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Wearing Two Hats

Feb 11

Posted by: ACHA
2/11/2014 12:08 PM  RssIcon

By Beth Adams

Most physicians make bad patients, and I am no exception. I much prefer sitting on the stool, laptop in front of me, changing medications, ordering tests, and offering advice instead of being on the receiving end of those things. Perhaps it’s for those reasons that I dislike my own cardiology visits so much.

While most of my friends and a number of my patients know about my CHD, most of my colleagues do not, which makes for interesting situations periodically. It’s not that it’s a secret, necessarily, it just doesn’t come up in daily conversation all that often. “Hey, did you see the Eagles game last night, and oh, by the way, did you know I have a CHD?” Perhaps not.

Showing up for my own office visits, echos and other testing has definitely raised a few eyebrows over the years, and most people are at a loss for words when they put two and two together, realizing that one of their adult congenital cardiologists is also a CHD patient. My favorite was when the MRI tech looked at me and asked if I was getting scanned simply so I could have a different level of empathy for my patients. My response was that spending over an hour strapped into the MRI scanner unable to move while jackhammers and an African tribal drummer pounded away a few feet from my head definitely exceeded my empathy limit!

The last time I lay in the MRI scanner I got to thinking about my CHD friends and realized that at least eight of them are physicians and three are cardiologists. I’m not sure what to make of this other than to propose that if the physical limitations of your CHD turn you into a bookworm when you are a kid, maybe you gravitate toward higher education and wind up in medical school. Maybe it’s to fulfill some inner need to be the one calling the shots for a change — pun intended!

The topic of a recent blog was “I Hate CHD.” I don’t hate my CHD — quite the opposite, in fact. My CHD made me the person and physician that I am today, and without it, I am certain that I would not be an ACHD cardiologist.

To quote one of my mentors, “You know, you have to come out of the closet [to the ACHD community] about your CHD eventually.” Well gang, I’m out. I am a proud, card-carrying ACHDer and have the scars to prove it. Some days I wear my cardiologist hat, and other days I wear my ACHDer hat… but that doesn’t mean I will ever enjoy being the patient!

Beth Adams is currently both a CHD patient and congenital cardiologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where she cares for adults and children with CHD. She graduated from Ursinus College and then went on to medical school at the University of New England, in southern Maine. Beth remembers ACHA in its infancy, and is delighted at how it has grown and evolved over the years. When not at work, Beth enjoys reading, kayaking, gardening, and spending time with her nephew.

Copyright ©2014 ACHA

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4 comment(s) so far...


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Re: Wearing Two Hats

Hi Doctor Adamsn/Beth,
I truly empathize with you. I just turned 50 y/o last year and have to say I am proud to be a CHD patient. While you have chosen medicine, I have chosen to help physicians as I am truly grateful for their care and compassion. I am always looking for new ways to serve.
Thank you for sharing your story. Best wishes for health, happiness and success.
Be well,
Michelle Marie Perron

By Michelle Marie Perron on   2/11/2014 1:49 PM
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Re: Wearing Two Hats

Dr. Adams,
I two am in the medical field and a ACHDer. I am a Certified Pharmacy Technician with the Naval Medical Center San Diego, and very proud to be in the profession I am in. I have had quite a few patients come through our pharmacy getting medications to prepare themselves for an up coming open heart surgery. I recognize the combo because I myself have had 5 open heart surgeries. I talk to the patients about things to watch out for when they have this surgery and the recovery from surgery especially the importance of exerciseing or cardiac rehab. Once I talk to them about this I see the terrified look on their face turn to ease.

By Catherine Schwertly-McNamara on   2/11/2014 4:22 PM
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Re: Wearing Two Hats

Dear Dr Adams,
I truly can relate to your testimony. I am a Clinical Sports Medicine Practitioner & Dietician, specializing in heart disease & diabetes. Currently I am studying Sports Cardiology with emphasis on adult congenital heart disease. I am a congenital cardiac athlete and facilitate pediatric cardiac & diabetic athletics & dietetics. My life experience living with CHD helps me to better understand and communicate with my patients and parents. Also educating the importance of exercising and optimal dietary nutrition for health maintenance. Thank you for sharing best wishes.

By Pinky Lim on   2/12/2014 9:03 AM
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Re: Wearing Two Hats

Thank you for this great blog Beth. I'm a registered nurse and recently I became the nurse coordinator for the Adult Congenital Heart Program at Stanford. It is quite the transition (I'm formerly a PICU nurse), and I struggle with who to tell and how to tell. I do think it enhances my practice but I also don't want my CHD to cloud my academic and professional achievements as the only reason I'm in the field. I joke that I like to hang out with people who can resuscitate and care for me.
I'm happy to see that many of us survivors have fallen into the medical field and specifically CHD care. We, more than anyone else, know what how important this "new" field of medicine is. I personally find it exciting to be on the forefront of the newest field of medicine. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

By Christy on   2/17/2014 10:55 AM

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