by Stewart B. Segal, MD
During the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about taking control of your health through knowledge, partnering with me to accomplish a healthy lifestyle. I’ve written about the doctor-patient relationship and characterized that relationship as often being similar to the fireman-arsonist relationship. Today, I want to share with you the story of two patients who took charge of their lives and changed their lives for the better. One willingly, the other after I thoroughly pissed him off. Today was a great day!
My first patient (Number One) of the day had been given a diagnosis of diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol; and his on multiple medications including insulin. He followed my instructions and took command of his health rather than letting his health take command of his life. Forty two pounds lighter, he is rewarded for his efforts by feeling younger. He no longer needs insulin and I suspect most of his medication will eventually be stopped. I applauded his efforts and sent him on his way feeling like I had succeeded as his doctor and mentor.
As a physician, I love to see my patients flourish. I think of myself as a benevolent teacher and enjoy seeing my students prosper. While my first patient took my teaching to heart, my second patient did not. Patient Number Two was markedly overweight, diabetic, hypertensive with high cholesterol and neuralgia (a painful malfunction of the nervous system). Number two was on three medications for blood pressure, two for diabetes and two for neuralgia. My efforts to help number two understand the immensity of his problems included: I tried education and instruction; fear mongering; and guilt. I TRIED ANYTHING ELSE I COULD THINK OF IN ORDER TO MOTIVATE MY PATIENT TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE ILLNESSES PLAGUING HIM. It seemed nothing would work. At last, I let him have it and royally pissed him off. That worked!
Patient Number Two proudly came in for a yearly physical today, having lost in excess of 100 pounds. Medications were no longer necessary. The diagnosis today was not hypertension, not diabetes, not neuropathy. Today, the final diagnosis was “HEALTHY”!
Today was a great day. Learn from number one and two. Take command of your health and your illness. Please do it willingly. Don’t make me pull out all the stops to get you where you need to be. I really don’t like using guilt and fear; but I will, if it gets you to take positive action.