Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pay It Forward

I have had strangers reach out to help me just when I needed it most. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts and then, just as suddenly as they appeared, they'd also disappear, leaving me with a huge desire to reciprocate and no one there to receive my gratitude. So I do the next best thing. If I can't pay back, I pay it forward. This is why I'm so overjoyed to find a home a HappyHealth. I can't say it enough... Here's a chance to do genuine good for the community that has supported me for so long.

I'm writing the design specs as we speak. I'm so exited that I have to remember to curb my enthusiasm! So many things are easier said than done, but I believe all the pieces are falling in to place to make this a dream come true... (Knock on wood!) Our focus group has provided a lot of good feedback, and we're responding to it with design changes. Our focus groups is where patients are helping make a website that works for them!

But the scary part is, it's so easy to fail. And my health isn't helping one bit. I've had to quit full-time work because I'm losing potassium to the point I was hospitalized for two days. That should not happen with my disease, and all the literature says to -avoid- potassium. So I'm a medical freak among medical freaks. Great!

But I'm not letting that cloud my vision. I want to give back to every health blogger, every active member in grass-roots, patient-built forums... I want to give back to everyone who gave to me, and that list is long! So I'm going to give my all into making HappyHealth a reality.

See, every other Health-Industry-supported patient-website out there is falling all over themselves to help people with the heart & vascular disease, diabetes, and/or obesity, as if those are the only health issues out there! But you and I both know that chronic pain is a far worse epidemic than anyone else realizes!

Millions suffer from acute or chronic pain every year and the effects of pain exact a tremendous cost on our country in health care costs, rehabilitation and lost worker productivity, as well as the emotional and financial burden it places on patients and their families. The costs of unrelieved pain can result in longer hospital stays, increased rates of rehospitalization, increased outpatient visits, and decreased ability to function fully leading to lost income and insurance coverage. As such, patient's unrelieved chronic pain problems often result in an inability to work and maintain health insurance. According to a recent Institute of Medicine Report: Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research, pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually, an amount equal to about $2,000.00 for everyone living in the U.S. This includes the total incremental cost of health care due to pain from ranging between $261 to $300 billion and $297-$336 billion due to lost productivity (based on days of work missed, hours of work lost, and lower wages).

Much more needs to be done to meet these challenges and to increase public awareness of them.
--American Academy of Pain Medicine, "Facts on Pain" (emphasis mine)

More does need to be done, and I believe we're the ones doing it.

Could you imagine saving the equivalent of a grand per citizen per year in health costs? Could you imagine taking 7 million people and putting them back to work in an environment custom-suited to their disability needs? These are very REAL possibilities at HappyHealth. This is what we're working towards, while helping doctors manage more cases with less time, while providing better patient care and support.

And if we can do this for the chronic pain community, then repeating our success for the other three health biggies should be easier to manage.

I know it's a big dream, but I'm not dreaming this just for me... I'm dreaming this for my Unicorn Sister, and Ellen Schnakenburg, and Kerrie Smyres, and everyone else who's given me support through the last decade, not to mention all my great doctors! There are too many people to count!

So not only do I want to do this with all my heart, but I believe I owe it to all of you to make sure I give this my best. I mean, above all, I want to save someone else from having to go through the hell I did with my disease. Now that I've done this for a decade, I've figured more than a few things out that I wish I had known from the very start. And I'm sure there are plenty of others who can say the same. If so, stay tuned here or at for when we start rolling out opportunities to let your expertise shine!

But in the meantime, I have a document to finish!

Friday, September 13, 2013

You're Fired!! (or, How To Find A New Doctor)

It's one of the scariest, most humiliating events that can happen in a patient's life. The doctor comes in and says, "I'm sorry, but we have nothing left for you." That's it. Maybe a 30-day supply of meds, but it's over... You've been fired as a patient. Your heart breaks, and sometimes they even blame you as an excuse to cover their @$$. You feel defeated, abandoned, and most of all, rejected. I thought being fired meant the doctor had decided there was no hope left for me. And for the first six times it happened to me, I felt suicidal afterwards. But thankfully I had friends and former doctors who told me through my tears that it was NOT my fault, and there are doctors out there willing to help. It's just a matter of finding them, which I was finally able to do. Here's how...

First, know that you're not alone. Second, Do NOT take this personally!! They most likely didn't fire you because of anything you did wrong. They fired you because they can't handle your case. That's not your fault, that's their shortcoming. And having you around is just a constant reminder of their failings. Of all the professionals out there, doctors are least likely to admit they can't do something. Which means the only ting left is blame the victim (i.e., patient).

Know that I'm so sorry you're going though this. But also know this isn't the end! This is a Golden Opportunity to find someone who genuinely cares. I've been able to do this myself, even though it took me a long time to figure this out (years). If you follow the steps below, you should be able to find a doctor who won't run away.(YMMV*).

