Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health

Common snapdragon
And I just did it - I acted as my own doctor.

I don't mean the kinds of odd things we come up with that stand outside Western medicine, which is, generally speaking, based on science, on studies and lab results and radiology and chemistry.  I do plenty of things for my health outside that province, like oil of rosemary to perk up and eucalyptus to sleep, yogurt, apple cider vinegar and garlic and d-Mannose, and lately, wearing cotton on the advice of yoga teachers.  Four liters of water a day and various spiritual practices, including a church. And more that Western science is just catching on to, like singing, laughing, getting enough sleep, and making art.  And I have several doctors and take many prescribed pills on schedule and get blood know.  Almost 70 here, basically you work on staying alive.

But what I'm rejoicing today about is a triumph of Western medicine.  Basically, getting established with a doctor I  can get in to see, and who will listen to me and, sometimes, go along with what I want.  Yes!

What I wanted from my kidney doctor was that he reassess the immunosuppressants I take to keep my body from rejecting the kidney Laura Brown gave me 20 months ago.  Why?  Because I can't spend five minutes outside without my allergies getting even worse than they are when I stay home in filtered air.  I figured that having my whole immune system suppressed might be behind this, though it's true that here in midwestern America we have had so much in bloom all the time this year that everyone's allergies are worse.  (What, you don't believe in climate change?)

I actually have two kidney docs, one at the research hospital that did the transplant and a private doctor.  They usually alternate, each one seeing me once a year.  But I thought the right one to talk to was my private-practice doctor, Dr. D.  He is that unusual thing, an extrovert who enjoys talking to patients and telling us what he knows.  He's just about the only guy left who does the hospital - there is a vogue now for something called a hospitalier who works there and never saw you before in his life.  So I waited a month to get in with Dr. D, and saw him this morning.

I do my best to look respectable when I visit a doctor, and to seem reasonable, though I do have orange shoelaces. And Tom goes with me.  Whether you like reality or not, they respect men a little bit more.  Tom testifies to my truth and helps me remember things.  I gave my pitch, and Dr. D quizzed me about other symptoms.  I hadn't complained about the GERD which has been constant since the transplant.  He knew about the multiple UTIs.  And I reminded him I am almost 70.  Said that before, didn't I?  "I'm an old lady," I said, without even blushing.  Because I know that, generally, it is good to lower doses as you age. 

He looked over his printouts on my labs, and talked a while about how there are some newer drugs than Rapamune, which a lot of people don't tolerate; and how stable I've been since the transplant.  He thought maybe my dose could be lowered.  He takes pains to work closely with the research docs, worked there once himself.  So he called that doctor and then called me.  Yes, the doctor called me himself, they can dial the phone it turns out, rather than having the message filter through a nurse or two.

I actually couldn't have implemented the changes they are prescribing without a new prescription.  And I wouldn't have done it on my own - kidney rejection could kill me.  They want a new blood draw after a week, and I would have wanted that if I'd thought to ask. The fact is, I need professional help to be my own doctor sometimes.  But this wouldn't have happened at all if I didn't pay attention to my body and act on its behalf; that's what being your own doctor means.
It turned out that Research Dr. agreed.  Lower the Rapamune and lower the Neoral a little, too.  He told Dr. D, "I didn't realize how old she was."  Of course I am way too cool to be grinning as I write that. 


  1. Oh go ahead and grin. It's why we do all the things you mentioned in one of your earlier paragraphs: to look like we CARE about ourselves, as we're trying to take care of our bodies.

    Good for you Jeanne. It takes a lot to look after ourselves and not just let the doctor do it for us. It seems so simple to say "listen to your body," but honestly, it's a skill that needs to be developed!

  2. grinning is cool.......(I am on dialysis, on the transplant list - when I grin, it seems, people notice - perhaps I am not grinning enough - again, grinning is cool)