Medical Advocate

I had an extremely close family member end up in the hospital on life support, and had to become the medical advocate. On top of the emotional roller coaster and the thought of loosing another family member, so shortly after the loss of my father, I also had to examine my lack of faith and trust in the Western medicine world of disease management. I also had to look at my value system that led me to leave my clinical/ hospital dietitian career after almost 20 years and how to navigate my advocacy given this situation with the medical knowledge of that career, combined with my functional/ integrative medicine belief system.

My initial conversations were primarily with nursing and the social worker who were working so diligently to save my loved one and also helping us navigate the “business of healthcare”. After playing phone tag for two days with the physician, I was finally able to have a conversation about the prognosis, which was not good. I was trying to explain to the physician who this person was as a person, as I was trying to figure out how they were going to live if they survived, but I might as well have been speaking another language to him as that was not in his scope of understanding. It was very clear from our conversation that his job was to keep my loved one alive regardless of the consequences and it was not really his job to deal with the fallout. In his defense, this is very typical of acute care medicine and his training and I will give him credit for having very little to say to me about the horrendously poor quality ingredients in the tube feeding he wanted to provide (basically tube feedings and Ensure are high fructose corn syrup and GMO soy that are both completely inflammatory to the body). The long and short is they were able to remove the life support, my love one was discharged, but the damage done by the drugs to maintain the blood pressure will severely diminish the quality and quantity of life.

So what is my take away from this? It reaffirmed my decision to leave my hospital dietitian job and to focus on integrative and functional medicine. It most definitely affirms my decision to try and educate and inspire health through mind, body and spirit to help other people avoid situations like this, whether it be personal family or friends. It opened up a conversation between my sister and I about our wishes in terms of life saving treatments and the Western medical system and we both plan on documenting exactly what we are willing to accept in terms of treatment in this medical world (which is not much, especially in a non acute care situation). It has motivated me to look at the “business of dying” in terms of having my ducks in a row with regards to my life so my loved ones do not have to do that, if something should happen to me. Lastly, after loosing several people in my world at a very early age in the last couple of weeks, it reminded me that we only have today and if this was your last day, would you be Ok? I am reminded to stay present and try and find some joy everyday because that is what living is about.