It was a sad day when I realized that doctors are not miracle healers, but just regular guys and gals who have a knack for science. They don’t know it all, can’t fix it all, and certainly have bad days like the rest of us. So when it comes to your health, you need to be your own advocate.
When I was 21 I went to the doctor for strep throat and saw another doctor within my primary care physician’s office because my regular doc was on vacation. I mentioned to him that I had been having these stomach pains….he was quick to dismiss them, told me I should see my regular doctor for my “tummy” problems, and sent me on my way. Five gallbladder attacks later, I did see my primary care physician who was shocked I went so long without help (they feel like you are being lit on fire from the inside, that’s all). Well, I was told they were “tummy” problems- I thought I was overreacting. When they took the gallbladder out they had to make a larger incision because it was so full of stones. I wanted to shove them in the face of the @ss who called them “tummy” problems.
More recently I upped my running intervals and developed a horrible pain in my hip. After a solid week of pain, I saw the physician’s assistant (PA) at my doctor’s office since my doctor was unavailable. The PA barely listened to my symptoms and told me “it’s your IT band”. When I told him I know IT band pain and this is NOT it, he dismissed me. He felt my hip for about four seconds, printed me IT band stretches, and told me to follow up with the doc in two weeks if it wasn’t better. He made sure to tell me a week of pain was nothing. Well after two more weeks of pain, I went back for that follow up. A visit to my actual doctor, who happens to be an avid runner, looked at where I said the pain was and his first words were, “that’s not your IT band”. I thought, no sh!t, can you tell your PA that? An x-ray showed that I have something much worse going on with my hip that we’re going to try to fix with therapy but could need surgery. If left untreated could cause permanent damage. There is no running in my foreseeable future. Major sad face here. I’m so thankful though, that I went back for that follow up instead of running through the pain and doing lame stretches that weren’t helping. I really could have done more damage.
I’ve heard dozens of other stories from friends and family who have had similar situations and they had to push harder to receive the care they needed. When your health is in question, you must be proactive. When your family, like your child, spouse, or parent cannot advocate for themselves, use your voice to help them.
Lesson one- research the heck out of your doctor. Find someone who you can relate to and who listens. It is an arduous process, but well worth the time when your health is in question. I am grateful for the hours I spent to find a doctor with a sports therapy background. He just needs a new PA…
Lesson two- help them help you. Go to appointments prepared. Document the time and intensity that you’ve been experiencing your ailments, know the medications you take, and know your family history. Most importantly- be honest with your doc!
Lesson three- If you see your doctor about a problem and you aren’t satisfied with the answers you get, if that pit in your stomach or voice in your head isn’t satisfied, ask more questions and demand more answers. It is so easy to take a doctor’s word for gospel, but your gut knows better. I’ve said it a thousand times, this is our one and only body, our one and only chance here. Make sure you get the care you need to make the most of it.