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Fight the Good Fight: My Own Patient Perspective

Linda O'Neill

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I will start out by saying I am not one to share too much personal information publicly online. However, having recently gone through the experience of being a patient and also leading marketing efforts specifically focused on social media, I am compelled to share how I have managed my pre-op education and my ongoing recovery by leveraging the very tools we work to make available for patients in various disease states each day here at Intouch Solutions. 

By nature, I am a very sensitive and empathetic individual. By that I mean I try as much as I can to always put myself in the patient’s or caregiver’s shoes, to shift my paradigm by seeing things through another’s lens. This is especially important in my chosen vocation. And, like most of us, this comes from putting your heart, brains and guts into the work. I fight a good fight for others everyday. However, I am not much different than those we seek to serve in striving for our work to make a difference. 

We are all patients
We are all patients at one time or another — whether it is for our regular wellness check-ins; as caregivers; as care partners; or, as in my case, for a condition that required a lot of my energy and focus over the past year to address, accept and treat. 

Having been diagnosed with osteoarthritis over 15 years ago, it finally took its toll and I recently required a full knee replacement (total knee arthoplasty or TKA). Up until this past year, I muddled along and subconsciously modified my daily activity to manage pain and discomfort until that was no longer just up to me to manage. I had to seek out professional help — at times, it felt like in more ways than one! The physical and emotional drain required treatment. There was no more denying it. 

Reflecting, I see where and how I progressed through various stages of addressing my condition. This included bouts with flat-out denial, all the while still hearing my orthopedic surgeon prescribing surgery. Logically, I sought out a second and third opinion confirming the first opinion, but also advocated for myself to try other non-surgical interventions like anti-inflammatory medications, pain-relieving injections and physical therapy. Still, these interventions were leaving me in the denial stage and even a little worse-for-wear. Disappointment set in as each intervention was a short-lived relief of a few days or a week at the most. I kept coming back to square one and wondering if I was causing more harm than good. 

Knowledge is power
During this time, I also scoured the Internet for more information on the latest technologies and advances in knee replacement and found some comfort in the fact that I would join the ranks of over 600,000 people each year to have this procedure to regain and reclaim their lives. Not necessarily the statistical group I was clamoring to join, but this told me I wasn’t alone. Not only was I on the hunt for confirmation and perspectives of what I was hearing from my doctors, but I also wanted to hear and see what other patients were experiencing. I was not disappointed with the level of — sometimes graphic — details provided by peers about the procedure and the recovery path upon which I was about to embark. 

So now I had progressed from denial to some sort of acceptance because I could find communities of people sharing their stories online through blog articles and YouTube videos, all relieving the mystery of what was entailed and allowing a view of the possibilities of getting through the process and recovery with a positive attitude. I could do this!

Compared to the disease states I happen to work in every day, this particular condition held more conversation from professionals and prosthesis manufacturers. Still, it was digitally available at my fingertips when and how I needed it. There were conversations and education and plenty of content for me to challenge what I was learning, question therapies and bring what I felt like was more value to the conversations with my doctors. I felt empowered to enter the stage of acceptance, treatment and recovery. 

I am happy to say I am well on my way through my recovery, coming back to work, having most of my mobility back, and getting stronger every day. I won’t be running any marathons, but I have my sights on some 5K walks and my German Shepherd is ready for me to get back to our weekend hikes. 

Understanding the journey
Looking back, this was my own patient journey — a storyline that serves as a key element in how we develop consumer communication strategies here at Intouch. While every condition and experience is different, mapping the typical patient journey for each condition is critical to understanding their perspective and creating services and tools that support them at the right time.

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