't know something and needed to call in a specialist, and had receptionists who would tell you "He's running [this much] late, I'm terribly sorry - would you like to go downstairs for a coffee, or reschedule?"). He actually used an arcane diagnostic procedure that involved poking me in the back (I presume Ms Wishy-Washy never learned it) to determine that I did not in fact have a hole in my lumbar vertebrae but did
have some suspiciously twangy back muscles, asked some more questions about my actual symptoms and history, and sent me off to a physiotherapist to get some exercises that completely fixed my not-spina-bifida-at-all problems. (Turns out that slipping on ice-covered stairs and giving yourself a massive whack across your lower back can cause muscle problems that show up as hip instability about eight years later. Who knew?