Bob’s Story (As Told by His Wife of 35 Years)

Posted on January 21, 2014

“After my husband was released from the hospital he started to breathe very loudly.  We went to the hospital to see why.  They explained that during the time that he was intubated in surgery it left scars on his trachea. They wanted to operate and remove the scaring.  The operation was to only take about 30 minutes and that he would be fine.   After waiting about 2 hours the doctors finally came out and explained to that it didn’t work and they had to perform a tracheal {tracheotomy} to help with his breathing.  They told us it would only be there for a short time.  After several times of trying to close it they said they couldn’t do anything else to help him.  That’s when I started getting extremely frustrated.  I felt helpless and there was NO ONE who cared.”

This is a heart-breaking story that unfortunately occurs all too often. Thinking that doctors put the patients’ needs first- is a major mistake made by patients according to Trisha Torrey’s book, “The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes.”

Medical practices have changed dramatically over the past two decades.  As a result, many physicians are overburdened, overbooked and saddled with administrative and insurance company regulations and demands. Doctors are struggling to maintain their own survival in a challenging and changing health care system.  Thus, you, the patient, must be your own best advocate.  You need to take charge and insure that your problems are heard, your values are respected and your health care needs are met. In today’s health care environment, it is necessary that patients are active and informed partners with their doctors in making health care decisions.

Here are some ways to do that:

1)   First find a doctor that will listen to you. A doctor, who respects you, spends time with you and answers your questions clearly.

2)   Question every recommendation that the doctor gives.  You must understand the reasons for the medical recommendations and how they will be of benefit to you.

3)   Don’t hesitate to ask that the medical explanation be in understandable layman’s terms. Inquire about alternative options. Ask what are the risks and benefits of each treatment recommendation. Bring along a tape recorder and ask your doctor’s permission to use it to record the treatment review.

4)   Trust your instincts.  If you feel that the doctor’s recommendations are not right for you, pay attention to that feeling.  Get a second opinion; a third or fourth if you’re still not satisfied.

5)   Educate yourself about your illness and treatment options. An informed patient is an empowered patient.  Speak to trusted nurses, doctors.  If needed, find an independent health advocate or geriatric care manager for consultation and guidance. Search the web for reputable sites (e.g., American Diabetic Association (ADA), National Cancer Institute (NCI), Alzheimer’s Association, etc.) to gather medical information.

6)   Finally, never give away your rights to ask questions, to understand treatments and to make informed decisions that are right for you.

Bob’s story can help us prepare for our own medical crises and anticipate the problems we may face in today’s impersonal and chaotic health care system.