By Guruatma Khalsa, Teacher, Speaker and Yoga Therapist
Guruatma Khalsa will present the workshop, Moving Through the Medical System: How to Get What You Need from the Doctor’s Office, on August 2 at Abilities Expo Houston.
It happens to the best of us. We go through life, unaware that something could happen to turn the whole apple cart upside down. Then, we are diagnosed with a chronic condition or critical illness.
Our lives drastically change.
One of the biggest changes is that we are now required to interact with the medical system, and doctor visits take on a new significance. Rather than going to the doctor’s for routine check-ups, or short-term emergencies, our survival becomes completely interdependent with the medical system—with its brilliance and with its dysfunction; with its successes and with its failures. For those with chronic or critical illness, the issues with the healthcare system are no longer something people debate about on the television. They are something that we live with.
Since I was 19 years old, I have suffered from a very rare auto-immune disease known as Relapsing Polychondritis, and I spent many years in the medical system being misdiagnosed. Eventually, the doctors put the puzzle together and diagnosed me correctly. They gave me 5 years to live. That was more than 15 years ago.
One of the important lessons I have learned is this. When you suffer from a chronic condition or critical illness, this becomes your new job. It is your business to take care of YOU. You have to get educated, you have to become your own advocate, and you need to learn how to get the most out of your appointments with your doctors.
Here are a few tips about how to navigate the labyrinth of today’s medical care system.
The most important tool to get what you need from the doctor’s office is to recognize that the people in the office are human beings too and have a lot going on. They do not see you from YOUR point of view. They see you from THEIR point of view. You might be the 100th person that day who needs something from them. So it is important to be compassionate.
Say “good morning” or “good afternoon.” Ask them, “Maybe you can help me with something?”
There is an art to being kind, while also holding people accountable for what you need. Get the person’s name and use it. You will be treated differently when you call someone by his or her name. Use good communication. For instance, if there is a lab test done that day, and you need a copy of it, you can ask the medical office staff, “Thank you so much. Can you let me know what day I can call you, if by that day I haven’t received the results of my lab test?” Create the relationship. Establish a rapport. Help the staff become your allies.
When it comes to doctors, it is important to be clear about your expectations. Doctors are a resource. In their field of expertise, they are like an amazing search engine when it comes to a specific medical condition. But doctors can make mistakes, so get second opinions and third opinions, too. It is your job to keep doing the research until you are satisfied and have a grasp about how to proceed.
Realize that the doctor is also a human being with a heart who went to medical school probably just because he or she wanted to help people. Appreciate what they are doing for you. You have a small window of time with your doctor. Be honest and put all your problems on the table, and get his or her best answer. Sometimes, your doctor will send you to another expert. When you go to the doctor’s office, be as prepared as possible so you can get what you need.
Write down your questions ahead of time. Bring a person with you who will take notes while you are speaking with your doctor. Have a check-list and do not leave the office until everything on your check list has been addressed. If you are too sick to organize your visits like this, reach out and ask for help. Family and friends can support you this way. There are also social workers and medical advocacy groups to access.
These are some things I have learned in my life-journey with the medical system. At the 2013 Abilities Expo in Houston Texas, this year, I will get more specific and I will give you tools about how to get what you need from the doctor’s office. In the meantime, please visit my website: www.yogic-tools.com. You can download the booklet, Yogic Tools and Chronic and Critical Illness: 6 Stages and 22 Steps. This free booklet offers personal guidelines, based on my own experience, about what to expect and how to navigate a chronic or critical illness.
article written by Ek Ong Kaar K Khalsa and Guruatma
Guruatma serves as a mentor for those who suffer from chronic or critical illness, as well as their family members. To inquire about or schedule a one-on-one session, click here:http://yogic-tools.com/services/contact-us/.
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