Category Archives: Complaints

Access Your Medical Records Online (Maybe)

I was sitting in an exam room waiting for my doctor to pop in and I didn’t have anything to do but read the signs and posters on the wall. So I did. All of them. I can now name all of the parts of my lady anatomy in graphic detail and I can also tell you how dangerous Whooping cough can be. I memorized every stage of fetal development and can now recite the phone number to sign up for the local hospital maternity tour. I’m also aware that it is my responsibility, and mine alone, to make sure my insurance plan is accepted by all medical referrals I receive. In short, I’m practically a walking encyclopedia on maternal health in a rural town in South West New Mexico.

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One thing that especially caught my eye was a sign urging people to “Sign up to access your medical records online today!” It caught my eye because it was displayed on three different walls. Plus, getting information out of my doctor is like pulling teeth. Having access to my records would be really helpful. I’m the kind of person that feels better with more information instead of less. I want to analyze results and compare them to past tests and Google them to my hearts content. It’s one of the things I live for.

Anyway, on the way out of the office I stopped by the front desk and asked if I could sign up to view my records online. The receptionist at the front desk looked up at me with confusion. I told her I had read the sign posted all over the walls and thought it would be a good idea to sign up. Finally a look of recognition swept over her face and she said, “Oh, that system has been down for about three months.” Then she leaned towards me and whispered, “Besides, the doctor doesn’t give you access to anything like test results so accessing your records online here is pretty much useless.”

So, there you have it. Life in a small town. Sometimes it’s maddening. Sometimes it is funny. Sometimes it is both. There are always outdated things posted to walls and information is so valuable even doctors hoard it.

 

Asbestos Awareness Week

I was surprised to learn that people are still suffering from exposure to asbestos. I thought asbestos was a thing of the past. We all know how bad it is for our health and that it has to be removed very carefully from old buildings. I assumed it was no longer used and that it likely only existed in a few old, abandoned buildings if it existed at all. Apparently that is not the case and asbestos is still being used in the U.S. to the tune of 30 million pounds per year. That shocked me!

The other day I was listening to a news podcast when a story about Libby, Montana came on. The story highlighted a woman named Gayla Benefield and how for years she had tried to get people to pay attention to what was happening in her town. People were dyeing from asbestos related cancer at a rate that seemed statistically impossible. Entire families were developing this cancer. It was normal to see people in their fifties walking around with oxygen tanks. (source)

After Benefield got the attention of the media and the government an investigation found that a local mine was responsible. Vermiculite had been mined for 40 years and over that time period the vermiculite, which was tainted with asbestos dust, was distributed all over the town, including playgrounds, baseball fields, and roads (source). People were being poisoned for years and from early childhood on. The EPA later conducted a massive cleanup of the entire town.

The story really stuck with me. I’ve thought about it for days imagining how helpless town members must have felt as one by one their bodies succumbed to cancer. Then I got an email from Heather Von St. James asking me to help her share her story for Asbestos Awareness Week 2015.  She is a Mesothelioma cancer survivor.  Her father worked with asbestos and, due to that second-hand exposure, she developed cancer decades later. Mesothelioma isn’t curable, but it can be treated to prolong life and slow down the advancement of the disease. This is why early detection is so crucial. St. James underwent a new surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy and refers to her recovery from the disease as “miraculous.” She spends her time writing and speaking about Mesothelioma cancer and raising awareness about asbestos exposure. She is a tireless, devoted advocate for other victims of Mesothelioma.

I was incredibly moved by her story and commitment to helping others. I wanted to help her spread her message: Through awareness there is hope.

Asbestos Awareness Week

If you were exposed to asbestos as a child it is important to let your primary care doctor know so you can both be aware of symptoms and the possible development of cancer. For more information visit the  Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance at www.mesothelioma.com.

If you would like to know which products in the U.S. have asbestos in them the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website lists them here and also has links to the regulatory history if you want to know the years asbestos was banned from certain products.

Please help us spread the news about Asbestos Awareness Week 2015 (April 1st – 7th) so people can get treatment sooner rather than later and so all of us can be more aware of the toxins in our environment. The sooner people are aware the sooner we’ll develop a cure and hopefully eradicate the use of asbestos all together. Let’s help keep hope alive for people facing this disease.

