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Be a Team Player or, Even Better, Be the Team Leader

Jan Chait

September 7, 2010

When I go to see my endocrinologist, we pull up our seats to the examining table and begin spreading out charts, graphs, lab results, my insulin pump’s basal settings, a list of the drugs I need prescriptions written for — and more — until the table is just about covered.

Then we discuss things. Which is as it should be. I’m not a great fan of being ordered around and I’m definitely not the type of person to blindly accept what the doctor tells me without questioning. Besides, I’m the one responsible for taking care of my Type 2 diabetes and I need to know how to do so.

I greatly dislike it when I’m in the hospital and the health-care folks there want to order me around and act like they know more about my diabetes than I do. In fact, I tend to get downright belligerent at times and that’s not really my personality type: I’m more of a laid-back person.

Thanks to that handy-dandy brochure I’ve been writing about, I can now tell the powers that be: “The Joint Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) says I’m the center of my health-care team. I’d prefer that we discuss things and come to a joint decision.”

Come to think of it, I can give you a link to the brochure, which is part of The Joint Commission’s “Speak Up” program.

Anyway, you can download it, take it with you, point to the proper section and say: “See? It says so. Right here.” Sorry I didn’t give you the link sooner. I have a copy of the brochure itself and didn’t think to look online to see if one was available there. My bad.

So. We’re the center of our team. That means we should participate in decision-making. My podiatrists (yes, plural: my regular one doesn’t do Achilles tendons) are good about giving me options and telling me the pros and cons of each. I may make a decision or I may ask them what they would do. The important thing is that I have input and both of us know what will be done.

As an aside (and I’m only telling you this because the person wasn’t injured), my main podiatrist very carefully goes through everything that can go wrong, but will add that the chances of those happening are “about as low as getting hit by a car.” Right after a patient left the office after getting the “what can go wrong” speech…she was hit by a car in the parking lot.

OK. Back on track. Just one more problem with my foot and I’m going to take another suggestion from the “Speak Up” brochure: I’m going to get another opinion. And my endocrinologist has already suggested somebody. I’m back on antibiotics, my heel hurts like the dickens — again — and I’m tired of this.

Another thing you should consider is joining a support group for whatever procedure you will undergo. Ask the hospital social worker if there is a support group in town that addresses your situation. If you belong to a diabetes support group, either in person or online, you know how helpful it can be to hear from people who have been there, done that and have the T-shirt to wear.

If there is more than one hospital that offers the care you need, ask the doctor which one is best. Of course, the doctor would need to be eligible to practice at wherever you decide to go. My podiatrist gives me a choice of three places, so I can choose which one I prefer. The last time I went to my second choice so his medical students and residents could observe and even participate in the surgery. (They need to learn and, besides, I can be nice when I want to.)

And, totally off the subject, I’ve mentioned my friend Sara Smarty Pants on more than one occasion. She’s had Type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years and has made her first video; a video that focuses on living with Type 1. It was made for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and can be found at here. Watch it if you want.



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