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The New Netflix Series That Highlights the Drawbacks of Our Health Care System

I went through a whirlwind of emotions that were heavily intertwined as I watched the Netflix series, “Diagnosis,” from The New York Times. It was heartbreaking, overwhelming, disappointing, proud and hopeful.

There are a couple of key factors that play a role in a successful diagnosis and treatment plan and unfortunately, we are severely lacking in a number of these when we shouldn’t be. Some of those factors include compassion, listening skills and teamwork.

The fact that millions of people in the US alone are suffering from debilitating, life-altering chronic diseases where it takes more than five years for a diagnosis is appalling. Most of this could be mitigated if doctors listened to their patients — if doctors could put themselves in a sick person’s shoes and help like they’re supposed to.

The Hippocratic oath, in my opinion, is clearly ignored by so many doctors and it’s sad and disappointing to hear how many are being let down each day.

My heart and soul was crushed to hear yet again, more stories of women who were ignored, told it was in their head, or to know that doctors gave up too easily on them. Even if it was “in their head,” there were still physical symptoms that needed to be addressed. Dismissive should not be a part of the medical field.

While a doctor only learns emergency based medicine and their hands may be tied due to a host of uncontrollable issues, I just wanted to jump through the screen and scream, “Do your job, research as much as your patients do, and help your patient find someone who may have the knowledge — even if it can’t be you.”

The sad reality is that in the five years or more it can take to find a diagnosis and a successful treatment plan, a mother can lose her job, a father can lose his home, a child is often robbed of their childhood, and relationships can fail. Those around us are silently suffering and becoming hopeless as they grow tired of the constant run-around. Sometimes they start to question their valid feelings, and negative thinking can cloud their judgment.

It’s heartbreaking.

It was completely heartbreaking to see parents cry for their children. Feeling helpless in protecting them, feeling like no one cared about them or wanted to help get answers. I watched this innocent girl who was so adorable, spunky and so sad. As she strummed the guitar (this takes place in the second episode), she sang about wanting to play sports, and how she wanted to go to school and be a kid. I cried like a baby for her.

It was heartbreaking to see the volatile relationships between young adults and their parents. While it’s hard to see your children go through so much darkness, it doesn’t make it right to project any anger towards them. I saw a loving father with poor coping skills. He loves his daughter more than anything –and that was apparent– but you could see his daughter (this was the first episode) was able to act more maturely than he was.

His wife was made to feel guilty because it was hereditary. To anyone who’s been in similar shoes, never feel guilty for uncontrollable circumstances, and never let anyone make you feel guilty for things you can’t control.

It was also disheartening to see others in our community failed by our government yet again. The man in the third episode gave his all during the Gulf War and as quoted from Dr. Sanders, “One-third of men suffer from Gulf War Syndrome” because they trusted their government wouldn’t lead them into a chemical landfill. To hear how poorly our veterans are treated by the VA, yet again, is disheartening. To hear that military folks die by suicide because of thoughts like, “…If their government won’t help them at the VA, who will?” Who else will help, if the biggest industry that boasts itself on brotherhood won’t?

If you feel helpless because someone or multiple people have failed you, the marine in that episode reminded each of us: “Don’t give up.” There are others who will help you. Take the first step and seek help until you find someone you’re comfortable with, and someone who can help get you answers.

It’s overwhelming.

If you have a chronic disease, watching this is overwhelming because, like me, I’ve experienced all of these interactions. I’ve experienced dismissive doctors, GI doctors who laughed when I mentioned Celiac disease, ER doctors when I mentioned lupus, rude nurses who judged me as I cried in excruciating pain, needing relief during an adenomyosis flare. I’ve been there, and was told it was “all in my head” too. Clearly eight autoimmune diseases later, it wasn’t.

Even more, it’s overwhelming to know we will continually face this even after a diagnosis. It’s frustrating to know that some healthcare providers will not work with us as a team if they feel threatened by their patient’s ability to learn and know themselves and their condition more than anyone else.

