Getting Along

Raising children, teaching them how to get along with others, provides an interesting perspective.  One of my kids in particular gets focused on demanding his rights.  I have the right…  (Yep.  You do.  How’s that working out for you?)   That child is slowly learning (with lots of teaching and lots of practice) that life is a lot more pleasant if he sometimes gives up his rights and works amicably with others.  The more he does it, he’s discovering that when he doesn’t insist on always getting what he has the right to have, that others are sometimes willing to give up their rights to help him out, too.

From what I’ve read in a comment thread recently, that’s a lesson that will stand him in good stead his whole life long, and one that too many people still need to learn.

As a person who’s been unwillingly thrust into a role I never signed on for, I’ve learned a ton about our healthcare system that I never dreamed of a few short years ago.  I know that the things I’ve learned are just the tip of the iceberg, so when a doctor is willing to give tips to patients on how to make the most of medical encounters, I’m all ears.  Recently, in A Letter to Patients With Chronic Disease, Dr. Rob said,

There is something that you need to understand that, while it won’t undo your pain, make your fatigue go away, or lift your emotions, it will help you.  It’s information without which you bring yourself more pain than you need suffer; it’s a truth that is a key to getting the help you need much easier than you have in the past.

Excellent!  This sounds like tips worth reading.  A quick summary (since I’m guessing my readers also read the linked blog):

  1. Don’t come on too strong
  2. Show respect
  3. Keep your eggs in only a few baskets
  4. Use the ER only when absolutely needed
  5. Don’t avoid doctors
  6. Don’t put up with the jerks
  7. Forgive us

Pretty basic, really, but fleshed out to be a powerful post.  When I first read it there were no comments.  I wanted to think about my response, so left the blog open in my browser to return to later. 

Life happens (quite a bit recently), and when I finally got back to it there were tons of responses.  And I was shocked.  Not that there were comments, but that so many people were upset about the post.  Because, you see, I don’t think this gives different criteria for people with chronic diseases than for healthy  people.  I thought this sounded like a pretty basic reminder for everyone.

  1. Don’t come on too strong because you only get one chance to make a first impression.
    So… pick what you want that impression to be.  Be aware of how specific behaviors are likely to be interpreted and decide if that’s how you want to present yourself.
  2. Respect – Ever read the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?
  3. Don’t doctor-hop
  4. The EMERGENCY room is for EMERGENCIES

And so on.  This is basic stuff, and some people were offended.  If that’s how very many people with chronic illnesses are, it’s no wonder that there are doctors who would rather not deal with us.  Nobody enjoys being around people who walk around with a chip on their shoulder.

I hope I’m not like that — and that I never get that way.  I realize that I’ve been really lucky to get terrific doctors, and sometimes wonder if I’d feel differently if I’d had numerous bad experiences seeking medical care.  Maybe.  But part of me wonders if sometimes people don’t create their own bad luck.  I don’t really know, but if I’d had more than a handful of bad experiences, I’d start to think maybe the problem wasn’t all those bad doctors after all, but was perhaps staring back at me from my mirror every morning.

But I don’t know, because I’ve been blessed with terrific doctors.  My rheumy writes a report to my PCP every time she sees me so both doctors know what the plan is.  If I need to call either doctors’ office, the nurse calls me back (usually the same day).  If someone in my family is sick and needs to be seen, they work us in — my PCP holds spaces in his schedule for same-day issues so that he can work people in.  My family physician has gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing exemplary medical care for me and my family.

So I, for one, am very happy to read Dr. Rob’s tips.  I’d do anything I could to make things easier on my doctor.  If it gets me help more easily than I’ve gotten it in the past… well, I honestly don’t see how that would be possible, but I’ll file this post away for the sad day that my doctor retires and I’m stuck searching for a new one.