Last week I ended our story with "You have to be your own advocate." We were talking about things that happen around us, things we need to have a voice in, laws and legislation at every level that will affect our lives.As with so many things in life, when I was writing to you I had no idea that later in the week I would be attending my first lobbyist group meeting in Concord. Advocates and lobbyists are really one in the same.
Being part of our town clerk's legislative committee offers me the chance to bring our voice to Concord regarding bills that will affect us all. I'm still very new to the process, but a lobbyist role, just like an advocate's role, is to make sure our opinions are considered and heard.
Right now major decisions are being made around election laws such as absentee voting procedures, what is a "domicile," proper registration and so many other things. At this meeting, we discussed each one and our lobbyist explained what they plan to do on our behalf. It really is amazing how it all works and how changes and positive outcomes happen.
I also realized sitting in this meeting that this is the same approach we all need to take when it comes to our health.
Years ago my cousin Cathy, a surgeon, said to us, "You have to be your own advocate" when it comes to your health. First of all, you have to listen to your own body and trust your own instincts. Second, you have to ask questions and investigate. If you don't understand, ask more questions and never leave with any doubt in your mind. Remember, those in the medical profession are human, too. They also work for you.
Just this week a story was shared with me from a resident who knew something was just not right in her body. She was having unexplained pain, nothing would help, but at each appointment she was being told everything was fine, it might be this or that, nothing to worry about.
Thank goodness she kept asking that next question, investigating, lobbying on her own behalf. She didn't let it go and finally refused to take "no" or "nothing" for an answer. Finally through her persistence they did discover a major health problem and were able to correct it.
Another dear friend was in the final stages of cancer...heartbreaking. Thank goodness she was surrounded by many advocates that loved her. What really shocked me was that one professional would suggest one thing and then the next would suggest something else, like "Let's do surgery" or "No, let's not do surgery." I know a person's status can change quickly, but it just didn't seem right. Always checking for understanding, ask why, and ask a lot.
Thank goodness many of us spoke up and our voices were heard, but what about that person with no one at their side?
What really worries me are people that are alone and cannot speak up for themselves. Recently, I heard of a senior still living alone but had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night. They were taken to the hospital and admitted alone. Who is their advocate? Who asks those vital questions for them when they are afraid and in pain? It's just so very scary.
I read an article this week that said, of course, the medical profession has to be based on statistics and science but that there is still so much uncertainty and that ever case is not the same. We all need to remember this.
Something we can all do this week is to look around for that person who may not have an advocate. Give them your number, tell them to call your cell phone day or night; let them know you will be their advocate. We have to take care of each other and offer support.
Sherry Farrell is the Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.