It’s disappointing.

Some doctors have huge egos, and are so ready to push back if patients question them. They use emotion before logic. From what I’ve seen, it’s time for them to put the ego down and work to solve the problem. They are not always right, as we learn in every single episode. It’s OK doctors, you don’t have to be right, but don’t be dismissive and degrading. It’s disgusting actually. Don’t give up on your patient and don’t leave them hanging because you can’t help.

It’s like observing a child and a parent with poor parenting skills. A doctor’s duty is to work with their patient, to listen, to observe, and to use their education to help them find a diagnosis.

At the end of the day, the patient still has the decision to make the final choice in their care, and at that point, there is nothing a doctor can do.

As with parenting, you hope you’ve taught your child everything and equipped them to thrive in this non-forgiving world, and hope they make good choices.

I’m disappointed in some of the parenting in these episodes. I know that no parent is perfect and that’s OK. However, my blood still boiled while watching. In the fifth episode, a daughter had uncontrollable vomiting, which eventually led to a more invasive port and could cost the daughter’s life when compared to the recommended treatment. While the mama bear did her duty to protect her baby, and while I believe she is right about parasites being the initial cause, I thought it was OK to be half wrong and accept a treatment that was non-invasive while treating parasites through an integrative approach.

I was also disappointed in the lack of knowledge that most of us receive about our health and nutrition. The current standards are so out-of-date that our food pyramid guidelines do more harm than good. The chemicals in our hair products, our food, our water, and so forth are triggering so many reactions that our body is overwhelmed with toxins it can’t get rid of. Epigenetics is eye-opening and a basic level of understanding of this could really help us as a community become forward thinkers in terms of care and prevention.

I think if we had better education, as well as easier access to education, and a drive to learn more, we could be proactive in our lifestyle choices, and help eliminate the severity of the symptoms we experience with chronic diseases.

It made me proud.

I’m proud of the doctors who pushed to help, especially Dr. Lisa Sanders, who led this entire initiative in the NY Times. She gives me hope in doctors. She restores the trust I have lost in our health industry. As someone who battles eight autoimmune diseases, I’ve lost trust a long time ago, which is what led me to my current passion of re-educating others on their health, their body, and how to live proactively to help reduce and prevent symptoms.

The fact that many of us have to hope we meet a doctor who will try and help relieve pain without debilitating side effects from medications, and who will help prevent our diseases from progressing is a harsh reality that I wish we didn’t have to experience.

Another notable moment was when the researcher from episode four genuinely felt for the mother and cried, promising she’d find a way and do as much as she could for her child.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s oftentimes the doctors who have experienced similar trauma or have a loved one with a condition who seem the most invested. I wish there didn’t have to be an emotional connection for doctors to do their job properly. I think our system seems to set doctors up for failure. The stress, the insurance rules, and the education are lacking in chronic disease since most of it is based on emergency medicine and treating symptoms, not digging for the root cause.

I’m still hopeful.

There are amazing men out there who love their partners more than anything in this world. Seeing a young man in his 20’s weep because his girlfriend is withering away and is in severe pain was such a beautiful moment. He cried tears of joy after she received a diagnosis and it was so special to see that he was by her side and supportive.

I’ve felt in the past that no one would ever want to take care of me with all of this baggage and uncertainty about my health and future, but this solidifies more that it’s just not true. I now know to hold myself to a higher standard, and that knowing my worth has pushed negative people out, and brought good people in. I hope more people watching this find it as eye-opening as an I did and I hope it triggers everyone to think more about what we could do together to help fix our broken system.

One positive thing that social media has done is it has brought us together. Because of social media and the Internet, people from around the world can be connected to help a complete stranger find strength, find peace and find a diagnosis.

Even if we don’t have an answer, it’s so much easier to keep going when you know you’re not alone.

What did you think of this series? How did it make you feel about our medical system and healthcare providers?