Be Healthy, Be Prepared

I previously shared my personal story regarding my diagnosis with Sickle Cell. With that in mind, I thought I would discuss the things I learned from that experience. What can we do to take control of our health to live our best lives and be prepared for any emergency situation? Clearly, there is nothing I could have done to avoid having Sickle Cell Disease, but there are things that I realize I didn’t do that would have given me more control over my health and the care I was receiving. Looking back on the experience, I was a backseat passenger regarding my own health. I was unaware of my most basic health information, which left me at the mercy of the doctors and nurses at the hospital who were unfamiliar with me or my medical history. I think a good portion of my ignorance regarding my own health and medical history stems from not being involved as a child, even into my teen years. I went to the doctor when my mother told me to, did what the doctor said and that was it. Even into my teenage years, I didn’t get any information about my health or have conversations with my parents about it.

As someone who believes in preparedness (general and emergency), here are some things I learned to do:

Get Familiar With Your Doctor

Finding a doctor can be very difficult. There are many factors that go into finding a doctor – what insurance you have, what area you live in versus where the doctor’s office is located, and the doctor’s credentials, among other things. When researching a doctor, be sure to gather some information about the doctor to determine whether he or she is a good fit for you before scheduling an appointment. You shouldn’t just know your doctor’s name and office address. Do you know what they specialize in, are they Board Certified? Having this basic background information will help you decide whether you are seeing the right doctor for your needs. Once you find a doctor, you have to assess whether the doctor’s bedside manner is a good fit for you. My experience has taught me that the relationship you have with your doctor is very important. Being able to discuss one of the most personal aspects of your life – your health – is very important. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your health with a particular doctor, it is important that you find a doctor who you can work with to take care of your health. Not being able to talk to your doctor only hurts you. This is not to say that you have to invite your doctor to Thanksgiving dinner but you should be able to truthfully discuss any and all health issues you may be experiencing.

Understand Your Diagnoses and Treatments

When initially diagnosed with Sickle Cell I didn’t ask any questions. I wasn’t sure what it meant to have Sickle Cell Disease and I’ve never heard of what they said I had, but yet I said nothing. I did do a little research at home but I didn’t question the doctors at all. I didn’t look into what the side effects of the medications were or how they might impact my health. When visiting your doctor and receiving a diagnosis, make sure you understand what it means. Ask questions. Conduct your own research. It is great to have a knowledgeable doctor but in what other area of your life do you just take someone’s word for it? This is your health, your body, make sure you understand what the diagnosis means and what the treatment means for your everyday life. After you have done your own research, discuss your findings with your doctor, see what he or she thinks and recommends. If you notice that your doctor is unwilling to discuss these things with you and/or tries to discourage you from looking into your condition on your own, that may not be the doctor for you. At the same time, be respectful of your doctor’s time, don’t go into the office with 100 pages of medical research and expect him or her to go through it line by line.

Understand Prescriptions

This goes hand-in-hand with understanding Diagnosis and Treatment. Ask questions about the side effects of any medications that are prescribed. As it turns out, my initial diagnosis was incorrect and I didn’t need to be on the steroids prescribed. But I only learned that after I had been on them for a while and suffered some of the side effects. One side effect that I deal with to date is hypertension. The steroids themselves didn’t cause the hypertension but they did lead to an increase in my weight, which ultimately led me to be overweight and then obese. The hypertension was not far behind. You can discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor and pharmacist. Also, don’t forget to ask about how the new medications will interact with medications you are currently on. Your doctor and pharmacist are human beings and they can make a mistake. Asking will prompt them to take a second look. Pay attention to how you feel when you begin taking any new medications and discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Keep a Medical File

Before my health incident, I did not keep a copy of my records or know what was in them. Now, I keep a folder at home with copies of my medical records and test results. I also keep any medical articles that I have found that pertain to any conditions I have or want to speak to my doctor about. It is also a good idea to have one of these files for each family member. This also helps in the event you need to get a second opinion or if something happens and you need to refer to your records.

Use Your Knowledge to Stay Prepared

All of these things help us to be our best selves and to be prepared for any occurrence. We should always strive to be as healthy as we can, not only as an emergency preparedness strategy but also to live our best lives. The healthier you are the more of life you can enjoy. Stay healthy, be prepared.

Having Sickle Cell, I realized that I had to live my life differently than I was. I can’t eat huge amounts of junk food, I have to stay hydrated and I have to make sure I don’t get too cold or too hot, which can be tricky. Also, I’ve learned how to walk the tightrope of being physically active without over-exerting myself. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I must take control of my health and be as informed as possible. It’s never a good idea to be a back seat passenger when it comes to your health. By following these steps, we can use our knowledge to stay prepared.


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