Monday, September 14, 2015

Patient Apathy Syndrome

People who live with chronic diseases develop a unique perspective of life that people who are generally healthy cannot fathom.  For one thing, they see doctors with increased frequency than healthy people do, and so they develop patient apathy syndrome (PAS).  

My great uncle Mickey once said to me, "I haven't gone to the doctor in a while because I needed a break. If I don't see them they can't tell me there's something else wrong with me." 

That quote pretty much describes the apathetic patient to a tee.  They develop a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern about their health.  It's not so much that they don't care, it's more that they just decide that they will just accept their fate as it comes. 

If you have a disease like asthma, you will inevitably have to give in and see your doctor.  You will need to do this in order to get your prescriptions renewed.  So you might as well see your doctor at least once a year. 

To give a personal example, a few years ago my asthma got worse during the summer months.  So I made an unscheduled visit.  He put me on steroids and made me see him once again in a week.  Then I saw him every 2-3 months, and eventually every six months.  Of course all this time I still had to see my eye doctor and dentist.  So I got tired of it all, and quit caring. I quit seeing all my doctors, including my dentist.  I had developed PAS. 

Actually, I first started showing signs of PAS when I started college in 1988.  I was 18, had dealt with asthma my entire life, was in and out of hospitals and doctors offices so much I was sick of it.  In fact, in 1985 I spent half a year in a hospital, and saw more doctors and had more procedures done than more people do in a lifetime. 

Like I said, when you have asthma you can't really go more than a year without seeing a doctor.  But I had one doctor who was so good to me he would just renew my prescriptions without seeing me. So I went seven years, between 1998 and 2005, without seeing him.  As a matter of fact, I was absent so long his secretary made me file out forms like I was a new patient. 

Between 1993 and 2000 I never saw a dentist.  Then I met my wife and she made me go.  It was neat to learn that I went seven years without getting my teeth professionally cleaned and I never had one cavity.  But I was lucky.  But I didn't care either.  If I had a cavity I didn't know about it, so I didn't worry about it.  I was an apathetic patient. 

One you develop apathy it never goes away, so it has to be treated.  The best treatment is to have a good spouse or friend who schedules your appointments for you and makes you go.  My wife does a great job of taking care of me.  But if she gets busy and forgets, then I don't remind her.  You see, that's the PAS not talking.  

After having trouble with my blood pressure and asthma in the summer of 2013, and having surgery on my eye, and having my gallbladder taken out, and spending quality time with doctors, I decided to take 2014 off from seeing a doctor.  Actually, you don't decide to do this, it just happens.  And if you have PAS, you very much enjoy time away from your doctor.  

Yet then you call your asthma doctor to get your prescriptions refilled, and his secretary tells you that you must come in for a check up.  So you set an appointment, and, after the doctor checks you over, he says, "I would like to see you in six months."  Then the cycle begins again.  

So, even if I wanted to, I couldn't go long without seeing a doctor. But there are others who have PAS way worse than me.  I at least have some good medicines, that if I take them regularly, my asthma is well controlled. But there are many people who need to see their doctors several times a year, and I would imagine they get sick of it, like I do sometimes, like my Uncle Mickey did. 

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