HEALTH CARE TUNNEL VISION
By Sherrie Palm
I frequently participate in media interviews about pelvic organ prolapse; every opportunity to discuss a health topic that has been shrouded in secrecy behind closed doors for thousands of years needs avenues to encourage disclosure. When the occasion presents itself to discuss aspects of POP in detail in a group format, what typically occurs is there is a difference of opinion about POP statistics-they truly are all over the place. As an advocate who guides women toward healthcare professionals for both surgical and nonsurgical treatment of POP, I encourage women to disclose symptoms and concerns that are often embarrassing to discuss. I feel strongly that we need to get past the discomfort zone and recognize that at its most basic level, pelvic organ prolapse is a health issue that is treatable, not a condition that needs to be hidden away behind closed doors.
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common, cryptic health issue viewed as “not that big of a deal” by some members of the medical community. I’m here to tell you it is a big deal. Every day I communicate with women in one of the various stages of this multi-faceted health condition. Every day I assure women that there are treatment options that can return their lives to balance. Every day I let women know they are not alone, that millions of other women are experiencing the same pain, pressure, and frustration the symptoms of POP present. As a pelvic floor health advocate, I’d like to encourage health care professionals who view POP as “not that big of a deal” to truly listen to their patients. And as a woman who has been surgically treated for POP and continues to do the right stuff to maintain pelvic floor ballast post surgery, I am hopeful at some point patients and health care professionals will be able to meet in the middle for the optimal balance of pelvic floor health care treatment. As of right now, we have a long journey ahead of us.
Health care professionals often base their opinions on what they’ve learned in medical school, what they’ve read in textbooks. The problem with that is educators and books have not experienced pelvic organ prolapse. It comes down to a classic common denominator that pervades the health care industry-we simply want our healthcare providers to listen to us-to believe us-to treat us with the same respect we give them even if what we are disclosing to them flies in the face of what their education has taught them about this health condition. We need health providers to look beyond the tunnel vision.
The message is pretty simple-we ask that healthcare providers who treat pelvic organ prolapse believe us when we tell them we have pain, we have pelvic pressure and discomfort, that the loss of intimacy is frustrating, that POP invades the normalcy of our lives in a big way. The message to women is also pretty simple-hold your heads high, disclose your symptoms in entirety, insist on your healthcare professional spending the time due you to discuss what your treatment options are. It is vital to remember that at their core, healthcare professionals are human and sometimes need to be reminded in a gentle way that they work for us.
Together we will create recognition of the realities of pelvic organ prolapse, books and medical schools notwithstanding. We know what we know, experience is an incredible educator.