As are many clergy, I am a pastor who is deeply involved in the medical lives of many of my parishioners. Because of what I have seen, particularly but not exclusively with end-of-life issues, I found myself increasingly averse to engaging the medical system for my own health needs.
However, I could no longer ignore some troubling symptoms. With trepidation, I ventured in.
I have been referred by my primary care physician to two different specialists so far. They have spoken with each other, are willing to work together to do what is necessary to help restore a physical balance to my life. All are honoring the fact that I would prefer to engage in dietary and other lifestyle changes as the first, not last, option in my treatment plans.
This , in my opinion, is what everyone is looking for in our health care. I also know that my high level of education (earned doctorate), willingness and ability to articulate clearly my health history (I give each physician a dated, narrative explanation of my health history which offers far more information than the generic forms handed to new patients), and a strong self-understanding of what I will and will not do in terms of invasive tests and potentially toxic treatments, creates a very different dynamic than may be normal in patient-physician interactions.
Perhaps more to the point: I have excellent, albeit extremely expensive, group insurance and am not yet on Medicare with its completely ridiculous reimbursement policy. Plus, I’m a columnist for two local newspapers, and so have some degree of name recognition.
Honesty insists that we acknowledge that I am not the normal patient and am receiving somewhat unusual care.
That is a problem in a nation where, at the core of our communal souls, we want to believe that rank doesn’t count and all are of equal worth. We are not. I have easier access not only to the best technology but also to the best physicians who will do what all of us want: treat me as a whole person, not just a collection of separate symptoms. Others, not just the financially impoverished, but also the academically less privileged, will rarely experience what I am experiencing.
Patients, just like church members, want to know that they are actually known, not just one more nose to count for statistical purposes, or means of filling the offering plate or making sure the physician is able to meet expenses. Patients, as do church members, put themselves into extremely vulnerable positions when trusting their bodies and souls to the care of others. That vulnerability needs to be respected and honored — the essential foundation in healing in any area.
In an ideal world, all will know the best of soul and body care. For now, I applaud any movements the medical community makes as it seeks more intentionally to reengage the whole patient in caring treatment.
Christy Thomas is a pastor who blogs at thoughtfulpastor.
Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.