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When Something Is Wrong - Make Yourself Heard

When Something Is Wrong - Make Yourself Heard

When Something Is Wrong - Make Yourself Heard

Posted on August 15, 2023

When Something Is Wrong

Make Yourself Heard

Ten years ago, it was impossible to ignore physical discomfort. Needing to catch up on a time-sensitive work project, I opted to work through lunch one day during lunch. I had a turkey sandwich from home, closed my office door, then settled into the task at hand. During this, a fragment of turkey became lodged in the back of my throat. Attempting various interventions to dislodge it, I knew I needed help.

With urgency as my guide, I sought help from the organization’s bookkeeper/accountant, who happened to be coincidently having lunch at his desk right outside my office. With a hastily opened door and a series of gestures, I conveyed my need for the Heimlich maneuver. His unfamiliarity with the procedure prompted me to demonstrate the life-saving technique, and with his swift execution, the obstruction was successfully removed.

In the aftermath of this harrowing incident, my reaction was inexplicable. After expressing my gratitude, I retreated to my office, almost as if trying to downplay the event. It wasn’t until he inquired further that I began to discuss the experience openly. I resumed my work, albeit reluctantly, until the day’s end, carrying on with a semblance of normalcy. It was only later, during a casual conversation with my husband, that I disclosed the incident.

A few weeks later, as I began to experience an unsettling numbness in my fingers, my tendency to deny the gravity of the situation was outweighed by the necessity to take action. Acknowledging the need for medical attention, I scheduled an appointment with my physician. Subsequent CT scans and an MRI revealed an injury sustained in a rear-end collision nearly two decades prior and my current condition – cervical compression of C3 and C5. What had been initially diagnosed as whiplash through an X-ray was, in fact, a deeper issue.

I want to emphasize that my symptoms were anything but inconspicuous. For years I grappled with debilitating “migraines” stemming from the accident. Regrettably, I accepted the “whiplash” label without further inquiry, blindly trusting the healthcare providers who oversaw my care. By the time the choking and numbness took center stage, my frustration at not having sought a second opinion sooner only grew.

Rejecting the notion of cervical spine fusion as my sole recourse, I embarked on an exhaustive quest for alternative solutions across the nation. Serendipitously, I crossed paths with a surgeon in Florida who specialized in titanium disc replacement. With newfound hope, I walked into the operating room and also walked out following the surgery. That very evening, I rested comfortably at a nearby resort, then a post-op evaluation the following morning. Within a few days, I returned home pain-free, looking forward to an active life.

When faced with discomfort or uncertainty, it is imperative to seek answers that transcend the initial diagnosis. Self-advocacy is a crucial skill when navigating the healthcare system. Here are a few suggested tips to help you advocate for yourself in healthcare situations:

1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to research and understand your medical condition, treatment options, and potential outcomes. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to have meaningful conversations with healthcare providers.

2. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your diagnosis, treatment plan, medications, and any potential side effects. Clear communication is key to making informed decisions.

3. Share Your History: Provide a comprehensive medical history, including past conditions, medications, and allergies. This helps healthcare providers make well-informed decisions.

4. If You Can, Bring a Support Person: Having a friend, family member, or patient advocate accompany you to appointments. It is important that you cover all relevant topics and avoid forgetting crucial details.

5. Be Prepared: Write down your symptoms, concerns, and questions before appointments. This ensures that you cover all relevant topics and avoid forgetting crucial details.

6. Request Explanations: If a healthcare professional uses medical jargon you don’t understand, ask them to explain in simpler terms. You have the right to understand your health situation.

7. Seek Second Opinions: If you are unsure about a diagnosis or recommended treatment, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. Different perspectives can provide valuable insights.

8. Discuss Treatment Goals: Clearly communicate your treatment goals, preferences, and concerns with your healthcare team. It is important to make sure your treatment plan aligns with your values.

9. Request Alternatives: Inquire about all available treatment options, including potential risks and benefits. Compare these options to make informed decisions.

10. Voice Concerns: If you have concerns about a prescribed medication, treatment, or procedures, express them openly. Your healthcare provider can address your worries or offer alternatives.

11. Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your patient rights, including privacy, informed consent, and the right to refuse treatment.

12. Keep Records: Maintain a personal health record that includes test results, treatment plans, and contact information for your healthcare providers. This can help streamline your care.

13. Follow-Up: If you don’t receive test results or hear back from your provider, don’t hesitate to follow up. Timely communication is essential for your health.

14. Be Persistent: If your symptoms persist or worsen despite treatment, continue advocating for your needs until you receive appropriate care.

15. Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut. Seeking a second opinion or additional tests can provide peace of mind.

16. Stay Organized: Keep a calendar of appointments, medications, and treatments. Staying organized ensures you’re consistently engaged in your care.

17. Use Online Resources: Access reputable online resources to learn about your condition, treatment options, and potential side effects.

18. Understand Costs: If a treatment is recommended, ask about the costs involved, including insurance coverage and potential out-of-pocket expenses.

My story underscores the transformative power of persistence and informed decision-making, catalyzing a shift from passively accepting to actively pursuing the optimal path to healing and well-being. Remember, you are your best advocate. Your active participation in your healthcare journey can lead to more informed decisions, improve outcomes, and a better overall experience within the healthcare system.

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