Your Health Care SUPERBOWL Team

Let’s talk Football 

I know it’s on everyone’s mind and it provides a great metaphor for your healthcare.  Managing your health when you have a chronic illness involves many players.  I think it is important for both outsiders and patients alike to understand just how complex of a team it takes to effectively manage one’s health.

First, we need to establish that the football is your health or your illness

You might be surprised but you need to have both an offensive and defensive line.  Your health care team Offense wants to work toward getting the football to a point of optimum health and your Defense is going to do anything possible to ensure that you don’t have to employ your Offense too often.  Although in football these teams work against each other, in your life, they work together and play important parts in your overall health.

We’ll begin with the Offensive Line 

The most important roles here are the coach and quarterback.  These will actually rotate between: you – the patient, your neurologist, and your Primary Care Physician (PCP).  Sometimes you will be the Coach and need to call the shots with your Neurologist playing the Quarterback and making some adjustments to your play.   At other times the roles will be reversed with you determining how you can efficiently execute your Neurologist’s coaching.  There will even be times when your PCP needs to be the Coach since you might have the flu which, although not MS related, can certainly impact MS and therefore he or she still needs to take all the factors of the game (your lifelong health) into account.  There are of course moments in the game when the quarterback decides on a different play, as the patient, when you are playing quarterback, you need to be in a position to change the play effectively and safely which I think is all about education and communication.  The more you know about your disease, “your opponent,” the better judgment call you can make.

Alright let’s fill out the Offensive Line.

We have your Center, Offensive Guards, and Offensive Tackles 

Your Center is really whichever Specialist is up on deck.  Maybe your current exacerbation is affecting your kidneys, bladder, and/or urinary tract.  Your Urologist is definitely your Center during this play.  Your Offensive Guards should either be a family member or close friend who can protect you from oncoming stressors that will trigger symptoms.  You also want a family member or close friend serving as your Offensive Tackles so that they can bolster you and encourage you when adhering to a treatment regimen or facing a particularly challenging time.  At times one of your physicians may play this role by quickly addressing a virus for example, while your Neurologist is managing a current MS symptom such as blindness.

A few more points before we finish with the Offense.

Your Running Backs will be played by your specialists who are not currently needed as a Guard or Tackle for that play.  Your family and friends play the Wide Receivers for the most part.  They may need to make an appearance when you are in a really tough spot and need some extra support.  Your Tight End really needs to be who you view as your caregiver in my opinion.  It might be a parent, child, significant other, or friend.  He or she can transition between roles when needed.  Sometimes they need to support you like the Wide Receivers and at other times to fend off attack by being on the Offensive Line.  And at all times, this caregiver is your assistant coach: taking notes at doctor’s appointments, helping to weigh pros and cons of decisions, reminding you to follow up with a doctor or of an upcoming appointment, and the list goes on.

By the way, a good coach and quarterback will know the strengths and weaknesses of the players.  You need to know when to rotate a specialist from tackle to guard depending on their strengths.  Maybe they are super creative but not great about getting back to you right away, keep that in mind when coaching your team, whether as quarterback or coach.

Your Defense is much simpler to describe and needs to be in play at all times 

The  Defense includes positions like a physical therapist, social worker, massage therapist, psychotherapist, etc.  This might also include some ongoing coping mechanisms you utilize such as journaling, meditating, laughing, or others that suit you.  This is also your treatment regimen whether it’s injections with supplements or a monthly infusion with weekly exercise.  This team should be working at all times.  Just like the Offensive players, some positions will rotate.  Perhaps right now your muscles are aching more so you’re relying more heavily on massage and yoga, but when you have to manage a financial issue with your insurance company you rely upon your social worker more.

The bottom line is – there’s a lot to consider when managing your health and when choosing members of your health care team, whether it be a family member or a specialist.  This is your support system and is crucial to ensuring optimal health. 

When crisis hits you want to have the right individuals in play to help you decide whether to bring in the kicker for a round of steroids, or your Guards, Tackles, Tight Ends and Wide Receivers so that you can be protected while getting some much needed rest.  After all, you wanna be prepared just in case the power goes out!

Now, go team go!!!!

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