Monday, August 25, 2008

If only House was real

I've been watching a lot of DVDs lately. My physio therapist is now talking of my recovery in terms of months instead of weeks like I had planed. I have to do something to keep me occupied until I can knit again, so I've been re-watching some of my favorite TV shows; most notably, House md.

I love House. Hugh Laurie is a dream. I've always been a fan what with being raised on Black Adder and such. There is something about him on House; perhaps the gruff accent or the desperate need of a shave, that makes him go from oh so adorable to rather sexy. The writing for the show is witty, the music perfect, and the plots involving. If you ignore all that medical stuff, it really is my kind of show.

Recently, for me, all that medical stuff has more significance. I envy the speed and the efficiency that they work. The simple fact that the doctors look at the patient's entire life and diagnose based on a holistic picture of what's going on. An average physician spend 8 minutes visiting with a patient in these parts, but in the show, you have four to six doctors working on one person, running tests, brainstormimg. The patient is cured (or dead) in under a week their time - an hour our time. It's fast and its decisive patient care. It's not like my life where tests take two months to come in and then are inconclusive.

I'm frustrated with my health and I'm frustrated with the health system. I'm certain this isn't new to you - the tone of my blog has fallen in the last few weeks. The simple fact that no one can tell what's wrong with me makes me want to cry.

Not knitting also leads to a lot more reading. Since books are out of the question (sensitivity to paper and ink), I've been reading what I can online. One of the subjects I keep coming back to is my health. That, and other peoples' health. There are a lot of people out there with undiagnosed or undiagnosable chronic illnesses. These illnesses, like my own, have devowered peoples lives and livelihood. They have destroyed families, friendships, and savings accounts. Like myself, many of these people have been told it's psychosomatic. From the small sampling I have read, woman are significantly more likely to be given a psyc diagnosis and denied tests that would have shown an actual physical illness. Many of these people are intelligent and determined. They know when they are given a raw deal and they keep on looking until they can find a medical professional who will listen to them and actually do something to help them. The tests later reveal that they did in fact have cancer or Lyme or some other serious chronic condition.

Over and over again, the lesson that is learnt is that one has to participate in ones own health care. In Canada, we don't have the commercial model of health care - we are not hiring a physician to fix us like we would a mechanic to repair our car. This is wonderful in the sense that no-one can be denied medical attention: it is considered a basic right and all people are supposidly given equal access to medicine. It's also not a partnership, there is no way we are going to know enough to be equal partners in our own good health unless we too attend medical school. But we do need to participate. It's our actions or inaction that are going to effect our health the most. What we do at home. What we eat, which medicines we decide to take, and what procidures we consent to. The doctor's responsibility is to help us make informed decisions (I could go on for hours about standard of informed consent - but not today). Unfortunately, because of the difference in training and knowledge between patient and physician, many doctors take a paternalistic approach to health care: they know best because they are doctors, why should they waist their time and your by listening to you? It is this approach that seems to do the most damage. So many physicians just don't listen.

When a person isn't listened too, they tend to seek treatment elsewhere. Snake oil salesmen are very popular these days; albeit, in the form of cure-all nutritional supplements (some of which are helpful - most of which are just over processed soy). Naturopaths are useful because they look at the whole picture and, if they are any good, they will mix allopathic diagnostic techniques and medicines with lifestyle change and natural foods. Others just hop from specialist to specialist placing more weight on an already burdaned system. It wouldn't need to happen if their GP had taken a few extra minuites to listen to them. There are a lot of desperate people out there looking for someone to help them. And, there are a lot of other people taking advantage of it.

Even one of my relatives has offered to send me to this medical guru who claims he will cure me with injections of vitamin C. I'm not that desperate yet, though I do plan to drink more fresh orange juce.


I take comfort reading other peoples' stories. Many of which have been diagnosed, cured, treated, or learnt to live with their illness. There is hope there. My darkest hours, when I despair and wallow in self pity, are no darker than theirs. They made it through. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a solution that will help me.

Many people feel changed or enlightened by their experience. Every day is precious or some such. I don't exactly share that sentiment, though perhaps one day I will. It has shown me what I value most. But I don't feel all altruistic about it just yet. I don't feel thankful for my illness.

I also don't feel angry. Yes, I am frustrated almost to the point of depression, but it seems to be common for people in my position to feel angry about the medical establishment. The time it takes for the tests, the expenses, the waiting, the not knowing, and the not being listened too. All these things seem to make people very bitter and angry. Perhaps it is because anger was never an acceptable emotion when I was growing up. Well, not acceptable for me at any rate. Or, maybe it is because I understand some of the structure of health care here: how we have so many people needing help and so few resources to provide it. Maybe it is the wonderful support from my friends and family that help me get through the day. I don't know why I am not bitter and angry about these trials and tribulations.

What I feel most is the desire to take action. I want to be able to do something more for my health. I've changed everything in my home and diet, even bought machines that will aid me in my every-day activities so that I can do some of the things I use to do, like my laundry or the dishes. But still, it doesn't feel like enough. Maybe I could contact Willy Wonka and use his TV machine and transport me into an episode of House. I'm certain it wouldn't take ten minutes for House to diagnose me. But, as I'm stuck here in real life; all I can do is wait and keep pestering the physicians in hopes of finding some answers.

1 comment:

Josiane said...

You truly are an amazing person! The fact that you could end this post on such a positive note, saying that what you feel most is the desire to take action, is quite impressive. I hope your wish to find out what more you can do for your health will soon be granted to you.