Panama 2019 Day 14: The Right to Ask Questions

With the help of some dear friends in the U.S. who are medical people — shout out for Dr. Katie Capitulo, Dr. Kathy Rideout, and my physician niece Suzanne — Sally and I have developed a list of questions for Fani to take into the private pay cardiologist appointment on Thursday. Sally is an educator. At her suggestion, I wrote out each of the six questions at the top of an empty page in a small lined pad we use for grocery lists. I explained to Gloria and Fani that one would ask the questions, and the other would write down what the doctor said. Gabrielito’s dad, Gabriel, will also be there. He works in the city, so he hasn’t been part of our coaching sessions.

On our walk on Wednesday morning, I asked Gloria why they don’t push harder when they don’t understand something a doctor has said.

You don’t understand, Tia Pamela. Fani did ask. When the doctor told her Gabrielito’s echo was very bad, Fani was confused. She told the doctor she didn’t understand why the echo was good last year and very bad now. What could that mean?”

“The doctor stood up and told Fani she was muy malagradecido, very ungrateful, to be trying to take extra time when so many patients needed to be seen. Then the doctor walked out of the room, without answering Fani’s question. She made Fani feel very bad, as if she had done something wrong.”

Fani is a very young single mother. She got information that made her frightened for her little boy. And she was made to feel like a bad person for trying to learn more.

The appointment on Thursday is with a private pay cardiologist, and they should have more time and more opportunity to ask their questions. We are hopeful to know more after that, and I will update you as well.

I try hard when I’m here to set aside my experience and my preconceptions, and see the world through their eyes. I didn’t grow up in affluent circumstances, particularly after my father died when I was fourteen. But my life was never like this, and clearly my ability to understand what poor Panamanians go through every day is sharply limited, even when I try.

2 thoughts on “Panama 2019 Day 14: The Right to Ask Questions

  1. The doctor’s response to Fani was outrageous, and things like that always make me angry on their behalf. I hope they have the same good experience with a private doctor that they had with the orthopedic specialist for Luis. Glad you all sprinkled a bit more fairy dust around!

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