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How I Became a Health care Consumer and not Just a Patient - Part 4

When I go to the doctor's office, hospital or clinic, I don't think of myself as a "patient" in the traditional sense of the word anymore. I don't think of medical professionals as omnipotent beings oozing with right judgment and wisdom with my best interest in the forefront either. But it took a while to get here - decades in fact. Over the next few posts, I'm going to explore how I got to this point in my life for myself and my family.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Mama circa 1950?

My Mom was a DES mother.

We found out about this as she was reminiscing informally about her pregnancies and the care she received as a young wife and mother back in the early 1960s. And, we were horrified.

Rightly so. 

My own medical experiences aren't as dramatic as my mom's but they still affected me profoundly.

After high school I enrolled in a Medical Assistant program and got a job as an x-ray clerk in a local hospital. Most of the people I worked with were wonderful and I have fond memories of that time.
Aside from a doctor telling my supervisor that I had used profanity (I was 19 at the time and too afraid to speak out on the job let alone swear!) and another doctor making a pass at me during my medical assistant internship, I hadn't had any personal bad medical experiences at the hands of medical personnel.

And then I had my first birth experience which I also consider a sexual assault. 


When my first son was born, an OB at the hospital came in and announced that he was going to break my water. There was no discussion following that even resembling informed consent! He put his hand inside of me to break my water and when he complained that I was "breaking his wrist" the two students, or residents (I'm not even really sure who they were) both forcibly grabbed and opened my legs, so that he could force his hand further inside of me. My husband watched in horror. I felt humiliated and was in a lot of pain. I later felt that what I experienced must be very close to what it would be like to be raped. 



But that experience made me start questioning everything.

 I tried to put it behind me. I healed from the surgery, I had a healthy baby, and I never wanted to give birth again. Problem solved. By chance I found the book A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, in the grocery store of all places! I started reading about the interventions and and things that happened to me and realized that it hadn't been all good or even all necessary!  My life and my perspective changed by the time I finished the pages.  


I no longer trusted blindly and followed unquestionably. I researched circumcision, immunizations, breastfeeding - basically everything about having a baby and raising a child. I read both sides and followed my own instincts, which were usually right.


A few years ago this paid off for me. In 2013, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I blogged about that here. 


Last fall things were going pretty normally for me health wise until I developed an unexpected infection that required a course of two antibiotics.  I carefully read both of the drug inserts when I got home and read that one of the antibiotics cautioned that it could cause rectal bleeding and if that occurred, I should contact the hospital immediately.

Well, I'm glad I read the insert because the next day, I did experience a lot of bleeding - the kind of bleeding you never want to see when you go to the bathroom. When the bleeding wouldn't go away on its own, and because I was over 50, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy. That's how I found out that I had ulcerative colitis. That's also how my journey to better self-care started.

In followup after the colonoscopy, my new GI doctor prescribed steroidal enemas, and another drug, Asacol, to keep the condition under control. When I asked him if there was something I could do to my diet to help heal, he said there was nothing I could do. 

And that just didn't ring true to me.  How could it be that food wouldn't affect the digestive system in either a good or bad way?  So I took my prescriptions and filled the enemas, but held off on the other one because it was over $400.  Instead I took to the internet and the library for answers.

UC granularity.png What I learned easily on my own made a lot of sense.  I learned that most of our immune system is in the digestive system where our good bacteria and bad bacterial live in perfect balance.  Antibiotics to kill of bad bacteria certainly affect the good bacteria as well, and as that good bacteria helps to keep the lining of our colons protected, it makes sense that killing that off would cause problems like bleeding!  When I asked my doctor about that he said he had never heard that before, but in several ulcerative colitis forums I read the stories of ulcerative colitis patients who started to have bleedingAFTER taking antibiotics.  How could it not have an effect?


I have been gluten free now for four years. And while I may cheat and have an occasional nibble here or there, bread is no longer a staple in my diet. I have greatly reduced my sugar intake. But most importantly, I remain prescription drug-free and symptom-free as well.


I share all of this with the hope that my kids will read this one day when they have to make their own medical decisions. It's great to live in an age when we have so many technological advantages. But you only get one body and you have to live with the medical choices you make, and sometimes there is no turning back.

I'm not anti-medicine, anti-vaccine, anti-hospital birth, or anti-surgery. I think all of those things can be important tools in healthcare. What I am is pro-informed consent. And luckily one of the other benefits of living in a technological age is the ease of looking at a treatment plan or medication and learning as much as possible about that choice.

We will all die one day. I will die one day. I accept that. But my goal is to live out the rest of my days in the best possible state of health as naturally as possible with a dependence on God as the greatest healer, and seeking wise medical help when necessary.

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