Thursday, October 30, 2008

A "Difficult" Patient

At times, Gene (my husband) has accused me of being "difficult." Well, I guess I can be. In my defense, it's not that I'm high maintenance. But I'm willing to share a contrary opinion, second-guess other people and try to fix things if they are broken. My husband likes to play by the rules; I think rules are a starting point. (As the saying goes, opposites attract.)

So you might have deducted that I'm not always an ideal patient. Gene says so - such as the three times I pulled out my nasal tube when I was in ICU (I don't remember doing this but it must have been pretty uncomfortable and, well, good for me). Or the times, also in ICU, when I tried to loosen or remove my hand restraints by biting them (I actually remember doing this and I have scars to prove it).

Today I discovered that I'm probably not the worst patient on the planet. (Hmmm - worst doesn't seem quite right - perhaps assertive or noncompliant are better terms.) Anyhoo, actor Evan Handler, who played Charlotte's second husband, Harry Goldenblatt, on Sex and the City, is a staunchly assertive patient who refined his expertise while being treated for leukemia in the 1980s. Handler has written two books about his experiences. If my husband thought I was difficult, he should read "Being a Bad Patient Can Save Your Life," Handler's interview with CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

The medical profession is comprised of people who, like all human beings, sometimes make mistakes. Like Handler, I experienced some obvious errors while in the hospital - and assertive action was imperative. If you're uncertain or uncomfortable, it's up to you or your advocate to ask questions, disagree, change doctors, insist on getting the information you need.

Think of it this way: By being a strong self-advocate now, you'll be prepared to be a strong self-advocate in three months from now when you start battling with your insurance company. And boy, will you need some good skills then!

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