How do you medically advocate for yourself? For those of you that follow along, you know that I went to the Cleveland Clinic main campus ER about a month ago for a severe back pain issue and the experience was less than stellar. It was actually awful, mainly because the doctor failed to adequately manage the pain, attempt to find a diagnosis, or come up with a treatment plan. I did a follow up post regarding the very well documented dismissal of women, people of color, people of size, etc. who complain of pain. So now, the final post - how to medically advocate for yourself.
It's important to be able to do so, especially if you're an adventurer, because even if you don't have chronic pain there's a fairly high likelihood that you'll injure yourself in some way at some point.
So here's a few tips and tricks to make sure that you're diagnosed and treated.
Do not let them shame you. Being fat or old or gay is not a moral issue. YOU ARE A PERSON AND DESERVING OF TREATMENT.
Do not allow yourself to be dismissed - you know your body - insist on care. It could save your (or a loved one's) life.
If you're doctor isn't taking your pain or issue seriously, ask for another doctor. You're having real fucking symptoms, don't let them make you feel bad for having them.
When my grandmother had a stroke, she was definitely not getting the care she needed at the rinky dink hospital she was at. They refused to do any tests to see if she'd had a stroke, etc. In fact, they insisted she was simply dehydrated and refused to do anything at all except IV saline. We insisted she be transferred to another hospital, which took my father and I driving to main and not budging an inch. The doctor was later fired, and my grandmother was transferred to a larger hospital able to get her the care she needed (and responded to).
If you have a chronic issue or long-term disease, carry your medical records with you. You can get a free dropbox account to store them, or email them to yourself. Don't depend on your phone, in case you don't have it when you go.
Next, question, question, question and be sure to communicate concerns and desires. There are some questions you can write out beforehand (and give to a friend), so they're stuck in your mind and ready to go. When in the ER, especially, it can be stressful and overwhelming, making it very easy to get confused/forget to ask the important stuff. Some questions to ask if you go to your regular doc/doc in a box:
- What do you believe the issue is?
- Why do you believe it is xyz?
- Is there a test to confirm that? Why are you/are you not confirming?
- I am in a significant amount of pain - what is the plan to treat it? Why are we treating it in that way?
- Why hasn't my pain been addressed yet?
- If your symptoms persist, do NOT be afraid to go to another doctor, even if you like the one you have. Different doctors have different knowledge bases and experiences.
If you’re in the Hospital or ER, then add these questions on:
I'd like to mention that the Cleveland Clinic is one of the top rated hospitals in the country. I have had wonderful treatment there. However, this ER needs to get its shit together. I still have nightmares about it.
I'm definitely implementing these, so I can be better prepared if there's a next time. Hopefully, they also help you or a loved one. If you have any tips to add, please feel free to comment below or contact me here.