My Mother-In-Law developed lung cancer after her ovarian cancer spread to her lungs this past year. She was not suffering from exposure to asbestos, but the cancer did affect her pleural cavity and it was difficult for her to breathe. Your lungs fill up with fluid and it is like drowning from the inside out. Breathing is life so you can imagine how uncomfortable it is to suffer from lung cancer. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. I hope we can find a way to prevent and cure all forms of cancer. So many of us have lost loved ones to this disease. It is heartbreaking and devastating to watch family members and friends deteriorate right before our eyes. My hope is that one day we will have the knowledge and ability to prevent cancer from taking the lives of the people we love.

You’ll Never Be President Because You Are A Girl

The other night, as I was folding laundry, Tiny-Small ran over to me and said, “You’ll never be president, Mom.” I turned to her and was about to respond, but, before I could, she said, “…because you’re a girl.” Now I have no desire to be president and obviously never will be, but to have my four year old daughter state so confidently that girls cannot be president just made my blood boil.

I decorated her nursery in yellow and green to keep it more gender neutral. I bought her toys from both sides of the Toys R Us store. I’m a huge advocate for gender equality and human equality. I am raising a little girl during a time period where a woman very well may be president. Fingers crossed. Prayers answered. I am hopeful to see that happen in my lifetime.

Sadly, I am repeatedly shocked by how little an impact my beliefs and values seem to have on my daughter. She is completely rooted in gender stereotypes. She likes pink and ballerinas and thinks boys cannot be pretend princesses and should only have “boy” hair.

We have had long conversations about whether boys can have long hair or even wear dresses. I told her that, despite what she thinks, some boys do wear dresses, have long hair, and even wear makeup. We have also discussed at length that some girls have short hairstyles and drive trucks and even play with swords. To really blow her mind I told her that men marry other men and women marry other women. She couldn’t fathom it. We live in a place where she doesn’t see these things happening very often. So she often doesn’t believe a single word I say. She has to see it to believe it.

You'll Never Be President Because You Are A Girl

I asked her to explain why women couldn’t be presidents. She said, “Because they don’t dress like presidents.” That’s when I realized what she was getting at. The other day when a bunch of men in ties walked by she said, “Where are all of those presidents going?” She clearly believes presidents wear ties and that wearing a tie means you must be a president. She doesn’t see people in her life wearing ties too often. We are pretty laid back in the West. People often joke that to dress up is to wear “new” jeans. She mostly sees men in ties on TV during elections and Presidential debates. For her, clothes truly make the man…or woman.

I try not to worry about what our culture is teaching her about men and women. I hope the examples we set at home and the conversations we have (or she overhears) will help form her opinions, but sometimes her perceptions are truly a slap in the face. When she said girls couldn’t be president I had no woman president to show her, as an example (or proof), that it was possible. I mean, we haven’t had a female president in this country yet. In some ways what she says rings true…I find myself wondering, can a girl really be president?  She’s right about other things too because what people wear really does seem to be an important factor in how they are perceived by others. When Tiny-Small wears her pink tutu and has bows in her hair people stop to compliment her. When she shows up in sweatpants and a Batman T-shirt nobody says anything. She is paying attention. She knows, at the age of four, that embracing gender stereotypes is rewarded with social acceptance. She has witnessed another parent berate his son for wearing a dress and pretending to be a princess during pretend play. She sees the writing on the wall and there is little I can do to persuade her otherwise. At times it feels like there is little I can do to prevent her mind from being polluted by harmful social and cultural expectations.

The other day I went to a thrift store and bought a bag of doll clothes for Tiny-Small to play with. When we opened it we discovered a child-size clip on tie in the bag. Later that day as I came around the corner she had her dolls set up on the coffee table. She was wearing the clip on tie and delivering a speech to her audience. I almost cried because finally she believed she could be a president. This gives me hope that maybe at four years old her brain can only process so much information and that as she grows and has new experiences her ideas about the world will change. That her world will expand beyond what she has seen in the small town she lives in. That she won’t feel limited by stereotypes, or judge people by the clothes they wear, or think she cannot be president even if that is what she truly wants to be.