  1. Call doctor's offices and ask to speak with the appointment scheduler.
  2. When you get a live person, ask them if you can ask a few questions about the doctors first. (If you're redirected to a nurse or other staff, that's fine... Just make sure you're talking to a live person for the next steps.)
  3. Start of by explaining that you have a difficult case, so you need a doctor who's going to be willing to spend a lot of time with you. Tell them you're looking for someone who specializes in tough cases, and ask if there are any doctors like that on staff, and if they're taking new patients (and your insurance).
  4. If you're in pain and this is a pain clinic, ask if they allow narcotic therapies in conjunction with other remedies. (You can also ask if they are into any Eastern remedies like acupuncture and mindful meditation.)
  5. If you like their answers, thank them & schedule an appointment.
  6. If you *don't* like their answers, thank them for their time and call the next office.
  7. Repeat until you find a willing doctor.
  8. Once you do, go to your GP and ask for a referral to the doctor you've found (most are happy to do so). If they ask why, tell them the answers you received and why you think that doctor is right for you.
  9. Make your first appointment.
"I thought being fired meant the doctor had decided there was no hope ..."

This is not "doctor shopping," this is doctor screening. Some doctors are in the point in their career that they want just the easy, routine cases. They are not likely going to want to help us. Younger doctors are often more willing to take on challenges to prove their skills. Older doctors, doctors close to retirement age, not so much... Unless they've specialized in tough cases (there are such doctors), but those doctors are rare.

IF YOU RUN OUT OF MEDICATION, you can go to your local Urgent Clinic or Walgreen's Clinic for refills until you ware able to get into your next appointment with your GP. Your GP will normally cover medications during a transition period. However, if it's your GP who fired you, that can really leave you in a sticky situation. In that case, call any specialists you see and let them know what's going on with your GP. They're also usually willing to cover temporary  medication refills during a transition like this. You can also talk to your pharmacist. Many of them will be able to give you a few days' supply of vital medications, or medications you shouldn't come off quickly. Of course, narcotics cannot be obtained from anyone but a doctor. Worst case scenario, go to the ER.

Good luck, and I hope you find a doctor who will work for you.

*YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Opportunity of a Lifetime - HappyHealth

For those of you still with me, thank you. My situation has changed, and I can return to more regular updates. But more importantly, I've been given a golden opportunity to finally give back and start serving the community that has helped see me through my darkest times. It's been through grass-roots community efforts that we have been able to help one another. And now those grass-roots ventures have a chance to team up with a company that wants to listen to us and our needs, and find a better way for our doctors to help us, and not give up on chronic cases like ours.

If you're anything like me, you've been fired from a doctor and given that awful send-off: "I'm sorry, we have nothing left for you." It's humiliating, shocking, and can send you into a talespin of self-defeat. But I've learned through my research and experience that when we hear something like that, it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the doctor's unwillingness to deal with a "heart-sink case." They see no way to make us better, so they give up and hope that some other doctor will take over. But that's incredibly short-sighted: there's still a person in there, who has to live through all this, and it's really difficult not to take it personally when your doctor fires you for you disease. We wonder what we did wrong, when it has nothing to do with us at all and everything to do with the circumstance in which we're trapped.

And studies on happiness show that it's not the chronic illness that makes us unhappy... It's unmanaged symptoms. "If you have manageable health problems, it doesn't really matter [to your overall happiness]." (At the 3 minute mark What does to happiness, as that video goes on to show, it a person's connectivity to others, and it is exactly that connectivity that gets obliterated when a chronic illness strikes.

But I think there's hope. I think if we can show doctors that, while they may not be able to win against our disease, they can still improve our situation so we can be happy despite our disease, we'd have a real winner on our hands, one that could revolutionize the treatment of people with chronic illness. I think if we can present doctors with a tool that gives them the ability to treat our symptoms more successfully, we can help them to help us get better.

I was recently contacted by a health start-up called HappyHealth. They want to work with me in addressing the needs of patients and doctors, improving outcomes where other companies don't even want to try. But they don't know the secret that we do. And that is, if we can make a difference for folk like us, then everything else is a cake-walk. I know that if we work together to make this happen, we could change the world into a better place.

You can help too! We're looking for people with chronic illness and an opinion to share their thoughts on how HappyHealth can best serve YOU. Every other professional health website/app out there has been written by healthy people for sick people, and they often completely miss the boat on our needs. But if we can create a
place that works for us, and one that helps our doctors not give up on us, then we could help out a lot of people in need.

Additionally, I know that there are many of us out there who are trained professionals who would love to work, but our unreliability due to our disease makes living up to normal standards impossible. I want to create a system whereby it doesn't matter if you don't know when you'll be able to work, the work is there when you're ready, and you never have to worry about dropping the ball. If you can't finish, someone else will pick up where you left off. You'd also be advised by the software when you're about to hit your monthly income limit, so as not to interfere with your disability benefits.

I don't know if I'll be able to do this all, but these are my life goals. There are too many people out there, stuck at home, cut off from life, through no fault of their own. We're routinely ignored and forgotten about because of our illness, and without a medical breakthrough, have no way of making our situation better. I want to change that.

Come join us! We're brainstorming and planning right now, so you could be there from the very start... Send me your email address and I'll send you and invitation to our Facebook group!

Oh, and for more information on HappyHealth, here's a video on the first phase of the project....

I look forward to hearing from you!!