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Sticking up for Your Health
Finding a Doctor That Does the Same

After years of contending with a digestive disorder and experience with a range of doctors who treat Gastroenterology Intestinal (GI) condition, Vicki Lee has honed in on what matters most in the care she receives.  Proactive in managing her own health, Vicki encourages patients, particularly those with GI issues, to shake off any shyness and pursue the care they need from a trust worthy doctor.  Perhaps caring for a daughter with abdominal problems has made Vicki more proactive in stressing the importance of protecting one’s own health.

Vicki is not alone in dealing with ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder familiar to some 500,000 people in the United States.  This chronic inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation and sores in the inner lining of the large intestine or the colon.

At 37, Vicki began experiencing stomach cramping, diarrhea, and blood in her stools.  Within two days, she was on the phone arranging an appointment to see a GI specialist; eventually, she was referred to Dr. Steven Desautels, whom she saw almost monthly to help her manage the disease.  For the past 13 years now, Vicki has been his patient.

“My experiences as a patient of Dr. Desautels have made me recognize how a doctor’s bedside manner is huge in helping you learn to trust and open up,” says Vicki, point out that this balance of being both professional and personable, plus accessible, has made her a loyal patient.  “First thing he wants to know is how you are doing as a person.  He asks me about my family and husband, and remembers our past conversations.”  She recalls some of her doctors who didn’t have time to listen, or she sensed they were rushing and stressed about being behind schedule.  A doctor who attentively listens before determining treatment and then takes a balanced approach in determining what comes next is important.

“I want a doctor that tries to solve the issue, seeking the root of the problem and doesn’t just treat the symptoms,” says Vicki. “As well as a doctor that considers the expense and necessity of the procedures and tests that might be needed, or not.”

When Dr. Desautels said her colon needed to be removed, Vicki told him that she needed a second opinion. “Absolutely, I agree and I would do the same thing,” encouraged Dr. Desautels.  Eventually, Vicki returned to him for a surgeon recommendation and received much of her follow-up care at Granite Peaks.

Vicki is not a procrastinator.  She emphasized to others the importance of acting quickly if something doesn’t seem right health-wise. “If a doctor can’t get you in within one to two weeks, go elsewhere,” she says, noting that often by the time symptoms show up, the problem has been going on for a while.

Vicki also suggests people with digestive issues keep a diary tracking their diet and bathroom habits. “I started noticing that whenever I ate hamburger meat, it would create problems for me,” says Vicki. She also suggests writing down your questions, symptoms, and current medications prior to visiting your doctor, in case you get nervous and forget or just get distracted.

While GI issues can be very personal and ’embarrassing,’ Vicki has no patience for that as an excuse. “Unless you are open and honest with your doctor, they can’t help you. Find one you trust and remember that confidentiality is a huge part of their profession,” advises Vicki. “If after several visits, you don’t feel trust and a rapport developing, then find another doctor, because it is up to you to advocate for your own health.”