Saturday, December 6, 2014

3 Ways to Be Your Own Health Advocate

My lovely temporary soft cast
On Thursday I had surgery on my left foot and ankle. The short story is I'm getting a recently developed flat foot and it's resulting problems corrected. But, this is a blog, and blogs aren't about the short story.In July of last year I started to notice my left ankle ached, mostly at night when I was trying to fall asleep. There was never a moment where I noticeably rolled or twisted it, but my younger years as a volleyball player prepared me well for the identification of a sprained ankle. This started me down the journey that led to today. Between this and long-term shoulder problems, I feel like I've learned a lot about how to self-advocate with health care professionals.

After nearly seven years with chronic shoulder pain and dealing with this foot/ankle stuff, I've come to learn that the best person to trust with your health is yourself. Today's medicine seems to be moving in that direction, which is great. Make your health care a conversation, and work with your medical professionals to find the best solutions for you and your body. 

1. Listen to your gut (or your foot)After several months of my own attempts at healing my ankle to no avail, I mentioned it to my prime care doctor during a regular checkup. She did a quick examine and agreed with my self diagnosis of a sprain and off to physical therapy I went. The problem was, after weeks of PT, there was zero change. My ankle was strong, surprisingly. I could handle the usual sprained ankle exercises with no problems, but it still hurt. I talked with the PT, and we decided to stop the PT and explore our options. 

2. Don't work with someone who doesn't include you in your own care The first orthopedic surgeon I saw was not a doctor I wanted to work with. I felt rushed in the appointments, he didn't explain anything in depth, and after our initial imaging results went straight to surgical correction. Needless to say I did not return to him. Do not be afraid to trust yourself with your health. If you don't feel comfortable with a doctor, or if they dictate at you without including you in the conversation, find somebody else. You are your own best advocate. 

3. Don't be afraid to ask for optionsWhen I finally found the right doctor, one of the reasons I knew that was the case was because of his desire to include me in the conversation. At one point we were less than two weeks away from our wedding, so I asked about doing a cortisone injection into the ankle joint. He agreed, we did it right there quick in his office, and it worked great. I honestly was so stressed with the wedding that I didn't even realize until we were on our honeymoon walking all over Qu├ębec that I realized how effective it was. Unfortunately, those injections aren't sustainable and a more long term solution needed to be developed. Based on our conversations, we worked our way through different levels of orthotic inserts and basic pt before deciding that this surgery was our best option.

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