Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Your Medical Mind
I was supposed to post my review of this book this morning. But I have really good reasons why I didn't, and they are even apropo to the topic--lucky me!
I spent the majority of today in the urgent care, and then the rest of it in the ER.
So, I went to help in Sophia's classroom early this morning, and got back home around 9:20 am, to find The Maestro still in bed. His breathing sounded awful, and when he finally did wake up, he felt horrendous. So I told him to get in the car, 'cause we were off to the Urgent Care.
Now, I must give the tiniest bit of backstory here. Joel was sick with a pretty bad cold/crud/whatever's going around last week. A week ago Sunday, he finally decided to go into the Urgent Care and get a Z-Pack. He always gets one without any problem when he starts getting the crud, and it always clears it up within a couple days. Now, this is not what I would do, and I have always thought he's a little bit silly for insisting, but who am I to tell him what to do? Well, the doctor he got last Sunday was a little more on my side of the fence, antibiotically speaking. In fact, you might say she was anti-antibiotic, which would make her probiotic, I suppose. She would NOT give him the Z-pack no matter how he argued for it. She basically called him a baby for coming in at all when he just had a "little cold" and sent him packing with some cough suppressant and Sudafed, and told him to only come back if he wasn't better in two weeks.
Note: I was not there. I am getting all of this information from The Maestro, who is a known exaggerator. But she definitely refused him the hoped-for Z-Pack and told him he'd be fine. And, he can be a bit of a baby when he's sick, even he admits that much.
After a couple days he was feeling better. Except there was always this kind of lingering cough and chest congestion. And THAT kept getting worse.
And then came today.
So everything at the Urgent Care took forever. I had Sophia with me, so I waited in the lobby while Sophia drew pictures and I played Words With Friends. Joel texted me updates for the entire two hours we were there, and apparently the doctor was really worried. He ordered an albuterol treatment first because he suspected Joel was having asthma issues due to the illness he had had last week. (This is what I also suspected, especially since Bria was just diagnosed with illness-induced asthma yesterday!) But, when things didn't clear up enough after the treatment, the doctor referred him to the ER, and I got this text:
Meanwhile, I was calling the schools and friends and trying to arrange the afternoon so I could spend a couple more hours at the ER.
Okay, so as not to make a long story longer: It turned out that the doctors thought he was having a heart attack. Which he wasn't. But it was kind of scary there for a minute when I realized where the questions were going and then when talk of an EKG came out. As it turns out, it was the beginnings of pneumonia and the previously suspected asthma.
So, may I remind you that this is a book review. Your Medical Mind by Drs Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband addresses a lot of things about learning to take charge of our health. So many, that you'll need to read the book to get the full story, but our experiences today really highlight several things I had just learned by reading this book.
First of all, we all have different approaches to our own health. These can be based on our upbringings, our past health experiences, our goals, and even our observations of others.
I tend to take a much more natural and skeptical view of medicine. I don't like putting drugs of any kind into my body unless I really feel it is necessary. I would rather deal with a headache than live on painkillers because I'm not sure that painkillers aren't going to do more harm than good, and I believe my body is capable of healing itself. I only take myself to the doctor when I am at a real breaking point, and even then I'm not likely to fill all the prescriptions I'm given. I'm what the authors of this book would probably call a "doubter." In the text I posted above, you can see some of my "doubting" tendencies. I hate how my albuterol inhaler makes me feel. And I also hate how my other (steroid) inhaler makes my throat dry out--how am I supposed to sing like that? Both inhalers live in my purse and rarely come out unless I really can't breathe. I'd rather live with a small asthma attack (mine is mostly exercise/cold-induced, though I did have some issues with allergy-induced asthma this past spring that made me have no choice but to inhale), than have the shakes or a dry throat. I know my body, and I know what I can handle.
Joel, on the other hand, is more of a believer. But he also knows his body. He realizes that the Z-pack always prevents the pneumonia from developing, and the fact that he has had pneumonia develop more than once after a simple cold tells him that he is susceptible. He regrets not being more firm with the anti-antibiotic doctor he saw last week, and thinks he probably should have made an appointment with his regular doctor immediately. But he didn't, and today was completely lost because of it. I think next time he will definitely advocate more vigorously for himself.
And the doctors? Doctors also have very different styles. The whole heart attack thing was a little disconcerting, but it was interesting to me that this doctor was taking both his job and Joel's health VERY seriously. I believe the other doctor was too, it's just that she came at it from an entirely different perspective. One that involves things like super-bacteria and patients always requesting antibiotics even when they aren't needed. It can be really difficult to filter through our own experiences and find the truth in a patient-doctor relationship.
This book really helped me to understand how to advocate for myself, how to know if I really do need medical intervention, how to interpret all of the medical studies that are out there and so much more. A lot of it was stuff I already know and understand, but I still learned a lot. I also found the point of view refreshing. Here are two doctors who are telling the world that doctors really don't know everything, and we as patients are a critical part of our own healthcare.
And whether you're a believer or a doubter, you'll find lots of great information to broaden your medical mind.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Booktours in exchange for this review.