A friend of mine is scheduled to have some surgery to remove a cancer and mentioned that her original doctor had taken a week to get back to her and then scheduled the procedure some weeks out. She had been on another appointment in another doctor’s office when the nurse asked about what was going on, and then THAT office made the connection to get her scheduled sooner with another doc.
That reminded me of something that happened years ago.
When we got married in 1989, Dave decided he would move from Memphis to Hartford to join me and my kids. He said it was easier to move one than to move three but I also suspect he looked forward to the experience of living in Yankee Land.
We called his parents in Nashville weekly to chat. One Sunday late in November, Mama said she didn’t feel well. She had COPD and was basically bedridden, but this was a new bad feeling. We were concerned enough that we called again on Monday, and she sounded worse. We talked to Daddy, but he said she was okay, just complaining more than usual, the typical thing a husband may say after several years of caretaking duties.
We called again on Tuesday and she barely could talk to us. Wednesday morning, with my younger kids spending that Thanksgiving weekend with their father, Dave and I hit the road south as soon as we dropped the kids to school. The typical 20-hour drive took 17 hours and we pulled into their driveway early on Thanksgiving morning.
Mama barely responded when we saw her and I told Daddy we had to call the doctor. He refused! He said it was Thanksgiving and we were not going to bother “that fine young woman”. I told him that doctors have coverage even on holidays and wasn’t Mama more important anyway? His answer was that she was just sleepy. And he also let me know I was being too pushy.
Well, long story short, we called the doctor’s office Friday morning, and they told us to take her to the emergency room. By the time we left Saturday so we could be back in Connecticut for the kids’ return home, she was improving, and murmured, “I thought you were here but I wasn’t sure.”
These two stories need to awaken your awareness that you need to be your biggest advocate in your own health care. You can not rely on anyone else to care about you as much as you care about yourself.
Establish a relationship with your doctors where communication is highly expected-both ways. If you have a doctor who has a paternalistic attitude, someone who says something asinine like “Don’t worry about that, that’s for me to think about,” change doctors. Your doctor must know that you understand your body and expect prompt response when you call for information and immediate help when you call for help.
But that starts with YOU. You have to be the one to communicate your health issues, ask questions, and expect answers in a language you can understand.
And, as in the case of my mother-in-law, if your partner is not the type of person who can make decisions for you, have a good and hard talk with him or her explaining who s/he needs to contact should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself. That way, you can hope to get prompt attention by someone who is not frozen by the fear of your incapacity.
Do it now. Love yourself.