Have You Ever Been in Helpless Patient Mode?

8 years ago

This post by Michelle Robson, the founder of the awesome women's health website EmpowHer.com, is the second in a series of National Women's Health Week guest posts. Michelle founded EmpowHer after experiencing her own horror story with the health care system. The site she created is dedicated to helping women improve their health
and well-being. They provide up-to-date medical information, access to
leading medical experts and advocates, and a devoted community of women
who ask questions, share stories, and connect with one another in a
safe and supportive environment.

In this article, Michelle describes a situation that each of us has
probably found ourselves in at one time or another: what she calls
"helpless patient mode". Sound familiar? Read on...share your story if
you're so moved...and be sure to check out EmpowHer.com.


I really believe that women tend to go to a certain state of mind
when they're patients and relying on a doctor's care. It's called
"helpless patient mode." Ironically, when we have a sick child, spouse
or other loved one, we can be a doctor's biggest nightmare. We're
brilliant and strong when advocating for a loved one. A mother will do
an inordinate amount of research and will carefully question the
pediatrician when her child is ill. But when she is ill, it’s another
story altogether. Women tend to do what their doctors tell them to do.
We don't listen to ourselves, to our guts. We simply want that doctor
to fix us, give us that magic pill, and quick, so we can go about doing
all the millions of things we do to take care of other people.

I admit that I'm totally guilty of this. Big-time. In fact, my
hysterectomy may not have even happened if I hadn't succombed to the
all-too-easy "helpless patient mode." I may have chosen another option
if I'd been aware of the other options and hadn't relied so completely
on what I was told was my only option.

Before my hysterectomy, I developed horrible reflux. I always had a sick feeling in my stomach and was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I followed my doctor's advice and took medicine for the reflux and
other medication for the IBS. By taking the pills as prescribed, I took
it for granted that it was just a matter of time and I would get better.

Time passed and I went on with my life, ignoring the fact that I was
not getting any better. I learned to compensate for my bowel issues and
kept up the façade required in my day-to-day routine; philanthropy
work, traveling and attending functions. But nothing would make the
reflux and IBS go away. In fact I got worse – much worse -- and landed
in the hospital with Diverticulitis.
The pain was excruciating. I thought I was going to die. I was
hospitalized for five days, with two strong antibiotics, Flagyl and
Cipro, pumping into my system. On the second day, I was completely numb
from the waist down. I was terrified, with no idea what was wrong with
me. No one had warned me that numbness in the legs is a side effect of

Back then, I was obviously in the "helpless patient mode." But then
again, I was so sick that I couldn't exactly advocate for myself.
Instead I went along with my doctor's advice to have a complete
hysterectomy, which apparently would solve my endometriosis
issue and all the other issues I was having. It was supposed to be the
answer -- that quick cure, "magic pill" that I so desperately wanted in
order to get my life back. What I've learned since is that there is no
magic pill and that you should always get a second opinion. No matter
how sick you are, you need to advocate for yourself or have somebody
else step in to advocate for you.


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