Submitted by Gabrielle Byrne for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
We all know that life in this time is not normal.” The “new normal” does not feel normal. People are worried and anxious, and for good reasons. When it comes to our health, however, avoiding or putting off unpleasant tasks today can make for much bigger problems tomorrow. Nonetheless, people are avoiding contacting their doctors for everything from chest-pain, to diabetes care, and for some, that choice may have dire consequences.
It happened late on a Friday night. I was watching a TV show with my significant other—getting some much-needed laugh therapy. Suddenly, I didn’t feel well. Five minutes later I was worshiping the porcelain throne, as the saying goes. I thought of all the usual things; am I sick, did I eat something bad, and also—is it COVID? Though less common, nausea and vomiting are COVID symptoms. I’m a fairly healthy 40-something-year-old woman, and not once did I wonder if it was a heart attack. Then the arm pain kicked in. Think shoulder to fingers “charlie-horse.” My husband didn’t wait. He called 911. Good thing he did, because SCAD heart attacks (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) can be missed, and they can be fatal. So, that’s my story, and in my case it’s a good thing I did end up in the hospital. They took amazing care of me, and all my care providers used COVID precautions.
Heart attack or stroke may seem like extreme examples, but with so much uncertainty in the world right now, people sometimes find it more frightening to call for help than– it is to wait something out at home. It’s true we don’t want to overwhelm emergency rooms or be in the hospital. Maybe whatever you’re going through is a false alarm. But maybe it isn’t. Health care providers want people to call for help when they need it. You don’t have to be certain to ask them for guidance, and in an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911. The medical community and our first responders in Thurston County are taking COVID precautions seriously. If you need to go to the doctor, or even to the hospital, safety precautions are in place. It’s better to seek help and be wrong, than take a chance with your life.
It’s not only heart attacks or strokes that may require a phone call. There are other chronic conditions that are important to manage daily. Type 2 Diabetes, for example, is managed with guidance from health care providers, together with medication and lifestyle changes. With diabetes, not going for routine medical care and managing your ABCs (A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking) could mean a trip to the hospital that could have been prevented.
For many diseases, early detection and timely treatment is important. Even if you don’t find anything out-of-the-ordinary, it’s really important to get preventive screenings for cancers. If you have missed any of those this year, schedule an appointment.
Whether it’s a new health event, or a chronic health issue, our grandmothers were right when they taught us that “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” Prevention may feel like a distant dream in this time of uncertainty. But it’s up to each of us to take advantage of what we have control over, even in this time of COVID. As a heart attack survivor, I wish you good health, and encourage you to keep prevention a high priority.