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December 21, 2016

You know how doctor’s appointments are...they only have a certain amount of time to spend with you, usually not enough in your opinion, but that is the way of the medical profession.  Since they are unlikely to change their habits any time soon, I have a couple of suggestions to make the encounter a little more productive.

     The more you can learn about your condition, either from medical professionals or from other sources such as Internet articles or online support sites like Facebook pages or the COPD Foundation, the less time the doctor will have to spend reeducating you every time you appear in their office.  The more you know, the better the two of you can communicate, and the better care you will receive. 

     When you go in for your appointment, they will take your various vital signs; blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation, weight, etc.  They may even subject you to a pulmonary function test, to see how your lungs are doing, whether the disease is progressing.  This is all well and good, but it is nothing more than a snapshot of your condition as of that day.  You could have been in fine fettle or near death during the period between appointments, and they will never know it unless you tell them.  How is your memory?  Can you remember every day that you did really well, or felt like crap, over the past few months?  I can’t.

     Okay, here is the part where you roll your eyes.  You gotta remember that I was an accountant in my former life, so I enjoy keeping track of stuff.  I have an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop whereon I keep a daily record of my vital signs, as well as other stuff related to my condition.  I started it way back before I got my transplant, and I still keep it.  Along with the date, I record my weight, my blood pressure, my temperature, my pulse rate, and my oxygen saturation.  I have a little hand-held spirometer unit that measures peak flow and my FEV1, the amount of air that I can blow out in a second.  I also record the type and duration of any exercise that I do, as well as a note on how I feel.  If I was suffering from a cough, dry or productive, that got recorded.  It all takes me about 5 minutes a day, and it gives both me and the doctor a picture of what is happening with my little body on a continuous basis.  It will identify trends!  If something is going up or down when it shouldn’t, it will point it out to you, and to the doctor.  And, I guarantee that the printout or the hand-posted sheet will impress your medical personnel no end!

     Take two copies of your spreadsheet, and use it to record any questions that you might have for the doctor.  Give one copy to them, and use your copy to write down his or her answers.  This is all an attempt to get you to become your own best advocate.  The more you know, the better you can keep track of your vitals, the more you will be able to ward off the dreaded exacerbations, the better your quality of life will be, and the longer you will be able to remain stable, and, frankly, the longer you are likely to live.  Just sayin’…

Uncle Jim

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