This is the second in a series of posts about the California HealthCare Foundation’s Chronic Disease Care conference (the first was Happy Dogs in a Pile of Sticks).

Patient Voices: Managing Chronic Conditions, Living our Lives

Ted Eytan snapped a photo that captured this session: Patient Involvement Makes People Smile

Here is each person’s story:

Nancy Ortiz, patient advisor: A back injury at age 48 forced her to rest, re-evaluate, and decide to improve her life, starting with her first physical in years.  “My doctor’s first words at my first visit set the tone, ‘How can I help you?’ But the major challenge of living with a chronic disease is that you never get a day off.”

Suzy Menjivar, patient advisor: Recently diagnosed with diabetes after years as a provider in the field: “Now I had to practice what I preach — and I’m in love with carbohydrates!” She is scared of needles, but that is a significant part of diabetes management – “and I know I didn’t want to be a non-compliant patient!” (which got a big laugh from the audience).

Ardes Gardner, patient advisor: Played in the NFL for two years and learned to eat “heavy and hard.” “I ran from diabetes for 10 months. Providers: don’t stop repeating the information, never think your work is in vain. Thank you for constantly shoving that information in my face.” His 10-year-old son is his major motivation to get better and talking openly about his health is his new mission. “No one at my church had diabetes until I stood up. Then everyone came forward.

During the Q&A, an audience member asked if a provider can create decision points like the ones which prompted Nancy and Ardes to make positive changes in their lives.  Ardes answered, “No, if the patient isn’t ready, they won’t make a change.” He counseled providers to screen for depression and aggressively treat it, but stop the fear-mongering since “it becomes meaningless.” He said that providers can continue to remind patients about how to manage a chronic disease, but the why comes from within each person.

As the audience filed out of the ballroom, I was glad to be heading toward a discussion group which included a “patient advisor,” as 6 out of 25 of the panels did at this conference. As Nancy put it, “Patients have a lot of wisdom.”

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