As much as I feel grateful to be here in Canada where our healthcare system is (for the most part), accessible to the majority, I do believe that we as individuals need to play an active role in our health and wellness.
I’ve heard many times from clients over the years that had they not spoken up to their _______ (fill in the blank with doctor/surgeon/neurologist/physiotherapist etc.) about an aspect of their current situation or condition, or asked questions regarding a possible contraindication of treatments or medicine, because it would have negatively impacted their health.
I’ll use myself as an example
I’m an avid snowboarder. Just two winters ago, I ended up having a gnarly fall where I landed headfirst going down the mountain. My goggles flew off my face but luckily my helmet stayed in place (yes, I always wear a helmet boarding)!
I felt rattled, mostly by whiplash, and a bystander told me to monitor my symptoms.
Over the next 3 days of the snowboard trip, I felt headachy, disoriented, and was sleeping a lot every night. Not having any concussion experience, I figured it was all just because I was tired from boarding all day every day.
Three days later once I returned to the city, I took myself to the ER as my symptoms hadn’t improved.
I was first seen by a nurse practitioner who checked my vitals and asked a few questions about how I was feeling. She immediately started telling me that my symptoms sounded like a classic concussion.
I told her I had never had a concussion before, and I didn’t know what the recovery looked like. She then continued to talk to me about what concussion protocols are like.
Road to Recovery
Important aspects of concussion recovery are things like staying away from bright lights, not looking at screens (phones and TVs or computers), and resting your brain from strenuous ‘brain’ activity like reading or activities that require hard concentration. Recovery also includes things like making sure you don’t make symptoms worse by doing highly strenuous activity or exercise too quickly.
The nurse also gave me a list of some awesome supplements that can help speed brain healing and inflammation, which are important aspects of concussion recovery.
I made some notes of everything she said and realized it was completely different from what I had thought ‘recovery’ would look like. The night before visiting the ER I spent 3 hours reading in bed thinking it was a better choice than watching a movie and looking at a screen! It’s no wonder I had a headache in the morning.
Shortly after seeing the nurse, I was brought in to see the ER doctor. After a couple of physical tests, he quickly confirmed a grade 2 concussion.
I was looking forward to getting some more information on how to move forward with recovery, especially since what the nurse practitioner told me was so helpful and interesting. I thought for sure the ER doctor would have more to elaborate on.
When I asked him what I could do, I heard this:
“Just take it easy”.
I was amazed at this answer. That’s all he’s going to tell me?
He didn’t elaborate on his statement whatsoever. He even started to gather his clipboard and walk out of the exam room.
I couldn’t believe it.
If I hadn’t asked
Had I not talked to the nurse practitioner, I would have had literally no idea how to recover from this concussion. My understanding of ‘take it easy’ before listening to her was exactly what I should not be doing. Activities like reading and requiring high levels of concentration could have led to longer lingering symptoms, and in some cases, worsen them.
I ended up being off work completely for about a solid week, avoided screens, took supplements to help with brain inflammation, rested in dark rooms, and did regular physiotherapy and osteopathy for concussion treatments.
For those of you that are curious, after about a month I passed the cardiovascular concussion recovery test (which means I would then be cleared to safely continue with any high-intensity exercise), and it took about 3 months to feel completely back to my normal self and symptom-free.
I took the rest of that season off from boarding, which was probably the hardest of it all but the best decision for me.
Next Time You Seek Medical Assistance
The message here is that no one will advocate for your health. Only we can do that for ourselves. We must learn to ask the questions, even if we think they don’t have merit. Giving up information or asking deeper questions can help us connect the dots and help health professionals to look at the bigger picture.
Had I just taken what the ER doctor had said, ‘Take it easy,’ and continued to do what I thought was taking it easy, I could have easily made my condition worse. I am so grateful that I asked the nurse practitioner about concussion recovery.
Another example of this, which might be more relatable to our audience reading this, is when you are taking a prescription or medicine that may contraindicate something else, like other medication or a treatment protocol.
Over the years I have seen clients get admitted to the hospital for various reasons or procedures that are related to their disability or condition, and had they not spoken up to the doctor or nurses, it could have been detrimental to their health.
Doctors or nurses will prescribe something but are unaware that the individual is taking X or has just done procedure Y with another health specialist which could potentially cause problems. For many different reasons, they may not get around to asking, or possibly it gets looked over in the patient’s chart. As individuals, we may not think it was worth bringing up, especially if we have 100% trust in the healthcare system.
Where There Are Gaps in Our Healthcare
Now to be clear, I am not knocking these medical professionals, I am merely highlighting the gaps in the health care system. The fact is that sometimes these details just simply get missed.
Playing an active role in our health and wellness recoveries takes effort, but I believe it is our sole responsibility to do so as individuals, regardless of how ‘great’ we think our healthcare system is.
Whether you injure yourself in a sport and must follow recovery protocols, or maybe your health status requires a bit of overlap and extra attention from the health care system to keep you living as independent as possible, I encourage you to speak up and ask the questions. At the end of the day, no one else will do it for you, and you are worth it!