Understanding doctor's orders.

4 years ago

Recently, a friend of mine had a pacemaker placed.  He is an active person, a jogger and works out regularly at the gym.  In fact, because of him I recently joined the YMCA and exercise in a more committed kind of way.  Due to the inefficiency of his aging heart causing it to beat too slowly, he was unable to do the activities he always loved.  After consulting several doctors, a pacemaker was implanted to help resolve his cardiac issues.   

The reason I am starting off talking about my friend and his pacemaker instead of my usual women’s health topics, is that he had a very insightful (for me) post op experience.  Along with many post op instructions, he was told not to lift his arms for six weeks.  He lifted early because he thought that the limit was being placed so he wouldn’t put stress on the external suture area.  Wrong.  The surgeon wanted him to avoid yanking out the connection from the heart to the pacemaker.  My friend messed it up.  This could have been avoided if he had better understood the rationale for the instruction.   Minor surgery or not, there are still risks to not following doctors orders.  

Here is my guidance, whether you are having a hysterectomy, delivering a baby, a tummy tuck, etc.:  UNDERSTAND THE RATIONALE FOR ALL INSTRUCTIONS.   Ask ‘why’ often and then ask more questions if you don’t understand.  For example, becoming active too soon after a cesarean section may cause discomfort due to stress on the suture area, but it can also be a factor in the development of scar like tissue, adhesions, that can form after some surgeries.  Adhesions can cause problems later if it develops to an extreme and clings to an organ.   Bet if you heard that, you would be more likely to be compliant and rest as instructed.  

It is easy to make assumptions about why you are being told something, but it is far wiser to know the facts.  Here are some tips when seeing your doctor:

  1. Do some research before your visit and write down your questions.
  2. Even if the guidance seems simple, if you aren’t sure about the actual rationale, ask why.  
  3. Be clear on timing.  
  4. Don't be afraid to call the doctor's office if you have more questions after you leave your appointment.  
  5. Follow your medical professional’s guidance and not a friend’s advice.  When I friend says: “Go ahead and run early.  I started jogging after four weeks and it didn’t bother me.”  I say, not now maybe, but give it some time and you may be sorry you didn’t listen.   
  6. Take notes when you are at the doctor’s office.  Whether it is a nurse practitioner or the physician talking, write it down.  It is very convenient to get the handouts from the office, but there may be some nuances specific to your situation that you want remember.   And, it is difficult to remember everything.

This post is not intended to be a comprehensive pre op/post op guide, but to reinforce that understanding doctor’s orders are key to following them in the way that is intended to help you heal and feel better as quickly as possible.



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