My family has always suffered from a variety of medical problems. Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart attacks. You name it, the Feltmans have been affected by it. We rely heavily on what the doctors tell us, but also what those around us have dealt with.
When my mother went to the hospital for the first time after passing out at the park, the doctors told her there was something wrong with her. They performed what is called a Splenopneumopexy, where they sewed her spleen into her diaphragm, going to her lungs. This was where everything went wrong. The not-so-common procedure was a good decision in their mind because her case was so out of the ordinary. Her health was not “normal”.
What they thought would fix the problem only worsened it. The doctors did not fully “hear” the symptom. Within years, she began passing out more frequently. The most terrifying one was when we were at a local grocery store and she fainted in the middle of the soda aisle. The entire cart, filled with food, fell on top of her. I heard her hit the ground with a sickening thump. That was when I knew that the surgery performed did not work. In fact, it made her worse. After that day, I told her that I could not see her go on like this; she had to talk to her doctors to get to the bottom of what was happening.
The doctors in Cincinnati could not do anything for her. She had to drive to the University of Virginia to receive the medical care she needed. There, they inserted a shunt into her body. For those who are unaware of what a “shunt” is, the medical dictionary defines it as: a passage or anastomosis between two natural channels, especially between blood vessels. She had such a rare vein disorder that she had to leave the state to find someone who could provide proper medical care.
The Splenopneumopexy was ineffective because the doctors at the time did not truly understand what was happening inside her body. This could be due to error on their part, but also due to the fact that communication between my mother and the doctors was lacking. They did not comprehend all of her medical problems before the surgery and actually ended up making everything worse.
When I started reading Talking About Health: Why Communication Matters, I did not expect to find something that related to my life so quickly. My mother was not “normal” when it came to her health. In fact, she was so abnormal that even her doctors were rendered ineffective. It could be due to the fact she was the only case of such a rare disorder that they did not have any other stories to rely on. There was no other patient like her. They could not even diagnose what she had; they could only generalize.
We rely so heavily on stories and communication to know what to expect in terms of our health. When we have nothing to go on, we panic. Our doctors are stumped. We have to tell our symptoms in complete detail or we risk a misdiagnosis.
According to CBS, 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed each year. In the video below, Dr. Jon LaPook gives an explanation as to why that is and potential solutions to the problem.