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Dr. Jason Brayley works with a patient at his clinic at MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Puyallup.
After Dad's heart attack, doctor makes his own health a priority
For those of you not familiar with the sport of cyclocross, let me give you a brief tutorial about this crazy form of bike racing. Cyclocross racing has roots that are deeply set in the cold and wet winters of northern Europe. Many years ago, one of our cycling forefathers decided that bike racers could stay fit in the fall and winter months by putting knobby tires on their road bikes and racing over muddy courses that were filled with obstacles of all shapes and sizes.
My first season of cyclocross was fantastic until I hit a muddy rut I didn’t see, falling hard on my rear end and tearing some fibers of gluteal muscle tissue off the back of my femur bone. No problem, I thought. This will get better soon.
Now comes the part that I’m ashamed to admit: For the next 18 months of my clinical practice, I preached much more than I personally practiced. Every day, I would see patients with sore knees, clicking hips, or any other manner of musculoskeletal issue that prevented them from leading a comfortable life. Day after day and patient after patient, I would extol the virtues of taking time to engage in physical therapy and recondition the body back to a point where pain would no longer limit a healthier life -- except for me.
I told myself I didn’t have time for it. My job and time with my family were more important than taking care of my own needs. I convinced myself that my body would fix itself, and recovery would be as speedy as when I was 15 years old.
My symptoms reached a point that I could no longer tolerate, and I carved some time out in my schedule to have a physical therapist devise a plan for my rehabilitation. “Great,” I thought. “Finally I will commit myself to getting this problem fixed.” Three days into my treatment plan, life threw another curve at me when I received a call from my sister telling me that my father had a heart attack and would need a four vessel bypass surgery. Suddenly, the hip didn’t matter so much anymore and I was on the way to California to spend time with my Dad.
I spent hours in the hospital with my Dad that week before and after his surgery. I was lucky I still had the chance to do it. Things don’t always turn out well with heart attacks. Now in my late 30s, I realized that despite the years I had spent in medical school, residency, and fellowship training to be a physician, I had never really taken time to consider my own personal risk for elevated cholesterol and the potential for developing heart disease. I suddenly realized that in order to take complete ownership of my own health, care for other patients in need, and provide for my family, I would have to put all of the stresses I thought were more important on hold and spend even more time investigating what I could do to improve my health. I couldn’t wait this out like I did my injuries from cyclocross.
I wasn’t happy that I would have to cancel a half-day of my clinic, but a month later I was waiting in a doctor’s office getting my own check up and cholesterol levels taken. As I sat in that waiting room I found myself feeling more relaxed than I had been in months, knowing that by addressing my own health I would more effectively take care of others now and in the future.
What is the difference between my experience and anyone else’s? Not much, really. Our lives have become overrun with schedules, emails, smartphones, sports practices for our kids, work pressure and stress -- and little time to take care of ourselves.
I hope that you are able to strike that balance. I am personally working on an even better heart-healthy diet, and my hip will be more than ready to go in the next few weeks.
It is hard to say no. It is hard to tell others you don’t have time. It is hard when loved ones get sick and you need to care for them. It is even harder to admit that you need to be selfish sometimes and take care of your own needs before you can offer yourself fully to others that you care deeply about.
Dr. Jason Brayley is sports medicine physician for MultiCare Health System. He can be reached at 253-446-0750.
Posted on Jan 3, 2012 in MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine