Saturday, July 6, 2013

Treat me like you would anyone else...

I'd like to address a topic that is somewhat intangible and taboo because it's just not always grasped by everyone.  Bedside manner and word choice in how doctors and surgeons present with obese patients.  I find the time surgeons really spend with their patients greatly lacking in depth. The patients they advise to change, to lead a healthier life, that education part falls far too short.  It's embarrassing to hear stories of patients being operated on and being set out to fend for themselves.  No guidance and poor advice or thoughtless direction-- there's really is no excuse in this day and age.

We have WEBCAMS and INTERNET now.  It's not difficult to support your patients as a group anymore.  Every surgeon could spend one hour a month in an online seminar, facilitated on a different topic, each month... Why Not?  I feel like, to me, the tech savvy counselor who, when free for an hour or so, will jump on cam and just talk with my peers, this is a simple gesture that really could go a long way. I just do it because I like to hear people's stories and understand -- because they share a single common factor with me:  the struggle with obesity.

I have heard too many instances of our peers writing of their experiences with primary care doctors who don't recommend surgery because they have not taken the time to educate themselves about the advances in surgical techniques.  It's their responsibility to take part in the follow up care necessary, but they just don't understand a bariatric patient's needs.  Every primary care doctor should understand that obesity is not a condition to blame on their patient.  Blaming an obese person for being obese is not going to send the message that needs to be sent.

The message that needs to be sent is this: "I am your doctor, I care about you. I want you to care about yourself by taking an interest in becoming healthier."  How do you do that?  Well, there are so many prescriptions for healthy, without drugs, without surgery.  If either of those things are used, it should not be shamed, it is just one element in a myriad of factors that can reduce body fat.

It's the head stuff we're so hesitant to talk about, all around.  All around, nobody wants to talk about feelings.  Obesity is a topic that evokes heavy emotion in those of us who have suffered with it.  It hurts our hearts, literally and figuratively. Who hasn't experienced negativity toward them because of their weight?  *No one.* Not even thin people, because they are just as scrutinized, because no one can be happy with what God gave them, they seek perfection constantly.  Just be.  Be happy with what you have and who you are, just for a minute.

Take in the moment in knowing that it is the way you feel about yourself that matters most.  While so many of us want so much to be at a place where we are happy with our bodies, it is how we present who we are today that makes all the difference.  Content with one's self. Right now, BE.  Be happy. Treat others with respect, you will if you show yourself respect too.  Respect that you're working toward BIG GOALS, at small paces.  Tiny, daily steps... it's a hard road, a tough journey, a difficult road that you can never predict accurately, you just have to roll with what is put in your path.

One last thought, when a doctor makes you feel uncomfortable and does not listen to you, speak up for yourself. Tell them when you feel they are being insensitive toward you because you are carrying extra weight.  Call them out on their poor bedside manner. They are taught to question everything, NOT judge you.  Assess and advice, not judge and be insensitive. Hush that voice inside you that tells you negative things like your opinion is not valid, your feelings don't matter. THEY MATTER 100% OF THE TIME.

This is how you advocate for yourself.  It's how you start a movement.  It's how you make the system change.  It's how you develop a model for care that includes the validity of every patient's feelings on their health.  Our healthcare system, surgeons, doctors, nurses, techs, counselors and social workers, ALL need to understand that being insensitive to obese patients is not what they deserve.  They all must be given the opportunity to rethink their philosophies on how to treat obesity as a disease, just as alcohol and drugs are given that status, even more so, this is a much more unique to the individual's genetic and social identity.

Treat me like you would anyone else. Without shame or blame.  With Love. With Compassion. With Care.

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