Always Have an Advocate

When I signed in at the pain center to have a steroid injection for my chronic back pain, the receptionist seemed flustered, because nobody told her in advance that I was blind. To her credit, she recovered quickly and was friendly and efficient. Knowing that these injections are done in an operating room type setting, I asked to make sure Dora would be allowed to go in with me. She checked with the nurse, and Dora was cleared. While I was back in the prep room, getting my vitals taken and signing more papers, the receptionist told my friend Dan, who was waiting for me in the reception area, that I might have to wait until everybody else had had their procedures done that afternoon, because they would have to completely scrub down the operating room after the dog was in there. Dan, who is very conscientious about respecting my right to make my own decisions, offered to keep Dora with him in the waiting room, but that they should ask me what I wanted to do. When they did ask me, I said if it were a choice of Dora’s waiting with Dan or my waiting all afternoon, certainly, Dora could go out and wait with Dan. In the end, the doctor said it was fine for Dora to be in with me. It just bothered me that if Dan hadn’t been there, they might have just let me sit there in the prep room, possibly for hours, without telling me that it was because of the dog. This episode, which turned out to be a non episode after all, is just one example of how important it is to have an advocate with you, whenever you are placed in a vulnerable position in a medical setting. I am so grateful that I did not have to take a cab to this appointment and that Dan was there to guide me to the right office, which was in a huge medical facility and to be there for me. Sometimes, if we don’t happen to have a good friend like Dan to take us to these appointments, we bite the bullet and go on our own, but even if I have to pay someone, I’ll always have a “patient advocate” with me. You never know when a flustered worker will stir up unnecessary concern.

I was pleased that not one person treated me like a child or that I couldn’t think for myself. Dora charmed everybody, including the doctor and nurses in the procedure room. She lay peacefully on the floor, throughout the procedure, until she sensed that I was in considerable pain, which I was, during the actual injection of the steroid. The doctor warned me that I would feel some pressure. Pressure my eye. It was pain, but I’d been through this before, so I knew that it eventually would all be good. During those brief times when there was considerable pain, Dora got up to check on me, but she wasn’t in the way, and everybody thought it was sweet. The doctor said that it might take 24—48 hours for the effect to kick in, but at the risk of jinxing it, I have to say that already I feel better.

A few minutes ago, one of the nurses called to check to see how I was doing. She asked if I was pleased with my treatment. What a golden opportunity to tell her what I just told you. I hope she and her staff learn from this experience. Every experience is a learning opportunity.

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