I recently completed my university degree and became a speech-language pathologist. I’ve spent several years studying to become a healthcare professional because I want to help people. But little did I know that helping others would become easier after I needed help myself.
When I began my studies, I hadn’t yet become sick. I didn’t choose to become a healthcare professional because I was failed by the system, but coincidentally, these two things happened concurrently. In the mornings, I studied on campus, and after class, I would be in various doctors’ offices fishing for a diagnosis. I became a patient as soon as I decided to become a health professional.
Toward the end of my first year of studies, I was diagnosed with MG. That day I learned how it feels to receive devastating news.
The first few years of my studies were mainly focused on theory, so I didn’t yet know that being a patient with a myasthenia gravis (MG) relapse would eventually improve my clinical skills later while working in a hospital. In the wards, I observed social hierarchies and various customs. I took in the many different smells and sounds. I tried to understand why nurses listened and attended to some patients, but were reluctant to do so with others. I experienced firsthand how it feels when a health professional fails to explain what they are doing in a way that a patient can easily understand.
This experience has motivated me to treat my patients with kindness and care. I realize, perhaps more than others, that spending extra time to make sure a patient understands what is happening makes a big difference, both in quality of care and in boosting a patient’s autonomy. I remember a neurologist who once told my mother at my bedside, “I’m only treating her the way I would treat my own daughter.” To me, being a good health professional means treating each patient with as much respect and thoroughness as a family member. I still follow this guideline with my patients today.
Working in healthcare while having MG presents many challenges, and I plan to write about these soon. In my final year of studies, I completed and presented a research project about speech and swallowing with MG. On the day of my research presentation, people asked several questions about MG that I was able to answer confidently and correctly. This is because of my extensive research at the library and my many experiences as a patient living with this disease.
I am thankful that MG raised my awareness about what it feels like when a health professional treats a patient poorly. The feeling of empowerment I get from health professionals who include me in the management of my own disease is something I hope to replicate with each patient I see.
I am grateful that MG has made me a better health professional. One of my goals is to help all of my patients see the beauty in life.
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