Which is more important – the day you receive a diagnosis or the days of treatment that follow? The surgery or the recovery? Does a short-lived healthcare incident matter more or less than the many days that follow it?
A comment I’ve heard many times over the years as a consumer advocate for pregnant women is, “Why do people spend so much time worrying about the day of the birth, but they don’t invest the same energy into learning how to parent after the child is born?” While I understand the thought process at play, I disagree with the implication that the birth, which is only one day, is less important than the ongoing tasks of raising a child. Similarly, the treatment of an illness can be a lengthy process, while the diagnosis stands out as a pronouncement, and the recovery from surgery happens over weeks and months, while the surgery itself only takes a few hours. Yet the diagnosis, the surgery, and the birth, while shorter in duration, lay the foundation for what follows. They act as ‘pivot points,’ which affect the way everything that follows unfolds. Because of this, it is worth investing the time and energy to make sure you are preparing for those important moments properly.
People make the mistake of believing that healthcare providers all practice the same way, hospitals all provide services equally, that care providers will tell them everything they need to know, and that our advanced healthcare system almost guarantees a good outcome. But evidence shows that there are big differences in quality of care between providers and facilities, and patients have to be proactive in learning about their healthcare needs and advocating for themselves. Just trusting “the experts” without checking to make sure that trust is warranted for your case can lead to serious and lengthy consequences.
If you aren’t seeing a truly skilled doctor or getting the right diagnostic tests, the diagnosis may be incorrect and all the treatment that follows will be less effective or not effective at all. A surgery that is botched can make recovery longer, more painful, or even cause greater damage than it was meant to correct. People clearly remember the birth of a child for their whole life, including how they were treated, what was said to them while they were in labor, and whether they felt fear or joy. Those memories form the basis for their feelings towards their baby and their sense of competence and as they do all those feedings and diaper changings for their newborn. Clearly, getting things right from the very start of a healthcare journey has an effect on how rocky or smooth the road is and where the journey ends up.
The secret to an easier journey is in the preparation. Those ‘pivot points;’ those days that stand out because they set a new life course, rarely stand alone. Instead they are the result of the work you did, or didn’t do, to get you to that point in the journey. So is it worth it to get that second or third opinion on a diagnosis? Is it worth it to interview surgeons and find healthcare centers of excellence for surgeries and procedures? Is it worth the time and energy to prepare for birth?
What happens in the long-term needs planning and attention too. Having knowledge, making informed decisions, and being prepared for the treatment process, the post-surgical recovery, or parenting shouldn’t be ignored. It’s all important. Don’t make the mistake, though, of downplaying the ‘pivot point’ because it’s only one day. Some days count more than others.
Michal Klau-Stevens is a professional speaker and healthcare consumer advocate. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, and expert on consumer healthcare care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on LinkedIn and on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!