My patient was so upset during her appointment last November as she told me of her daughter’s current state. Her daughter, who was a young lady that I’ve provided healthcare for since she was a toddler, was now away in college in New York. She told me that her daughter started out really well and made an A or B on every assignment up until late October. She then told me that her daughter has made an F on every assignment for the last three weeks. Some were not turned in and others were terribly incomplete.
The mother then told me that she had purchased a ticket for her daughter to come home for the upcoming weekend; she asked if I could schedule her an appointment at our clinic while she was home. She looked at me with tears in her eyes as she pleaded, “Please help my daughter!” I immediately assured the mother that her daughter was going to be put on the schedule for the following Saturday at 10 a.m.
After the mother left the clinic, I asked my nurse to call the daughter. I remembered how, over the years, she expressed a desire to be a doctor. She was so excited to go off to college to start her journey to becoming a doctor during her last visit the prior summer. During that visit, the nurses and I addressed her as “doctor”. We still laugh about how our receptionist jokingly announced over the intercom, “Doctor Jones is needed in exam room one stat.”
She started asking me questions about my occupation as a doctor while she was a student in junior high. During her high school years, she would come to the clinic on some Saturdays to shadow me to gain experience in a medical clinic. She was a straight-A student in high school and sacrificed the typical adolescent lifestyle by participating in limited extracurricular activities. She focused the majority of her time on her studies, and she spend her summers attending programs for medical experience.
After my nurse triaged my patient for a telemedicine visit, I spoke to her. I immediately detected a gloomy tone to her voice and asked her questions in regards to what her mother had shared with me. She confirmed that her grades were now terrible after being great prior to this.
She confirmed that she could not concentrate. She also complained of feelings of fatigue. My patient further explained that she could not get enough rest which resulted in her sleeping through many classes and homework assignments. She experienced sadness and crying spells, and she had an increased appetite where she found herself craving unhealthy foods.
I asked her if her school offered light therapy and counseling for students. We had a conversation about her potential diagnosis, and I assured her that this was a condition that is treatable; she could rest assure that she was going to be Dr. Jones. I then informed her of her appointment on Saturday in our office at 10 a.m.
During her appointment in the clinic four days later, I was able to make the diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder after my more thorough evaluation in person. I shared treatment options to include the light therapy and counseling that she confirmed her school in New York offered. I reassured her that this was a common condition that many Americans face yearly. But the good news was that it was treatable. I told her that we were going to hold off on medication for now, but I was going to follow up with her therapist for recommendations once she was further evaluated.
She left our office that Saturday with hope and a sense of relief that her condition would improve. During her follow-up telemedicine appointment two weeks later, she confirmed that the light therapy and school counseling was helping. She was doing better again, and her mood to include her symptoms were improved. In a more uplifted voice, she told me, “Dr. Jones was coming back!”
My future colleague/patient was suffering from a condition called multiple names that include Seasonal Affective Disorder, The Winter Blues, and Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. This condition is experienced by many, but the good news is that it can be treated. If you or someone you care for exhibits symptoms such as my patient, encourage them to seek medical help. Because our friend, colleague, and patient got treatment, she has gotten back on track to becoming “Dr. Jones”.