Was 2012 the year of the patient?
This is now my second Christmas since my bowel transplant. Last year I had been out of hospital for a day post my transplant surgery and this year I am thankfully in a much better place. The odd cracks are starting to appear but I’m banking on them not being anywhere as bad as the transplant itself. One of my current challenges is where to inject my anti sickness meds. I take them intra muscularly and a the moment I don’t have that much feeling left in my left leg and better still when I sometimes inject in that leg I can see the liquid spurting out of another hole in the leg that hasn’t yet healed. It is probably something that Darren Brown or David Blane would be proud of but actually it blooming hurts and what a waste of good, beautifully matured neat cyclazine.
Perhaps the bigger challenge is staying hydrated and that is proving a little more difficult with each passing week. It is a difficulty perhaps only matched by my football team who after one victory have reverted to type and lost again. Actually our defence is a bit like my legs right now, full of holes and always leaking. It is a complicated process combining anti rejection meds with preventing kidney issues but hey life is all about challenges so I have no doubt we will sort this one out. I think, I hope, actually I really hope.
So I am guessing that if I was to give myself an end of term report as a patient it would probably be a decent grade for effort and completing my homework and the usual teacher phrase of “could do better but still pretty good” when referring to the body itself. I have never been a straight A student so hey it isn’t bad.
That is me as a patient looking after my own health but what if there was an overall grade for patients in 2012. I think the teacher would have to state that there has been a dramatic improvement since last year; the level of classroom engagement has increased enormously and now the challenge is to keep that up and move on to the next level where patients really do ensure changes happen. I am absolutely convinced that 2012 has seen patients really put their heads above the parapet and really increase their voice in the world of health care but I guess to take it to the next level it has to be all about change and impact. I think that it is inevitable that those, like me, with long term conditions tend to engage more than those who may be unwell for a short period of time but return to good health in a matter of days. However the key thing in my opinion is that it is the sum of all of us that makes patients such a potent and powerful voice. In all walks of life there are those that are happy to be a little more vocal or push a little bit further but with those patients may be considered i-patients and more interactive we are actually nothing unless we all work together.
I guess in my own little world I see things in healthcare as no different to government or any national or international organisation. You can have Presidents or Prime Ministers or Ambassadors but they are really figureheads for us all. Patient leaders are the same and quite often it can be all too easy to get caught up in lovely conversations with people that you think of as your peers talking in wonderful circles about how patients will change everything and what this one or that one has done wrong. Talking at that level is fantastic, it is intellectually stimulating, it is thought provoking but it is often not the real world. I have been to a few health conferences now and even spoken at a few and the buzz word(s) is always “patients” or “patient engagement” but often that is marketing speak.
How many really know what it is like to be in a waiting room when there is not enough room for patients to even sit. How many have talked to patients who have to stay in a treatment room because there are no beds on the ward or have to get admitted as an inpatient for a few hours in order to get an urgent test done? Better still how many have experienced what it is actually liked coping as a patient, being served food that is inedible for the 10th day in a row? These are real patients who need to be embraced and taken with on the journey for real change to happen within healthcare.
So to answer my own question I think that 2012 has seen massive advances by patients. The self management via social media has been huge, patient communities are growing, how we now engage with our doctors is changing so rapidly it is amazing. As engaged or interactive patients we now have a duty to share our experiences with the wider patient communities and then 2013 can be the year that patients affected change. I am going to try next year and use the hashtag #patientpower as I truly believe that it is what can change the way healthcare is delivered forever.
As for right now, well I have a few Christmas wishes I want to pass on. To my transplant team at Oxford, who I am sure will read this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to change my life. To all patients but especially my bowel disease friends I hope that 2013 bringing you happiness and the health you deserve. And finally to Harry Redknapp and the team at QPR – we have a manager we could never have dreamed of having a few seasons ago so get your act together and sort yourselves out otherwise I will be sending you all for a colonoscopy without sedation!!!
So the kids are nearly finished catching up on an episode of Merlin and then it is off to make another batch of chocolate brownies for my daughter’s party on Thursday. My son kindly misread the instructions on my first batch and let’s just says that 1 teaspoon of salt ended up being a few tablespoons – enough said!!
Thanks for reading my blog, following me on social media and engaging with me, your support and friendship makes it all worthwhile.
Till next time