Can I Get A Witness? : Why it's beautiful to have a loved one in the room with you and your doctor

When I first started my journey in the medical world twenty-one years ago, my husband, Shawn, came with me to all of my appointments. Most of them were long-distance, so it made sense for him to accompany me. I was grateful for his support and commitment to me as we sat together in waiting rooms.

However, as more specialists became available locally, I transitioned my care to them. Over the last several years, our habit of going together to the doctors' offices fell away, and I just went by myself. It was an unspoken, gradual shift that reflected the relative stability of my health. I reasoned that I didn't need Shawn to come with me anymore as they were just routine follow-up visits. 

I thought I would be fine going alone.

And I thought I was fine until an appointment earlier this week showed me what I had given up. 

Tuesday, I had a follow-up meeting with my pulmonologist (a lung doctor) who specializes in sleep medicine. He's the physician who has ordered my sleep studies and prescribed my nighttime ventilator. Last month, he'd suggested that he meet Shawn so the three of us could discuss my wishes in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, I remembered this just three hours before my scheduled appointment. 

I scrambled to text Shawn:

And just like that, I had his support.

I flushed with relief and joy, bouncing a little in my shoes. This emotional reaction surprised me; I hadn't realized I'd been missing Shawn that much.

While we were waiting, I was conscious of the time he was taking off for me, so I said, "You could have come a little later and stayed at work longer." He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said it didn't matter to him. I relaxed then, knowing he didn't resent being there.

During the visit, the doctor checked on my new pressure settings for sleeping, Shawn asked questions about how the ventilator therapy worked in my case, and we all discussed the worst-case scenario for my future, determining a plan to address it.

When the doctor brought up a symptom that he assumed I didn't have, Shawn jumped in and said, "Yes, she does." This led me to describe what Shawn was talking about in more detail so that the doctor was clear about what was happening and could recommend a treatment. If Shawn had not been in the room, I may have skipped over this opportunity for communication.

I had forgotten how fulfilling and comforting the presence and witness of a loved one can be.

I left the office feeling nostalgic for the days when Shawn was by my side during most every doctor's appointment, acting as a witness, an advocate, and an ally. I decided then to renew our medical partnership, to introduce Shawn to all of my doctors, and to invite him to share my load.

The next time you visit a doctor, remember there's power in having someone else attend. Sometimes just having another trusted person in the room is enough to bring peace and calm into a difficult situation.

Who supports you during challenging times?

What would happen if you were to invite another to witness your pain and share your burden?

Some Doorways from this week:

  • I saw a former teacher and colleague in the parking lot of the hospital, and we discussed how we missed school. Then she invited me to join a social group of retired teachers. This interaction revealed the beauty in shared experiences and memories.
  • We recently installed a dog door that leads to our fenced backyard. I smiled the first time Riley figured out how to let herself outside and back in using the door. I could hear the sound of her paws opening the flap, and it was beautiful.
  • I found joy in meeting my sister-in-law and my nephews for a mountain picnic last weekend. Riley, our youngest dog, also had her first swimming experience! It was all beautiful.


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