I was working as a PA in an internal medicine office seeing patients. One afternoon, I was in the clinic hallway when I saw an elderly looking wife in her 60s actually pushing her husband into the next exam room. He had his heels dug into the floor, but she was winning, due to his obvious shortness of breath and audible wheezing.
I walked in behind the medical assistant who took his vitals, as I listened to his lungs. I asked the assistant to get the nebulizer and bring it back into the room for the patient to use.
I asked Bill, the husband “what brings you in?” He told me, “ask her” pointing at his wife who was now sitting in a chair.
I turned to his wife to see an exasperated, angry, stern look on her face. She quickly spilled out, “He’s been wheezing since this morning. He was coughing last night. He has asthma. I told him to take his Advair this morning, but he said he didn’t need it. Then he started wheezing an hour later. But he still wouldn’t take his Advair. At times, he’s too stubborn for his own good. That’s why I called up this morning. He needs help!”
After giving Bill the nebulizer treatment, he was breathing easier, I asked him, “Okay, when was the last time you used your inhalers?”
“I used my ventolin last night. I haven’t needed to use my Advair inhaler, so I quit using it two weeks ago.”
With that his wife became unglued. Her eyes became fiery and she accusingly said to Bill, “you quit your Advair inhaler? When are you going to learn that you don’t stop your maintenance medications just because you’re feeling alright?”
Bill shot back, “I only take the Advair when I think I need it, I don’t take it every day.”
His wife didn’t let up. “You take the Advair every day whether you think you need it or not. When are you finally going to admit you need Advair?”
Bill didn’t have a reply as he sat quietly on the exam table.
I had seen this scenario played out many time in my years of working in clinical medicine. It was typically the man who refused to be seen by a physician or admit that he was ill and needed help. It would be the wife or significant other who would drag their spouse into the clinic office to be seen.
On the whole, male patients believe they’re “okay” and nothing will happen to them. And their refusing to get help can be a killer, men dying of a heart disease because they refused to admit they were having chest discomfort, for instance.
If it wasn’t for the wives in the picture, men’s health suffers. It’s the wives who bring their male companions into be seen. It’s generally the wives who keep the men in their lives on track regarding their health. Thank goodness for wives!
Sharon Bahrych is a physician assistant who blogs at A PA View on Medicine.
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