Category Archives: Healthcare

The Doctor Who Renewed My Hope In Doctors

It wasn’t always this way. I used to trust that doctors could, and would, cure me. They knew all the right answers, whether I needed medication, and which medications would fix me. Going to a medical establishment carried the promise of making me feel better within hours or days.

That was before I became ill with a chronic disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis. That was before I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD.

Many believe, like I used to, that visiting a doctor means getting better. But doctors who treat permanent diseases have a tough job: they stare down diagnoses every day that they can’t eradicate. There’s a huge difference between curing a temporary malady and managing a lifelong disease. And to choose to be a doctor who treats patients with incurable diseases takes special courage – or a desire to make a considerable amount of money.

Doctors leave medical school with heads full of practical clinical terms: elevated T-cell count, HLA-B27 positive, elevated bilirubin, polyenthesopathy, erosion of the spine with bone calcification. But, unless they share our diseases, they do not know what it is like to be in our bodies; to feel our forever pain, our fatigue, our fears. They rely on us to paint a picture of what it actually feels like to have a high T-cell count and polyenthesopathy, but many of them forget to ask, and when they do, sometimes they don’t know why they need to know what the patient is actually feeling. If they’re smart, they try to help us manage our pain, fatigue, and fears by prescribing treatments based on what they see in lab, X-ray, and MRI results, with final decisions based on the symptoms we present. Continue reading The Doctor Who Renewed My Hope In Doctors

My Struggle With Three Simple Words

How are you?

Just three words.

Just three words silence my voice but incubate my thoughts.

The responses I want to give get caught in my throat as I open my mouth to speak; I gag wordlessly without any outward signs of panic; I feel a glass wall erect itself to support and contain my stoicism while I suffocate.

The words I want to use expand in my chest like air being pushed into an empty balloon, threatening to leak out of my mouth in a jumble of hot air and exhaustion.

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Usually I manage to push aside the wordlump in my throat so I can still breathe and respond in a socially acceptable way. I say polite things, or I say I’m not ok and try to change the subject.

Or I stand there awkwardly, ashamed and lime-lighted, drowning in my reality until I realize someone is waiting for my next move. Continue reading My Struggle With Three Simple Words

Accessing Welfare Is Easy

Just fill out the forms, submit them, and wait for the phone to ring, right?

Some of you probably know late last year I began the journey to join the throngs of people who subsist off Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Truly, I tell you, it was such an easy thing to recognize and claim I could no longer work.

Not.

I got so excited when I thought about the idea of living on an average of SSDI $1,022.29 per month, or SSI $561.60 per month. Actually, less than that, since “The amount you receive each month will be based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. It is not based on how severe your disability is or how much income you have.

Not. Could you do it?

Why have I spent the last two years using every ounce of energy I have to try to earn a living?  Because the last thing I wanted to do was admit that I was too sick to function like the normal, healthy human being I knew I would always be. Because I was raised to work hard, and remember, there are people out there who have it worse than I do. But I learned those things when the biggest challenge in my life was convincing my soccer coach to let me play the whole match without subbing out. I was the super-involved kid in high school: on the soccer team, track team, in band and drama, and a straight-A student who graduated 10th or 11th in my class. I could do anything and everything and that’s the way the world worked for everyone else too, if they would just approach life with all the vigor and energy I had rattling in my pockets.

That was then. It’s different now. A diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis flipped me over and shook the spare change out of my pockets. Where I used to sleep through North Carolina hurricanes that hurled tree branches and rain pellets onto the roof of my house, I now rarely find REM sleep even in the most relaxed spaces. Fatigue affects my mental and physical functions, sometimes causing me to lose the word I was about to say in the middle of a sentence. My depth perception is off, causing me to hit my head on clothes racks and slam into door frames with my hip.  I now focus on the basic needs to function and survive, which involves a much different skill-set than my original dream of saving the world as a professional soccer player and community garden coordinator. Others my age are focused on getting a promotion at work, losing weight, starting a family, buying a house, and finding a good group of friends to grow old with.   Continue reading Accessing Welfare Is Easy

Why Sick People Neglect Their Healthcare

Have you ever seen the training videos for retail workers about the dangers of repetitive motion injuries? They came to mind the other day after a recent experience switching medications to treat my ankylosing spondylitis.

Managing ankylosing spondylitis – or any chronic disease – is like the momentum of a repetitive motion injury, but worse. Chronic diseases come with a slightly different package. With enough rest and care, a repetitive motion injury can heal and go away, but chronic (read: always there) diseases have no cure.

For example:

To get a new specialty prescription I must call my doctor, health insurance company, drug manufacturing company, and pharmacy multiple times over several days (or weeks) to finally get the medication in hand. Often guesswork determines who to call next because as a patient I don’t know where the process has stalled. It feels a bit ironic for me to be the last to know. I hear things like this on the phone: Continue reading Why Sick People Neglect Their Healthcare