Thursday, February 9, 2012

Have You Ever Hugged Your Doctor?

Hugging is a funny thing. In my experience, either you're a hugger or you're not. I'm not one. However, there are times when a hug is needed, even for an anti-hugger like me. There are times when it just feels good to have that physical connection with someone who wants to support you. The problem is, when and where is this appropriate? Hugging can be an issue between patients and doctors, because of the inequity of the relationship between the two.

The Loyola University Health System in Illinois addresses this issue in a piece called Is It Ever OK to Hug Your Doctor? because it affects both sides of the equation. A doctor may feel that a patient can use a hug just as much as a patient may wish to have one. Some people may argue with our high-tech world, a hug may be even more appropriate now, to maintain that human connection between the person who needs help and the one who is providing it. Interestingly, I have seen many nurses hug patients - I have hugged patients. Most often, they were patients who were struggling through a very tough time and they just needed that contact. Sometimes, the hug was for a relative who was absorbing some bad news or who had just lost a loved one. Other times, they were hugs of thanks as people were leaving the facility. Truth be told, I don't know if we ever discussed the appropriateness of hugging. Of course, some nurses never hugged because they just weren't comfortable with it, but even I, the non-hugger, have hugged a patient or relative in need.

The Loyola article lists ways that doctors who are unsure can make physical contact in another way, that can be just as supportive, such as touching an elbow or forearm. Other body language, such as leaning in towards the patient while talking, is also showing that the doctor is interested and making a connection. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with asking, if you're not sure. There was a doctor who had done a lot for me and really helped me heal. As we were reaching the end of our treatment, I asked for a hug. He knew I didn't usually, but when I asked for one, I got it. And it helped me a lot, I remember.

What do you think? Is hugging appropriate?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fibromyalgia Rehab Program - It's Worth a Try

After many years of not knowing what was wrong with me, I was finally diagnosed, this time last year, with fibromyalgia. My rheumatologist asked me if I would like to participate in a fibro rehab program that has proven quite successful in helping people manage their fatigue and pain. I said, "why not?"

I did a quick search (very quick) to see what I could find about fibromyalgia rehabilitation programs. I didn't find very much. Some institutions offer group therapy, where people work on management skills. There was also a study that looked at a fitness rehab program. Those aren't for me, I thought. And I found a study that said that there weren't enough studies done to see if a multi-disciplinary program, similar to the one I am entering, does any good at all. (Multidisciplinary rehabilitation for fibromyalgia and musculoskeletal pain in working age adults)

I was warned that there was a long waiting list, about 18 months. A few weeks after my doctor sent off the request (he had filled it out on the spot during my consultation), I received a letter stating that my application was in progress and I would be hearing back sometime soon. Not long after that, I received a phone call from the coordinator and I knew that the ball was rolling. In December, I was told that I had a spot in a session that would begin at the end of February 2012.

Yesterday, a year after my diagnosis, I had the initial evaluation. I met with a physiotherapist and a kinesiologist, who had me do some simple tests. I walked up and down the corridors at my own pace for six minutes. The kinesiologist had one of those rolling measuring tools and walked beside me to see how far I could walk. Then they had me go up some stairs carrying bags to mimic groceries, go up and down a ramp, a step ladder, pick up a pen off the floor, and then walk a straight line. I could never walk a straight line. I always used to joke that if I was drunk and I was checked for impairment, I would likely be able to do it for a change.

After the evaluation, I met with the therapist who will be in charge of my case for the nine weeks. The program involves meeting with professionals to work on exercise tolerance, pain management, nutrition, stress reduction, and so on. Their goal is your goal. I have to write three goals that I would like to accomplish by the end of the program. For some people, it is to be able to go out for a bike ride, for others, to be able to do their housework or go to school and attend all the classes. My goal isn't certain yet.

The pain isn't unbearable for me. I guess I am one of the lucky ones. For me, the issue is more the fatigue. Then again, even lower level chronic pain does contribute to fatigue, so it needs to be managed too. So, now I have to think - what do I want out of this program? I will be attending two mornings a week for nine weeks. Luckily for me, the facility is only a 10-minute walk from my house, or a very quick bus ride on cold wintery blustery days.

For those who are interested in the program, I'll be updating my progress along the way.