One of my patients came in recently after dental surgery and reported everything had gone very well. She was incredibly mindful of the entire experience and talked with the dentist office before hand about exactly what she would need in the treatment room and during the operation. She had everything planned out right down to the play-dough that she brought to keep her hands busy during the surgery. I was very impressed by her planning and self-advocacy given my own personal history with a terrible dental surgery experience.
Three or four years ago I had an emergency root canal and almost passed out in the endodontist’s office because the Novocain made my blood sugar plummet and I turned into mush in the dental chair unable to hold up my arms or support my head. The care providers were appalled and yelled at me for not announcing that I have fast metabolism and low blood sugar. I had never had that much Novocain and didn’t know I would react like that. Now before dental surgeries I eat the biggest meal I can handle and warn the dentist. I carry food with me in case it happens again. I advocate for myself.
So many of my patients complain about side effects of medications, appointments with specialists booked months out in the future with doctor’s who don’t honor their wishes in the first place. There is no shortage of bad health care in this country. We know that. But we each are the only health care provider who knows all the specifics of our condition. It is our job to be the expert in the room and keep the specialists updated and informed. The specialist in the room may know more about your foot condition or your digestive issue, but they only know that if you have fully explained your condition and what they are saying resonates with you.
Know Your History
When I give a personal health history to a new provider I always list the diagnoses I have been given and clarify which ones I believe are right and which ones were a joke. Advocacy stems from understanding your ideal health, your daily health and changes that occur that are different than you would expect. So that when a health care provider gives you a diagnosis that doesn’t make any sense to you, there is no unnecessary worrying.
Know Your Body
As an acupuncturist I train people how to judge their own health. Nausea, loose stools, headaches, sleeplessness might all seem harmless but suggest a level of temporary disease or un-health in the body. I also train people how to understand stressors on the body. Someone’s PMS gets worse when they are stressed or someone’s thumb arthritis is worse with the cold. Knowing what triggers pain or discomfort is very empowering to someone who couldn’t figure out a pattern on his or her own.
Advocating for yourself in the treatment room is one thing and teaches you all sorts of lessons about being an advocate for yourself when you travel, when you are visiting family, in stressful life circumstances and so on and so forth.
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