When you have multiple sclerosis, you need to have a great neurologist. This is not an area where you can compromise.
Whenever I’m speaking with people who are newly diagnosed, one of the first questions I ask is whether they like their neurologist…”Is this a doctor you trust? Someone you can communicate with easily and openly? Someone you like as a person?”
If they answer no to any of those things, I tell them to find a new neurologist. Immediately.
Your neurologist is your partner in fighting MS and someone with whom you must feel comfortable at the most uncomfortable of times.
I was fortunate to meet my neurologist, Dr. Thomas Chippendale of The Neurology Center in San Diego, the week after my primary care physician told me that I had multiple sclerosis.
My first visit to his office included a spinal tap, a.k.a. lumbar puncture. My dad drove me to the appointment with my then-9-month-old son Jake, and they waited for me as I went in for the scary procedure.
As I lay on the table wearing a hospital gown, Dr. Chippendale explained everything he would be doing. In the fetal position, with a large needle in my back, I asked him “How much longer?” I was uncomfortable, to say the least.
At that moment, Dr. Chippendale reached over and held my hands, which were clasped together tightly by my chest. He calmly said, “Drip…drip…drip. That’s how fast the spinal fluid is coming out. And we need another tube, so just a little longer. You’re doing great.”
Finally we were done. He told me that I could slowly sit up and get dressed. I made my way to the waiting room, where I found him sitting next to my dad and baby Jake. My dad later told me that Dr. Chippendale came out to introduce himself right after the procedure and offered his sympathy about my diagnosis.
It started out as a very uncomfortable day. But looking back, it was the beginning of a wonderful doctor-patient relationship. Seventeen years and counting.