Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Never lie to your doctor

I've learned a few things over the past few years from dealing with my COPD. One is if you go to a doctor for help, take his advice; you are partners in your care. The other is not to lie to him.

I tried fairly successfuly for several years hiding symptoms and telling everyone that I was "okay". I was pretty good at walking for a little bit and then stopping, pretending I was looking at something so that you wouldn't know it was because I just couldn't breathe. At work and with my family I would hide that it was so hard to do even the simplest things. I was always tired and getting through a day was tough to do.

I took on more and more responsibility at work but was exhausted by noon. I dragged all the time but didn't want anyone to know. Denial? Yes. Need for control? Yes. I just didn't want to be a "lunger". That's what we called them years ago, maybe still do.

I would go to my PCP and get the scripts I needed to help me breathe, but I always told him that they helped and I was doing fine. I didn't tell him about the fatigue and air hunger. He didn't have a clue and that was my fault.

I was also seeing a pulmonologist but it was hard to get anything past him. He sent me to pulmonary rehab a few years ago after many refusals on my part. I cancelled appointments with him constantly and avoided him because I didn't want too many doses of the truth.

Three years ago I was hospitalized with respiratory failure. I wasn't doing well and the pulmonologist wanted to intubate me. My PCP didn't think I was bad enough to be intubated but the pulmo did it anyway. I was on a vent for a week and it looked pretty grim for me for a while. I was also the dreaded nurse-patient who was horrible to deal with. Although I'm sure it was the medication, I pulled the tube out twice and as soon as I was off the vent, I wanted to go home and I was the one who complained bitterly to anyone who would listen that it was too noisy at night. But somehow I got through it and got better.

A year and a half ago, my pulmo wanted me on oxygen. I was still working and thought he was nuts and refused to "give in". But six months later I went to him in tears, no longer able to keep up the sham that was my life. I gratefully accepted the oxygen that has made my life easier. I do what he says now. He's my partner.

My PCP apologized every time I saw him for a year for not recognizing how bad I was before I went on the vent. But truly he had no idea how much I had declined because I didn't TELL him.

A friend used to have as her signature: "It may be that my life is to serve as a warning to others". I learned the hard way. Thank goodness I didn't die trying to prove how strong I was.


Kasey said...

Wooooooo, girl, you are singing to the choir. I have done the same thing, Eileen. And you are so very right. We just cheated ourselves. But others can learn from our mistakes and we can do better now that we've wised up.
Sweet blessings, Eileen!

Mother Jones RN said...

I write down a list of I want to tell my doctor. My memory is failing me in my old age. I tell him everything.