September 27th, 2010
I’ve heard it said that you should never go to a surgeon’s office by yourself; you need a second set of ears to make sure you get the story straight.
Though I believe that’s true, what is also true is that I didn’t have someone with me today while I was at the surgeon’s office.
And you know what? Even though I was in pain and scared and overwhelmed by the whole situation, I felt grounded and focused.
Why? Because I had prepared for my appointment ahead of time by using my Appointment Preparation Worksheet. It took two minutes to fill it out. I also kept track of my medications, symptoms and medical history using Patient Power so I had all the information I needed right at my fingertips.
At a time when I felt so vulnerable, I had the tools I needed to stay on track and remember what hurts, what makes it better, and what aggravates my symptoms.
And you can have these simple tools too, and walk into your healthcare provider’s office feeling clearheaded and secure.
Here’s what happened to me:
I arrived early, filled out the necessary paperwork and was greeted promptly by a very helpful nurse who performed some initial tests. So far so good. However, I was thrown off track because, after explaining my symptoms and how the computer aggravated them, the surgeon said: “You have bilateral carpel tunnel and it’s a myth that working on the computer causes carpel tunnel.”
I felt angry when he said that and I said to him, “What I’m saying to you is that my symptoms are worse when I’m on the computer, and I know that for a fact.”
He simply retorted: “And what I’m telling you is that the computer is not causing your symptoms. The computer has nothing to do with your symptoms.” He then went on to quote a prominent study to support his statement.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t interested in science. I wanted help understanding why my hands hurt, what my diagnosis is and what my treatment options are.
Telling me that my symptoms, which are most intense when I’m on the computer, are not caused by the computer felt invalidating and unsupportive.
Though he may be correct and I’m sure he’s up on the latest scientific studies, this kind of information did not give me the feeling that he understood how much I use my hands for work and how this adversely affects my daily life.
This is just the kind of thing that happens to me (and lots of other people) all the time.
When I’m uptight and uncomfortable and a healthcare provider appears to be challenging me on the legitimacy of my symptoms, it’s easy to forget why I’m asking for his expertise.
(In fairness to this surgeon, I’m sure what he was trying to do was to dispel a myth about carpel tunnel and give me some data in support of his statement. It just wasn’t a match for my needs for empathy and understanding. And it caused me to momentarily lose my focus about what I really wanted information on.)
Here’s what’s important for you to remember:
If you tend to get overwhelmed when you’re dealing with your healthcare provider, by writing things down you can stay on top of your game. Just the act of writing things down helps you remember them even if you forget to look at them as you’re talking.
Why? Because writing things down gives your brain a break from remembering things. And everyone’s brain deserves a break in this very hurried world we live in.
If you are forgetful – as I am - writing things down helps as well.
And, if you know you’re forgetful, you can train yourself to look at what you’ve written down OR go back to the office (as I did) when you forget to ask something important.
Next, when a healthcare provider is talking so quickly that you can’t take it all in, you can verify your understanding by using my materials. It’s easy to make sure you’ve understood what they’ve said correctly and a good provider will want you to understand their recommendations clearly.
Give your good brain the rest it deserves especially when you’re not feeling well.
Prepare ahead of time for your appointments, make sure you got the story straight, and then you’ll have what you need to use the healthcare system in a way that works for you.