Before I get into this topic – I want to let you know it has been very difficult to share this experience while still going through the process. Health issues, especially unknown ones can be very scary. Last time I was hospitalized about a year ago, not even my best friend knew that I had been admitted. I usually keep these matters very private in order to allow myself and my family time and space to heal and determine the best course of action without having to answer a bunch of questions that I don’t know the answer to. Previous health issues that I have discussed, I have kept lighthearted and have only really shared when I was in good health.
All of that aside – This article will not talk about my personal diagnosis (mostly because I still don’t have any answers) – instead it will discuss some of the lessons I am learning through this process of health and healing. I hope that you can personally relate to this message in some way and learn as well.
Thank you to everyone who has expressed concerns and has had me in their thoughts this week while I’ve been in the hospital. I was discharged yesterday after a total of 7 days. I’ve been taking in all of your positive energy and am on the road to recovery.
Today our lives are busy. We have a constant stream of input of data and output — social media, articles, videos, statuses, blogs, art, and more. We always have something going on — work, celebrations, events, places we begrudgingly have to “make an appearance”. We keep pushing our limits of our mental capacity and time.
Recently, I have put a lot of pressure on myself – moving to another state, preparing for a long and difficult trip, working, starting this blog, travel, and more. Many of these “responsibilities” were not asked of me, but self inflicted.
I want to do it all. I want to be the absolute best version of myself and in that goal, I forgot something very important — I cannot be the best version of myself if I don’t take care of myself first.
This lesson sometimes comes softly – for example when you realize that you are grateful for your decision to stay in for the night and rest instead of going out and punishing your body with late nights and alcohol. But for me, this lesson was sudden and very powerful — a good hard look at my path if I don’t take time to practice self care and give my body and mind a break every now and then.
After 7, mostly stressful, and exhausting days, I was released from the hospital. Here is what I’ve learned in that week:
Listen to your body
No one knows your body as well as you do. My body was telling me something was wrong and I was not fully listening to it. On Monday, I went to urgent care, knowing they would probably do nothing for me. I knew going in that I was only there to put my mind at ease. At least I did something. Immediately afterwards I ran errands for work instead of resting. I was still in pain, but hoped that it would pass.
The nurse at urgent care didn’t even offer any pain relief – just sent me on my way and told me that if it got worse to go to the emergency room. I listened to him, instead of my body, thinking “It’s not that bad, I’ll be fine, I’m probably overreacting”. I really should have gone directly to the emergency room, had I listened to what my body was telling me — instead I waited for it to scream at me. By that evening, I found myself in fetal position crying in the ER due to the amount of pain I was in. I could have avoided this extreme pain had I just listened to my body in the first place.
The closest hospital is not always your best option.
I cannot stress this enough. I even asked some people what a good hospital was close by. I should have been more specific – I didn’t care how close the hospital was, I wanted the best hospital. As far as I knew, there was no immediate threat to my life and driving an extra 20 minutes would have saved me 3 days of time, pain, and stress.
The first hospital I went to, the first doctor that was assigned to my case did not show up for 12 hours. When he did finally show up, he spent a grand total of 4 minutes with me, introducing himself and explaining that he would be having two specialists come see me. This doctor did not touch me, he did not ask me how or if my pain had progressed, he did not order any more tests to further investigate possible diagnoses.
The two specialists visited me, both stating they wouldn’t be running any tests or doing any surgeries either. The primary physician took another 8 hours to return to “discuss our plan”. He returned after visiting hours were over – around 9:30pm. The nurses had already started me on pain killers, antibiotics and other medicines that were not explained to me, so when he did arrive, I was still in quite a bit of pain, and I was confused and honestly scared from the lack of communication from any of these doctors. When I attempted to express this to the doctor, he left the room in a fit and screamed through the nurses station how I am so crazy.
Clearly, I fired this doctor. But I should have left right then and there. I thought things would get better but they did not. I stayed for three days total at this hospital with further poor treatment from doctors, nurses, and more. All of this because I wanted to go to the “closest” hospital, not the best.
You can switch hospitals, easier than they make you think you can.
You have every right to leave a hospital that you’ve been admitted to at any given time. Do not let anyone think you don’t have a choice. And don’t let the hospital staff talk you into staying somewhere that is not giving you the level of treatment that you deserve.
If you mention transferring to another hospital, they will tell you it will take 3-5 days to make it happen. They will tell you that your insurance won’t cover the second hospital. They will tell you the other hospital won’t admit you.
Do not listen to a single thing they say! Call your insurance and get more information directly from them. It is worth the risk of not being admitted to the next hospital. Assuming they have space available, the second you explain that you just left another hospital against medical advice (or in medical lingo – AMA) due to poor treatment, they will get you through the process of the ER and admission pretty quickly. If you were admitted in the first place, there is little reason for the next place to not also accept you.
Have an advocate
This goes for any doctors appointment, but especially in situations where you are not in the right frame of mind to accept high levels of information. Most of the time in the hospital, you will likely be given drugs that alter your mind for pain or other reasons. During this time, don’t put yourself in a position where you are expected to look out for your own well being.
It is essential to have someone looking out for your best interests — Someone to collect all the information being given to you and help you make good decisions regarding your health. They should look out for things such as:
- What drugs are you receiving and more importantly, WHY? — for example, some hospitals automatically give you blood thinners when you are admitted into the hospital to avoid blood clots from less activity, however this can delay many surgeries or procedures to ensure you won’t bleed out (yikes!). Ensure you are only taking what is absolutely necessary for your specific situation and always confirm new medicine with the doctor in charge of your case.
- Are you allergic to anything (medicine OR food)? — I had to remind the nutritionists many times of dietary restrictions. Luckily my restrictions are food sensitivities and not allergies, but there were a few times that I was served items that had gluten or dairy when I asked them to avoid these foods. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your food or new medicines. Brownie points for your friends or advocates bringing you food from outside the hospital — just make sure they know what you can and cannot consume according to the doctors orders!
- What goals are being set for diagnosis, procedures, surgeries, milestones of healing, and release from care? Make sure there is forward progress being made. Don’t let doctors or nurses rely on pain killers and games of Russian roulette of drugs that may or may not be helping you. Even setting and accomplishing goals that would seem simple in good health can help with your moral and forward movement to recovery. Make sure the doctors are clearly communicating and executing a plan with you and your advocate to work towards diagnosis and eventually healing.
Be good to yourself.
I’m wishing each and every one of you good health. Be sure to listen to your body and give it the proper rest it needs before you get sick, do research ahead of time to decide which hospital(s) would be best for you, and ensure you have someone you trust to be your advocate and ensure you’re getting proper treatment. Good health is something we all take for granted, until we don’t have it anymore. Above all, be good to yourself.
What are some things you have learned from your experiences with health care? What tips would you give to someone going through the process of healing?