By Alissa Butterfass
19 Sep

Advice for Bus Stops, Heart Conditions, and Everything Else in Life

Monday, September 19, 2011

It was bound to happen. After writing in my last post that I always have so many ideas of what to write about for this blog, this time I was stuck. (I believe in the jinx—I should have known better!) Last weekend, I considered writing something about 9/11. Like Stephie, I was at the World Trade Center that day, but after reading her post, I wanted to come up with a new idea. Then I thought about writing about my (negative) attitude toward exercise, but Kelly beat me to it. Even a few hours ago, I wasn’t sure I’d meet my deadline.

But, as is always the case, something happened, not even related to my heart condition, and it sparked an idea.

My older son M. started kindergarten last week. While the school is not even 10 minutes away from our house, he is scheduled for pick-up at the bus stop at 7:30 a.m., a full hour before the school day officially begins. And, the bus stop is 0.2 miles and a good 7 minutes walk from our house. I know. I’ve timed it multiple times over the past two weeks. And that is in ideal conditions; I can only imagine when it’s raining or snowing.

So, despite my reluctance to become “that mom,” the one who makes a big deal out of everything (which I’m usually not, I promise), and despite my assumption that we’d just have to suck it up and deal, and fully expecting to get a “NO!” response, I called the transportation coordinator. I asked if it was possible to move M.’s bus stop to be closer to our house, even requesting the corner that is right across the street from us, viewable from my front stoop.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard her say, “Sure. I’ll look into it and let you know next week.”

And that’s when I remembered two important pieces of advice:
1. You never get something if you don’t ask.
2. Always be your own best advocate.

It’s true for kindergarten bus stops and it’s true for living with a heart condition (and for everything else in life, too).

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your healthcare professionals, and even push them when necessary. They are the experts, of course, but you know your body. If something doesn’t seem right, advocate for yourself and insist they check it out.

If there are two potential courses of treatment and you have a preference, speak up and ask if that method could be effective in your case. Your doctor may not realize you have a strong opinion. It doesn’t mean he or she always will agree to that treatment, but at least it will open the conversation to discuss the reasons you have certain preferences and if they can be met.

Is your condition affecting your effectiveness at the workplace? Think of a solution and then ask if it can be implemented. That’s how I got my first four-day workweek. I asked. I explained why and how I thought I could do the job effectively on a reduced schedule. And I got it. Granted, since then I’ve asked for flexible arrangement when seeking other positions and was refused—but I certainly wouldn’t get any special schedules without asking, so no harm, no foul.

I could go on and on and on. But the point is this:

No one is looking out for you as much as you are looking out for yourself. And no one can guess your wants or needs, if you don’t express them directly. When it comes to your health, don’t be afraid to speak up. To ask. To explain. To advocate.

And don’t be afraid to speak up when it comes to 7:30 a.m. walks to the bus stop either.

* * * * *

Question for you all:
Please share stories about times when you’ve really benefited by advocating for yourself or by asking for something you might have initially been reluctant to ask. And share any tips for those who might be shy about speaking up for themselves.

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.