Saturday, 13 February 2016

The novelty of a short term health condition - from the perspective of someone with long term health conditions

A few weeks ago I had an inner ear infection, labyrinthitis. The worse of the symptoms were only for four or five days, but it lasted about 3 weeks in total. It was a short-term health condition. This meant that many aspects of those few weeks were in stark contrast to my day in day out experiences of long-term health conditions.

At the GP... 
My appointment lasted less than 10 minutes and I got a very clear diagnosis there and there, and a treatment plan. It was easy for the GP to explain what the infection was causing in terms of my symptoms and it all made a lot of sense. It was pretty straightforward - no referrals to secondary care, no tests booked to try and get closer to a diagnosis and no general bewilderment at my body dysfunction! Just the one appointment, and that was it.

At work... 
I cancelled a few meetings. I did give the reason - an ear infection. I didn't feel guilty about cancelling. I didn't feel judged. People were sympathetic, and 'get well soon' emails didn't trigger deep annoyance as they do with my LTC. When I cancel anything (albeit rarely) because of a flare up of my long term conditions, I feel guilty and judged, almost as if I could have avoided the relapse if I had self-managed better. (I'm ignoring the fact that generally feeling run down from a few bad weeks of self-management lapses probably meant I was more likely to get the stupid infection in the first place!)

Other people...
To start of, when I mentioned what I had when people asked how I was, most people had actually heard of what I had! And were genuinely sympathetic as either they had experienced it themselves, or could understand why I was feeling dizzy and uncomfortable.
Normally, I'm met with a blank face if I mention my long term conditions, and its hard for people to grasp how the symptoms manifest.

With the nausea I was feeling from the dizziness, it felt totally legitimate to eat a whole packet of ginger nut biscuits and buckets of ginger tea. Others even encouraged me to eat them as well!
Although there isn't much you can do for this ear infection apart from rest, that meant I didn't get endless questions about having tried this, that or the other that someone's sisters boss's nephew's hairdresser had tried. Resting and eating ginger was accepted and not challenged.


We are all patients, of course. But as a short term condition patient, I had a very different experience as I do when I am a long term condition patient. So we aren't all the same kinds of patients and none of these perspectives should be lost at the expense of people with long term conditions.

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