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What Would You Do If Your Doctor Doesn’t Listen?

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Today, I’m going to share with you, probably the most important information I’ve ever shared with my patients, family, friends and associates.  It is crucial, even life saving information.  What would you do if you knew something was very wrong with your body, but your doctor ignores or dismisses your concerns?

When it comes to your health, whose opinion do you value most? One of the most important things I’ve shared with my patients is that you know your body better than anyone else.

Let me be clear-your physician’s opinion is critical and very much needed.  What I’m talking about is when you know something is wrong—even terribly wrong, and your requests for help and evaluation of your concerns are ignored, and or scoffed.

It can mean the difference between life and death.  I want to share with you the tale of two childhood friends.  When she was in her mid thirties Pam gave birth to her second child, a beautiful little girl she named Jessica.

Shortly after Pam and Jessica were at home, Pam began to experience pain on her right lower abdomen.  After notifying her doctor, her husband took her back to the hospital’s delivery room.  After a thorough exam, Pam was reassured, that she was experiencing post-partum (after birth) pain. She didn’t want to take any medications since she was breast feeding her baby, so she decided to grin and bear it, until the pain resolved.

It didn’t.  It worsened, so the next day her husband took her back to the hospital ER, and again the same diagnosis was made, as it was on the third day.

By the fourth day, Pam was very ill.  She woke up with a fever, and the pain was excruciating.  While getting dressed to go to the hospital, one more time, Pam collapsed, and fell into a coma.  When she arrived at the hospital, Pam was dying.  She had overwhelming sepsis, an infection of her bloodstream, due to a ruptured appendix.  She was misdiagnosed three times, because the doctors assumed she was simply hypersensitive to post-partum pain, and did not thoroughly evaluate her and properly diagnose her appendicitis. Within an hour, Pam was dead.

The failure to listen to Pam, the disregard of the severity of her symptoms, robbed her of her life, her children of their mother, and her husband, of his wife.

How avoidably tragic was her death.

About 10 years later, her childhood friend, Rachel began experiencing severe abdominal pain, almost in the same location as Pam’s.  The emergency room doctor, told her she was experiencing a non-threatening abdominal pain, probably from something she ate. and sent her home with a prescription for pain relievers.  Rachel’s pain continued.  She returned, same diagnosis and was sent home, yet again. By the third day, with no relief, she returned.  The doctors told her the same thing, but this time she insisted on seeing a surgeon.  The surgeon didn’t think much of her symptoms, but Rachel simply refused to leave the hospital.  She demanded that she be admitted.

The doctor relented and reluctantly admitted her.  The next day a surgeon evaluated her and correctly diagnosed her condition-she had intestinal obstruction, a blockage in her colon that would’ve been fatal had she not been hospitalized, as her colon could’ve ruptured, and like Pam, caused sepsis, Rachel was obstructed, and she was rushed to surgery, to relieve her life threatening obstruction.

While recovering from her life-saving surgery, Rachel said, “Pam saved my life.  I knew something was wrong with my body. I remembered what happened to her, how the doctors didn’t listen, and I was determined not to let that happen to me.”

So Rachel went home to her husband and two daughters.

I wish somewhere had been there to advocate for Rachel.  She was a childhood friend of mine as well, and that’s why I know about her unfortunate death.

What to do if:

You’re in the Hospital

  1. Ask your doctor if she/he understands how severe your symptoms are and how concerned you are that there’s something very serious going on in your body.
  2. Ask if there are diagnostic tests that can be conducted?
  3. Ask for a second opinion
  4. Ask for a patient advocate ask a family member to be your advocate and ask for the hospital’s patient advocate; do patient advocate research online
  5. Don’t give up-remain steadfast and insist that you be heard—tell your nurse, and family members
  6. Contact the medical director and hospital administrator
  7. Contact your insurance company
  8. Consider requesting a transfer to another hospital
  9. Don’t take no for an answer Be as proactive as you can-it’s your life, and your persistence may save it.

At Your Doctor’s office:

  1. Ask for If the doctor refuses (get a new physician immediately)
  2. Ask your doctor if she/he understands how severe your symptoms are and how concerned you are that there’s something very serious going on in your body.
  3. Ask if there are diagnostic tests that can be conducted?
  4. Ask for a second opinion
  5. Ask for a patient advocate ask a family member to be your advocate and ask for the hospital’s patient advocate; do patient advocate research online
  6. Don’t give up-remain steadfast and insist that you be heard—tell your nurse, and family members
  7. Contact the medical director and hospital administrator
  8. Contact your insurance company
  9. Consider requesting a transfer to another hospital
  10. Don’t take no for an answer Be as proactive as you can-it’s your life, and your persistence may save it.

Patient advocate resources:

https://advoconnection.com/advocacy-services/

http://www.patientadvocate.org/

Next week:  The story of a young man who refused to leave his doctor’s office and how his refusal saved his life.

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