Sunday, June 28, 2009

What Would You Like to Say to Future Physicians?

The blog Edwin Leap, is hosting Grand Rounds and had asked for submissions on the topic - "What would you like to say to future physicians?"

Here's what I would like all doctors to have engraved on their frontal lobes.

ILLNESS IS ABOUT NOT JUST THE PATIENT. IT'S ABOUT THE COUPLE.

When you're in a relationship and serious illness hits one partner, both lives are dislocated. Illness becomes the uninvited third party in the relationship. The changes are profound ones. Two people are suffering.

Doctors should understand that in treating the ill partner, they are also affecting the well partner. If they do this with consciousness and clarity, both partners stand a better chance of surmounting the challenges of illness.

As I was searching for help with a chronic pain condition, I once had a chance to read my medical record for a series of visits with a specialist. He wrote, "Patient appears to be nervous - she brings her husband to every appointment" -- as if nervousness and including my partner were somehow aberrant behaviors.

My partner was my driver (I was in too much pain to get behind the wheel), my memory (I didn't trust my own memory to hold onto the doctor's words), and my main support. And not only that, but he wanted to be there. He felt as much inside my experience as I did.

And he suffered -- fear, helplessness, frustration anger, loneliness, disappointment, and more fear.

Doctors should not only invite the patient to bring his/her partner into the consultation room, doctors should take a few moments to turn to the partner with interest and compassion and ask, "So how are you doing?"

That simple question can not only help the partner feel validated, but it may also help him/her find the strength to go on. And if the partner can go on, chances are, so can the patient.

ILLNESS IS ABOUT NOT JUST THE PATIENT. IT'S ABOUT THE COUPLE.

6 comments:

Jeannette said...

Firstly, Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog and comment. I really appreciate it. I was already a follower of your blog for a while now.:>)

I think it is awesome that you focus on both partner's needs. This latest post is great-and so very true. Watching me suffer has been hell on earth for my husband. (By the way, he also comes to all of my appointments etc.) and I agree that the doctors should include them. He gets very upset when I can not get my pain under control.

I wish it would all go away-but the reality is-it isn't and we just need to find alternative methods for coping. Thanks again for the comment and the great post.

Take care,
Jeannette

Kelli said...

What a wonderful post and great advice to physicians. It sure can be enlightening to read our medical records sometimes.
Have a nice weekend.

wellspouse said...

Thank you, Barbara. I just went through a session with my present wife in hospital for a hip replacement, and as a veteran of this with my first wife, I know I wasn't shy in speaking up when I felt it was necessary.

But I know exactly what you're talking about: some health care professionals totally ignore the spouse, possibly not even imagining that the patient is going to be depending on their spouse when they go home. Or else, they only pay attention to the spouse when they want to train them to learn how to do a medical procedure for their partner.

It's not even that I would like to be acknowledged at times, for my efforts -- more than that, it's that the common humanity in all of us needs to be recognized.

Kerry said...

Great post Barbara. My hubby drives me to my appts. and helps me with memory as well. Wonder if I too have a "appears nervous because she always brings her husband" note on a chart or two.

So important what you are saying Barbara, about how our chronic illness has a profound effect on our spouses (and children too) and the need for awareness and support systems built into the medical community.

Tzipporah said...

So glad I found your blog. Thank you.

(Well spouse of husband with fibromyalgia, depressive bipolar disorder, and a weird metabolism, raising a 3 year old and working full time. Yay.)

Tim Reed said...

This is so true. There's this connection or bond between couples, that if one is derailed, there's a good chances that every effort crumbles down.

I think today's physicians already understand how important it is to include the well partner in the conversation. He/she is as nervous as the patient, and would need all the comfort and understanding as well.

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