Busy planner, agenda book, schedule

Making Time for Healthcare Appointments

With sickle cell, time is always of the essence. Life is unpredictable but even more so when you have an unpredictable chronic illness.

The unpredictability

You never know how much time you will have. How long a pain crisis or even a good day will last. Do you call the doctor right away or go the hospital in case the pain does not go away, or do you hold out optimistic that it will only be there for just a moment? Some moments last longer than others. Some moments stick with us, happen over and over again, and their consequences never really leave us.

Preventing what we can

As a public health major and medical student, I am always thinking about downstream effects. In public health we focus on prevention. I wish I could do more to prevent sickle cell crises. I mean, of course, there are treatments that help decrease the frequency of pain episodes and prevent long-term consequences, like hydroxyurea. Regular doctors’ appointments also help by catching scary things early on and making sure preventative health measures, like vaccines, are up to date as well. That is where I really struggle.

Planning challenges

Not being able to predict a sickle cell attack makes planning for most things challenging. Usually, I just plan with this hopeful optimism that I will not get sick and reschedule things as necessary. But medical school, is a whole another scheduling pain.

My class and clinic schedules are usually planned way in advance, even if I'm not informed in advance, and I honestly have very little say over what time I can take off. My school allows for 3 days off in an 6-8 week period – 2 days off in 4 weeks, I mean even the math does not really add up – to cover illness, doctor’s appointments, and whatever else life throws my way. I think most people would agree that’s absurd. I mean that is not even enough time to cover covid precautions let alone sickle cell crises.

Scheduling doctor's appointments

So making doctor’s appointments has really been a challenge for me. I try not to use up my allowed absences as they are so limited to save them up for sick days. That leaves very little workable room during clinic hours. And there are all types of appointments I have to make – annual eye, biannual dentist, annual doctors’, and whatever weird health things come up.

I’m currently struggling to schedule a visit with my OBGYN, follow up with my dentist, and a regular check-in with m primary care physician. And when I finally do get a decent amount of time off, I just want to relax and rest up.

I sometimes will use one break to catch up on a year’s worth of appointments and it gets exhausting. Sometimes I just want to spend the day in the sun, go on a trip, have a nice meal, or hang out with friends. But alas, life is always about prioritizing what is important to you and juggling multiple schedules. Guess I will just keep trying.

Does anyone else struggle to make time for appointments?

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