Sailing Through Life

Don’t forget the Captain goes down with the Ship!

Never forget: YOU are in charge of your health! I’m sure everyone out there is thinking “duh! so tell me something I don’t know!” Sadly, it’s one thing to say it; it’s another to do it, because it’s work and it’s not always easy and it can take some real time and effort.  It’s not just things like getting enough exercise and eating the right foods.  This topic is not exactly geared to weight loss, but it IS geared towards being a healthier, happier YOU.You are the one steering your vessel; you decide on the destination and how you are going to get there.  A smart captain doesn’t just point his ship to the west and hope to hit Japan (I’m in California-FYI); he studies the charts and decides on the best, safest, fastest course to guide him to Tokyo or Okinawa.  It’s not a crapshoot; it’s your life and your body.

I was blessed (for better or worse) with a mom who was a nurse for nearly 30 years.  She came home and complained about the supervisors, the underlings, admin and the doctors, just like everyone does, and as I got older, I realized it had a curious effect on me (besides me watching every doctor drama that came on tv- sigh! I really miss ER!!) I realized that when I went to the doctor, I wasn’t scared or nervous or intimidated.  I was immune to “White Coat Syndrome” after 30 years of listening to gossip about doctors being regular everyday people who do the same dumb things we do, like lock their keys in the car, forget the patient’s name, or spill their coffee, breakfast, whatever all over their clothes. I cannot recall a time when I thought of real life doctors as being super-smart or god-like or somehow, more than human.  They were the same people as everyone else. They were just as prone to making mistakes as I was- maybe more, because they had a lot of patients and a lot of data to keep track of.  If it’s not in the chart, it doesn’t exist and it didn’t happen.

So when I went to the doctor’s, I spoke up.  I asked questions, and I wasn’t afraid to insist on doctor-patient confidentiality.  When I was 18, my doctor was someone that my mom worked with and I chose him because he was good, but also very ethical.  So when I insisted that he NOT share my health information with my mom, he kept his word.  My mom was not happy, but I certainly was!

I’ve also not been afraid to insist that the doctor talk to me like I’m a person and answer my questions.  About 15 years ago, I managed to break my arm and my leg at the same time (If you’re going to do something, do it well!! Lol!!).  Sitting in the ER, I made the doctor slow down and explain his diagnosis and plan of treatment to me.  He looked at me like I was a crazy person because I actually told him “no” when he just rattled off his spiel and headed for the door.  Hello!! I am the one hurting here and I am the one you’re going to be sticking full of needles and what-all!! You can take 5 minutes and talk to me like I’m someone like- let’s see- Oh, yeah, your patient!!   Let’s face it: I can be a real b*tch and I’m not afraid to get in someone’s face if they irritate me enough or if I think it’s really important.  YOUR HEALTH IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE!

It’s not just making the doctors talk to you in terms you can understand; it’s realizing that unless you ask questions, you don’t know what the doctors don’t know.  I used to have a problem with high blood pressure (it’s hereditary on top of my bad health choices- eye roll), and when the nurse took my pressure, I thought it was higher than it should be.  After the doctor came in and talked to me about another issue, she was finishing up without addressing my BP, so I asked her about it: “It’s high!!” She hadn’t seen it! So she made another adjustment, but she didn’t know about it -even though it was in the chart- until I called it to her attention.

This is how drug interactions occur and how people end up creating their own problems by not taking the initiative in their health maintenance.  People who ask a billion questions when buying a house or a car never think to ask a single question when they see their doctor or pharmacist or any kind of health professional, including trainers.  You are the client; even if you do have White Coat Syndrome, you can combat it by reminding yourself as you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, she/he is your paid professional and you are engaging her/ his services the same way you would engage a broker’s or a banker’s.  If you are not happy with their service, you are free to engage the services of another one. So if you don’t ask questions, you’re not getting your full value for what you are paying.  So, I ask questions about any medications she gives me; any conditions or symptoms I present with; what my options are and I make sure I understand what she is telling me (she’s really good about explaining in everyday terms anyway- I’m lucky). I also tell her all the OTC supplements and vitamins I take, and she asks me if I’ve changed anything. This helps prevent drug interactions.  Three of the most important things: 1) if you have more than one doctor, make sure each of them know about the other(s), the reasons you are seeing them and what they are prescribing you; 2) have one pharmacy that knows what medications you are taking and what OTC vitamins and supplements you are taking.  (Doctors know your body but pharmacists know medications and they are often more in touch with how the medications work than the doctors); and 3) when you buy a supplement, vitamin, medication- READ THE INFORMATIONAL PAMPHLET!! This seems so silly since most of us just rip it off, crumple it up and throw it away.  “Blah blah blah- what does it say on the bottle? How much and how often?” The little pamphlet (often printed in microfont- eye roll-not helping, guys!) contains all the potential side effects and possible interactions and when it is NOT a good idea to take it.  A friend of mine was telling me about taking vitamin D3.  Hers was low and her doctor had advised her to take a supplement. She said she had more bloodwork done, there was a very small improvement and she had scheduled another doctor’s appointment.  I asked her when she was taking the softgel and what she was eating when she took it.  She wasn’t eating: she took it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  Since I also take this vitamin and had read the package (even though they were different brands), I told her vitamin D3 is fat soluble (why it was a softgel usually filled with olive or soybean oil) so she needs to take it with food, preferably something with fat.  She got the bottle and read the label for the first time.  Yep- “take with a meal.”

My friend is most assuredly neither dumb or uneducated- she’s a normal person who asks the mechanic about the repairs to her car; why the item she bought from whatever retailer failed to perform as promised; and why the cable guy shows up four hours late and then doesn’t fix the cable.  But like so many of us, she doesn’t do that when it comes to her health.  You need to do the work; you know your body best.  If you going to be taking a vitamin, supplement or medication, find out what all the effects are and when to take or not take it.If you don’t understand what your doctor said, ask them to explain it so you do understand it.  In fact, the best thing to do is write down any questions beforehand, take the notebook with you and write down the answers plus any instructions they give you.  (It really helps.) Most doctors are also available through a secure email address now, so if you think of something afterward or you have new symptoms or a reaction to the medication, email or call your doctor.  They may tell you to STOP the medication and give you something different or have you come into the office.

Maybe being this way makes me a b*tch or a doctor’s worst nightmare patient. If it does, I don’t really care, because I’m the owner of my body and until I can trade her in for an upgrade (hoping!!!), I’m stuck with her, so I want to make sure she sails as smoothly as long as possible and takes me far :”all I ask is a tall ship and a star to her by” (Sea-Fever, John Masefield).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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