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"We may not always get what we want, but surely we will get what we deserve."
                                                                                      - Doug Horton

a radio essay by judy jaggi

Doing My Part
    When I hear the words “good health,” a vision of glowing cheeks, clear eyes, shining hair and toned muscles emerges in my mind.  When I hear the words “good healthcare,” the vision changes to a circle of doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and drug prescriptions.

    The prime beneficiary of good health is myself and my loved ones. I have the personal responsibility to take care of myself.  What does that responsibility include?  Well, those glowing cheeks don’t come from the reflection of sitting in front of a computer screen all day.  If  I want those clear eyes, I could try going to bed before midnight and caring for my contacts once in a while.  Contrary to advertising, that shiny hair isn’t just from choosing good hair products, but it comes from choosing to eat vegetables instead of candy.  And looking at the bottom of an ice cream carton won’t tone my bottom!  A daily schedule of exercise and proper eating choices are a part of my responsibility.

    The other part of my responsibility is how I deal with doctors, hospitals, drug prescriptions and insurance companies when I need them. I learned how to do this the hard way.  My normally very healthy daughter somehow got viral encephalitis which is a brain infection.  In a coma, she was hospitalized for seven weeks, followed by months of outpatient therapies for her recovery. This illness left her with chronic seizures and language problems.  It left me with a full time job of communicating with doctors and hospital staff, studying seizure medications and their side effects and doing mounds of paperwork dealing with the health insurance claims.

    I learned a lot over the years that could help others. First,  I learned that doctors have their M.D. not their M Deity.  They are not Gods. You can question them, show you are willing to work with them or get a second opinion. Ask, ask, ask questions until you are satisfied.  Second, you are in charge just as much as the hospital staff and the doctors.  It is a team effort.  Don’t leave the decisions up to them because you think they know more than you do.  Ask questions again and again until you can make informed choices. Third, read labels, warnings and side effects of all drug prescriptions. Ask about generic drugs because they help save money, especially on long-term prescriptions.  Review what is being taken with the doctor who is prescribing the drug.  Fourth, look at your health insurance carrier as a friend, not a beast.  I wrote letters of explanation to them. I made notes of my phone calls to the claims assistants so I could talk to the same person over and over. Communication with all involved in healthcare is a key to success. 

    My visions of good health and good healthcare may be from a dream that is fading fast because of rising costs and political agendas.  Before I look to what changes can be made by others, I am going to make sure that I do my part by taking responsibility for myself and my loved ones.