3 Ways to Help Professionals Understand Your Rare Disease
As our family's rare disease community (VAMP2) continues to grow, I am often frustrated with the professionals who are giving this diagnosis to new families.
I feel that they believe their job is to give the "diagnosis" and that's it, ignoring the importance of doing extensive research on not only published papers but also the community itself.
My goal is to help professionals meet us where we are
I will never claim to be a professional, as I learn something new every day. However, I will give myself credit for being a rare mom not only trying to help her son but many other children around the world. Through my son's diagnosis and our story, I have been able to gain knowledge and make a difference globally. I am dedicated and passionate, and I am in this for life.
My goal is to help professionals meet us caregivers and patients where we are, doing everything they can to understand the day-to-day of living with these horrible rare diseases. We're more than a diagnosis, and it's time to fight for our rights.
1. Keep information about your rare disease on hand to share
Collecting concise and reliable information about my son's rare disease and having it easily accessible during doctor's appointments and hospital stays helps spread awareness and educate professionals on an ongoing basis.
I have a folder on both my iPad and computer so that no matter what technology I have on me, I will have access to the information I need. Some of the visuals I have accessible include de-identified data of patients, educational brochures, published papers, and disease-specific websites.
2. Be open about challenges and fears
Doctors rely on caregivers to provide information on their children with rare diseases. By sharing the negative aspects of your disease, you are allowing them to accurately assess your symptoms and form a treatment plan specifically for your child.
It has taken me many years to be okay with addressing my fears, but once I was able to accurately address them, it made a difference. Even if you don't know what your fears are, do the best that you can. Sometimes we are just scared, and that's okay.
For me, I am afraid of seizures. I am also afraid of regression. Being vulnerable through my story has allowed me to grow my friendship circle and meet people I may have never met before.
My experience with doctors who treat my rare disease has mostly been...
3. Initiate connections
Making connections in the rare disease community is crucial to improving the quality of life for patients and their families. If you have the resources and the time to connect your care team to an expert on your disease, it can make a world of difference.
During our last hospital stay, we were fortunate enough to have a neurologist pick up on unique findings in my son's electroencephalogram (EEG), ones that were very similar to another rare disease.
I, being the mom, didn't really understand the exact findings. However, I knew that the research teams I worked closely with would. I immediately connected her with the team, and she will now be included in the research. Collaborations like this can truly improve patient outcomes and quality of care.
What about you?
As a caregiver or patient, what do you feel is your biggest frustration during appointments and hospital stays? What do you do to advocate for yourself? Share with us in the comments below.
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