Sunday, 15 January 2012

Is your consultant sitting pretty on their pedestal?

I have found that extracting information from consultants is equivilent to having a tooth pulled; both painful and frustrating.

I have a fairly good relationship with my rheumotologist who, for a doctor in the area where I live, speaks excellent English. We talk in English with me translating into French things he is not sure about and the consultation ends up in a lesson. He will ask what things are in English and me asking what things are in French and we take notes!

However, this relationship is marred by the fact I have to ask him if a symptom is connected to rheumatoid or osteo arthritis (I have both and fibromyalgia too.) He often says 'Oh yes.' or annoyingly, 'most probably!'

I am a member of various groups or forums and it there that many of my questions are answered. It is quite upsetting to read the problems faced by so many sufferers of RA. It is a despicable disease that has so many side effects that are often unwisely ignored by sufferers.

I had great difficulty eating, talking and yawning. Eventually I googled the symptoms and of course it was the RA. I spoke to my rheumotologist and he agreed. The same with my neck. I had a very worrying time where I was dizzy even lying down. I went with my husband to the pharmacy to collect his prescription and I fell over. The pharmacist said immediately it was the RA. I had a dizzy spell at the rheumatologist's office when I accompanied my husband and I told him what the pharmacist had said but he wasn't convinced.

He was convinced when I was admitted to hospital with a herniated cervical disc and he treated me for it. That was last October. We had believed it was better but it has herniated again and I have two weeks of wearing the cervical collar, taking higher doses of steroids and painkillers and not moving my neck any more than is necessary. If he had acted a year ago perhaps I might not be in this painful position.

Do we see our consultants as infallible? Are they put on too high a pedestal? Should we ensure we are better informed?

We should see the consultants as fallible, they are after all only human and have choices to make as many of us do. The only difference is they are making choices connected to peoples' lives. The choice they make is the difference in pain or no pain. The difference in mobility or non mobility. The difference is earning a living or not.

They have set themselves up to be revered. As the experts. And people do believe the word of the consultant is final. In doing so they are setting themselves up for a fall; literally. They have to understand that having the title of Doctor doesn't mean mistakes can't be made. Unfortunately, many people who rely totally on the word and actions of the consultant are in the older catagory, those who perhaps don't have access to the internet, or access to the experiences of others who are experiencing similar symptoms or problems. This, when they could be pro active and asking for better treatment.

Becoming better informed means accessing as much material as possible. The internet holds a wealth of information but must be viewed with scepticism. There are many sites that give advice and information with varying degrees of acuracy. There are some advocating treatments that can cure rheumatoid arthritis. As anyone who has RA will tell you, it is possible to go into remission but there is no cure. I, for one, was told that I would have RA for life. Groups or forums give sufferers the opportunity to discuss treatments and symptoms, it also allows sufferers to give support and advice.

Books are also a good source of information. There are books that explain rheumatoid arthritis as to what it is and the medication that is used to treat it. Others are self help books and these I think are much like the websites available. They advocate treatments, diets, supplements and exercises. There are foods that can help as does exercise. Supplements are useful if prescribed by a doctor, I take a calcium supplement as I have a lactose intolerance, my rheumotologist insists I take this supplement daily. There are other supplements a consultant will prescribe such as glucosamine for osteo arthritis, but other supplements can be dubious and it is always advisable to discuss a supplement with your consultant or doctor be taking it in case there is a reaction with any prescsribed medication.

Self help groups bring together people who are affected by the same illness or disease. It is helpful to be able to discuss symptoms and discuss treatment. Knowing that you are not alone is reassuring. A disease like rheumatoid arthritis is disabling and many sufferers feel cut off from society through that disability. Even leaving the house can be difficult and it is a comfort if there is someone to take you to a group once a week or once a month. Some groups supply councelling services, hairdressers, lunches and offer outings.

However you access it make sure you are pro active and find out as much as possible about your disease. In some way it may save you some level of pain and stress.

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