Friday, May 8, 2009

Finding the Right Doctor

I've been to many, many doctors during my struggles with headaches. It seems that whenever you have migraines, you are sent to a neurologist. The problem with this is that to a neurologist, who is used to dealing with people who have severe problems that inhibit their physical performance, a person coming into their office walking and talking normally isn't a priority to them. In fact, you are one of the lowest priorities on their list. Your problem isn't visible, it's nothing compared to a stroke or Parkinson's patient. And yet this is who headache patients are sent to. So it's no wonder most of us are frustrated with the level of care that we get. Not to mention that there are so many causes for migraine, they are so hard to pin down, that a neurologist isn't necessarily the proper person to be treating you. But until you can find the cause of your headache, it's hard to say which type of doctor you should be going to.

When I finally decided to go to Chicago to get help once and for all, I decided to go to a doctor that specializes in headaches. Not just a headache clinic, or a neurologist, but someone renowned for their headache treatment. I found Dr. Nesreen Suwan in Lisle, Illinois. She has a background in neurology but she is also a pain specialist...a rare combination. But even more rare, she is a headache sufferer herself. This makes her more empathetic toward her patients than any other doctor I have ever seen, which is something that is really priceless in the struggle with headache treatment.

Dr. Suwan didn't repeat any of the things I'd done with other doctors, which was great, as it seems to me that doctors always seem to have their own protocol and have to follow it, even if you've already done those's such a waste of time and resources. And Dr. Suwan thinks outside the box. During my first visit with her she offered me options that no one had ever mentioned to me before.

What I've learned is that you have to stand up for yourself. Our society seems to have this odd idolization of doctors. We treat them as gods, when they are no more than mere humans like ourselves. I have walked out of several doctors' offices and never gone back because I didn't like their attitudes or practices, or because they just wouldn't seem to listen to me. There is no shame in that. There were many times when I refused to take drugs a doctor wanted to prescribe because I didn't think that was in my best interest. You don't have to do what the doctor says. Always remember that you are in control of your health and healthcare. If you have a doctor you don't get along with, go find another one. If you have a doctor that isn't helping you, go find another one. If you have a doctor that won't listen to you, that has their own agenda, go find another one. If the doctor isn't doing what you want, speak up. Sometimes it's hard, but it is crucial to taking care of yourself. It's that old cliché: No one will help you if you don't help yourself.

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