One of the things that I think is most important is that people accept responsibility for taking care of themselves. On the heels of the Oprah Show last week, for those of you that missed it, I want to talk about why it’s important to question everything that comes from any doctor. That includes alternative medicine care providers and the conventional MD’s. If you didn’t see the show the summary of it was “Medical Mistakes”. There were many examples on the show of people that have been tragically damaged as a result of a medical mistake. Over 100,000 people die each year as a result of medical error. In the event you find yourself visiting a hospital or an MD’s office, here’s a little list to keep you healthy:
1. Know what medications you are taking. This sounds very basic, but you would be surprised to know how many people don’t actually know this. I’ll see some in my office sometime…the men will leave it up to their wives to “keep track of that stuff”. This is a problem. You absolutely must take your own health seriously and know what you’re taking. It is not your spouse’s job to keep up with that…it is YOUR job. This also includes herbal or nutritional supplements. You don’t have to memorize the list, but be sure to carry a list with you of ANYTHING you’re taking and take the list to any medical appointments. Also, be sure to update it with new information as often as necessary.
2. Get a second opinion. If you are faced with a health crisis, be sure you go to someone else and get another opinion. One man on the Oprah show got 5 opinions before he found the one Doctor that would treat him not so aggressively...despite getting a diagnosis of only living 6 months, he’s still here 1 1/2 years later.
3. Question EVERYTHING. Yes, some Doctors might get offended. Too bad. But they should welcome your input and your questions. If you’re not sure of something, ASK. And ask again. If you’re in the hospital, make sure you know what the Nurses are putting in your IV. They won’t mind you asking; they want to make sure there are no mistakes either. This keeps everyone on their toes and tells your medical team that you are actively involved in your own health care. They like that. They want someone that will ask questions. Don’t take anything for granted! Nurses and Doctors are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us...so Ask! And if you’re not able to be that involved in your care because you are recovering, make sure you have a family member that will advocate for your health!
4. Watch out for infections. When dealing with healthcare practitioners, make sure you see them wash their hands before touching you. This seems like common sense, but they get busy rushing from patient to patient. I just heard a story from a patient the other day, about a Doctor coming in from another room and starting to examine him without washing his hands. Make sure they wash the stethoscope too! Speak up and protect yourself!
5. Prescription Error. If a Doctor is going to give you a prescription, don’t just take the paper and walk out. It is important you ask him what it is, what the milligram of the drug is, what it does and how to take it. Write this info down especially if you are getting multiple prescriptions! Doctor handwriting can be a serious problem resulting in many errors at pharmacies. Again, you speaking up and asking questions will make sure you get the medication you need that is right for you.
6. Listen to your body. You have that “gut” feeling that something isn’t quite right. You go to the doctor and they run a test that results in a “Negative” diagnosis. “You’re fine” they tell you. But then you still have that nagging feeling that something is going on with your health. Go to someone else. Get another test. ESPECIALLY if you have symptoms that go along with this issue. Mis-diagnosis happen all the time, but it can be prevented. Follow your inner guidance.
7. Surgery. If you are to have surgery, I would recommend phoning the Anesthesiologist the day before to discuss your case. Of course you will meet this person the day of your surgery, but calling in advance lets them know you are taking responsibility for your health. Ask all the questions you want answers to. This person will be responsible for making sure that you are “OUT” during the surgical procedure and it is important that you get to know eachother so be sure to discuss any concerns or questions with them.
8. Mark Your Body. Be sure to mark the “surgical spot”. There are MANY documented cases of the wrong arm being operated on and the wrong organs being taken out...it happens all the time, so don’t be afraid to put “cut here” and “don’t cut here” on your body!
9. “Whatever You Say, Doctor”. Unfortunately, I see alot of patients that have the “Doctor is God” complex. This is simply not true. Saying that “I’ll do whatever you say, Doctor” or “I’ll take whatever you give me, Doctor” is not in your best interest. Doctors are only human after all. Not only do they make mistakes, but they also sometimes have very different opinions from one another. If someone is suggesting you take a prescription medication OR have surgery or some other aggressive treatment, be sure to get the facts. Is there no other possible way to deal with this issue than drugs or surgery? What other options would be available? If it doesn’t “feel right” to you, chances are there may be another way of handling it. Even if that means going to another doctor or several other doctors; don’t be afraid to do it. Don’t put them up on a Totem Pole...the bottom line is that it is YOUR body and your health...speak up for yourself!
10. There are alternatives. Be sure you know that there is often an alternative way to dealing with a diagnosis. As a Naturopathic Doctor, it is my job to look at your unique healthcare situation, and recommend lifestyle changes and natural nutritional support to help you through a health crisis. There are many different alternative and natural healing modalities out there, so be sure to visit several different practitioners if you have a health crisis. Again, ask lots and lots of questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with ANY healthcare team member that you will be entrusting yourself to!
Naturopathic Doctor practicing natural health solutions in San Antonio, Texas. I specialize in helping people manage their stress levels and coach them on their lifestyle and nutritional habits. Please visit MelissaWood.com.