Monday, November 2, 2009

Can Our Doctors Trust Us?

Many of my posts as of late have been colored by my experience of being hospitalized. So you’re probably thinking, wow, she spent three days in the hospital and is suddenly pro-doctor? Not quite…

But I will say that all of the doctors I encountered in the hospital were very nice, and I do feel as if I received a high quality of care. But it got me thinking about the fact that, in some ways, the doctor is only as good as the patient, and the doctor-patient relationship needs to be a partnership (of equals, in the best case scenario).

As I’ve started to get my medical info organized – my original binder is inches thick full of medical records and is no longer practical – I’ve realized that without having much information with me, I’m not sure that my reports to doctors could have been trusted 100%, or that the story was reported consistently and identically to every doctor I encountered (and there were many of them).

This is not to say that I purposefully lied to doctors, which I didn’t. But coming into the ER with a fever, being alone and nervous, and then being pumped with high doses of antibiotics, was my word really worth the weight it was given?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m the patient and I know my situation the best, but in the absence of something concrete to give to doctors, how do I, or they, know that they have all of the information they need in order to give me the best care?

As an example, the longer I was in the hospital, the foggier the timeline became from receiving the pneumonia shot on Friday morning to ending up in the ER on Sunday afternoon. And this is reflected in the story that is outlined in the copy of the records I was given of my hospital stay. Reading it now, I think, well, that’s not exactly how it happened…Close enough, maybe, but not perfect…

And accuracy will become increasingly important the more complicated my medical history becomes, which it undoubtedly will.

And I say this even when I have my parents listed under ICE (“in case of an emergency”) in my cell phone, and I have a note in the ICE that says to check for the medication list in my wallet.

We, or at least I, have a tendency to put the responsibility squarely in the lap of my doctors. They are, after all, the “experts.” But I’m realizing more and more that it is increasingly important for the patient to be an expert, too. This can be difficult when you don’t know how your body will react to certain things, but being the arbiter of the most information possible means that there’s less of a likelihood that you will slip on things, and therefore, less of a likelihood that your doctors will (especially in the case of being in the hospital and seeing mainly doctors that you are not familiar with and who are not familiar with you).

So aside from trying to put a manageable binder together of my most relevant medical information, I also took the plunge and purchased a medical alert bracelet. I had been avoiding such a purchase because a) they can be relatively pricey, so it is somewhat of an investment, and b) it actually means admitting for real that I am sick.

But this purchase is an investment in my health and my life. It covers my butt in the event that I cannot speak for myself and need medical treatment. One thing that has been stuck in the back of my mind is what if something happened to me while I was teaching? While I would hope that as college students, my students would at least have the presence of mind to call 911, that’s the most I could expect from them. And in the event that I end up in a situation where there is no one around to speak for me who knows my health issues, I need something that will speak for itself.

The bracelet I purchased is Velcro. It came with a little waterproof strip that you can write your name, medications, doctors, and important phone numbers on. The strip fits into a pocket on the inside of the bracelet, which can easily be pulled out if necessary. Plus, it’s pink. Need I say more?

I purchased the bracelet from Lauren’s Hope*. This website has many different versions of medical alert bracelets, many of which are made to look like everyday jewelry. While these were somewhat tempting, I went for something that was more clearly a medical alert bracelet. The whole point of wearing it is to make sure that there is no question that I get the best care possible, with my medical issues and medication understood, even if I am not physically able to get this information across.

In many ways, the thought of being incapacitated is scary. But it’s even scarier to think of all of the information that would be lost/unavailable in such a situation. But then again, that’s the point: to be prepared for situations that you can’t prepare for.

* I have posted about this product out of my own personal experience with it, and not because I have received compensation, financial or otherwise, from this company.


  1. I started a small electronic document (Excel spreadsheet, but now I think it's better to have a text document too) that has my history and an updated allergy list (I have a ton) and the list of my meds. I keep all this in a thumb drive (flash drive, whatever you call it)... and it's there in case of anything. I did have a metal medical alert necklace for my allergies (they're life threatening)... but I stopped wearing it when all the information changed and I was sick of wearing it. I like having it in one place and can easily update it with my ever-changing medical history. I like that yours you can put things into and have doctor's numbers... and I like how you put a note on your ICE to check for the medications in your wallet! Great idea!

    Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  2. That is a great idea!! I also have an ICE # in my cell, & a phone app (no, I don't have an Iphone) lol with Drs names, medications what times I take them, down to the most minute detail for the EMT, ER drs, & nurses. Call me ocd, but some of the meds we are on don't play nice with other meds. Experts or not, I don't want my life in the hands of someone that is "Guessing" what meds I might be on. lol

    I was curious to know since you are a fair skinned red-head like myself, are you B12 deficient all the time?

    Hope your having better Lupus days!