Taking Your Health Seriously

Short version of this blog: If you determine that you’ve got health problems–major or minor–attend to them before getting back to work.

Long(ish) version…

2014 and 2015 have not been a great time for me, medically speaking. I usually don’t share this sort of thing (as my mother puts it, “My health is nobody’s d@mn business”). However, I figured I could get a useful lesson or two out of it.

Sometime in May of last year I had a dream in which I felt as if I was choking. I was a little horrified to discover, upon awakening, that I was having the physical sensation as well. I was not, but obviously I was a bit disturbed by the situation. It felt like Darth Vader was doing the remote throat-grab thing on me. What followed was a month or two of doctor visits trying to figure out what was going on…general practitioner, ear/nose/throat doctor, and then eventually a gastroenterologist, that last of whom put me in the hospital for an in-patient endoscopy to shove a camera down my throat.

The determination? Acid reflux. Welcome to middle age.

Overlapping with the Darth Vader neck thing, I was getting terrible energy crashes during the middle of the day, so bad I’d have to take a 45-minute nap to get coherent again. One early morning my heart woke me up by leaping up against my ribcage. The good news was that it wasn’t a heart attack, but it took an overnight at the hospital to confirm that. My guess there (and the doctors didn’t dispute me) was sleep apnea, which was keeping me from breathing in the middle of the night and getting restful sleep. The heart thing, so far as I can tell, was triggered by my heart being so happy and excited to get oxygen again that it went into overdrive. Or something. Anyhow, there’s nothing like the words “chest pain” to get emergency room doctors to pay attention to you.

Fortunately, at the same time I was writing a class on obesity management for Florida Hospital, and that course addressed both acid reflux and sleep apnea…so I knew what sorts of things I could or had to do: change my diet, lose weight, start exercising, and eventually get a CPAP machine (go look it up–it’s too sexy for words).

None of this was fun, and the bills were sufficiently bad determining all of my various maladies that despite my deductibles continuing to rise, I met them in ’14 and ’15.

Why am I bothering to share this close-to-too-much-information story?

Because:

  • As a freelancer, you’re on your own for finding insurance (and like I said, the options keep getting worse–the cause of that I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader) and doctors. It’s important to make sure that you have the insurance and find a way to pay for the medical attention you need.
  • You need to use your professional tech writing skills to keep track of what has been done to treat you so that you can explain things clearly to the next doctor you see.
  • Asking questions is important: this, again, is a tech writer skill you use when you’re interviewing subject matter experts. “What are you giving me? What will that do? What are the side effects? I also take X, will that affect how my body reacts?” There’s nothing like self-interest to get you to ask a lot of the right questions.
  • You know your body better than a doctor, so let the doctor know if a medicine/treatment is not working. That said, even if something isn’t working, a doctor will try it anyway to get some actual data to that effect.
  • If you’re single and working from home, as I am, you’re the one who’s going to have to push yourself to go see the doctor and take constructive action on your own behalf.
  • Even if you’re single, if you’re in a hospitalization situation, try to have a good friend or family member nearby drop by to “hold your paw.” Or, if no one is nearby, make sure you can talk to someone on the phone (keep your phone charged–a lesson I learned the hard way).
  • Taking care of your health is important, regardless of where you work.

Let’s be careful out there.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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