Is This Really Happening To Me?
By Monica Radtke
Do you sit in the doctor wondering if all of this is really happening to me? For most of us with chronic conditions (or any patient for that matter), any medical appointment(s) are usually a (1) note-bringing and taking opportunity, (2) anxiety moment from beginning to end, (3) quarter mile drag race, and (4) you need a translator. Let me explain.
ONE Note bringing and taking. The best you can do for yourself is to write down when you’re ill or injured and the symptoms you’re having. It will feel like a diary. It doesn’t have to be though. Specific words usage is key to this and makes it very easy when there is a system. Left/right. Front/back. Upper/lower. Consistencies in a body part pain, side of a body itch, or problem with eyes or ankles can explain to a doctor what the problem(s) are. Doctors call it being a ‘historian’. Even if you have an extraordinary memory, the writing down of details is very important. Asking questions of the doctor/nurse practitioner/physician’s assistant is always at the forefront of an efficient/effective medical appointment. Once the provider orders tests, X-rays, or referrals, it is good to know what and why. Then the when and where will come later.
TWO I think humans by nature are anxious when it comes to medical appointments. You don’t feel well or are injured and are going to a medical provider to find out what is wrong and or how to fix something.
People may have to walk from where their car is parked to the office/clinic or they decide to climb a flight or two of stairs instead of waiting for an elevator.
Then you sit forever in the waiting room, only to have your blood pressure usually checked first thing.
Three Once you’re in the exam room, on the OR table, or giving blood for testing, everything goes slow, but when the doctor walks in it’s a drag race. If you get more than five minutes with a doctor it would be a miracle or this is a physician who really cares – they are rare but possible.
You as the patient, you can slow the pace. Stating ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘I am questioning why this is being done/ordered’ can put control of the visit in your hands, not the provider’s.
Here’s where the note-taking comes in handy. It makes communicating so much quicker, easier, and both the patient and provider are on the same page.
Four Medical terms are a language all their own. Even radiology terminology is different from other medical words. You know what area of the body is being affected and in this day and age of the Internet, it pays to have a little knowledge going in. You don’t have to know Latin (basis for most anatomic parts of the body), but it is handy to know what a doctor might say – they have the ability to talk over the patient’s head and if the patient doesn’t stop the conversation and ask for clarification, the doctor keeps right on going assuming the patient understands – which we all know isn’t usually the case.
So, here is how all of that came together for a recent medical appointment where I now seriously question my patient/doctor relationship and she has been my Primary Doctor for almost nine years. With my Fibromyalgia she knows I know what I’m talking about, so when I know something is wrong, I am not well or I am injured.
I had my physical this past April and complained of left-sided abdominal/back pain. It made sense as I have GI motility issues, but with an L4 – 5 fusion in October of 2012, she should have questioned both. My appointment resulted in having a colonoscopy and endoscopy (I said I was getting a burning sensation in my throat), which didn’t find anything to justify my pain.
I got to late July and with my pain increasing, I asked my Primary Doctor to order a lumbar MRI. I knew this was something I needed. Remember, “something is wrong”. I was told I had to wait until I saw her again in mid-August.
The MRI showed a bulge in my L3 – 4 discs. My L4 – 5 fusion surgeon that my Primary referred me to ordered a facet joint injection and thoracic MRI. The injection didn’t work and this MRI order puzzled me. I never have to question why a test, x-ray, or procedure is being ordered. EVER! Until now. The results would explain my puzzling thoughts. I now also have bone spurs at the T2 – 3 level. The heart pain (not chest, heart) I had also mentioned to my doctor over a year ago was from the spurs, not the gastric reflux the endoscopy revealed.
Now I sit at a crossroads of another injection (medial branch nerve block the surgeon wants me to have this time), as well as try Physical Therapy.
The concept of Physical Therapy is foreign to me because I can’t think of me fixing myself that way. Fibromyalgia took that away from me, as well as the bulge in L3 – 4 is not going to be fixed by any kind of therapy.
I see the surgeon’s side. All conservative management treatments must be tried. Insurance companies need evidence when the surgeon’s office calls them for prior authorization for surgery.
I don’t want surgery, but my patient side sees this as my only option right now. Regardless of whether Physical Therapy works, th3 L3 – 4 discs are NOT going to magically get better. The thought of another injection makes me feel like a pin cushion who glows (enough x-rays already).
I will be cooperative with the orders from the surgeon but I want all who read this to understand that your medical care is in YOUR hands. All of the tests/x-rays you get are instrumental in your healthcare and the choices can make or break you (in more ways than one) for the rest of your life.