Book Review:Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient

Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patientby Michael A. Weiss. 1stBooks, ISBN 0 75960 473 8, 2001.

Confessions of a Professional Hospital Patient: A Humorous First Person Account of How to Survive a Hospital Stay and Escape with Your Life, Dignity and Sense of Humour is a guide to spending time in hospital of value to first timers and veretans alike.

Aimed primarily at people with an imminent hospital stay and their families/supporters this book should also interest medical staff working in grastro-enterology who want to develop their understanding of the patient perspective.

I was delighted to receive my copy of ‘Confessions’ direct from the author, and when it arrived I was pleased to see that the book was well put together, with a good binding, nice readable typeface and a good size to carry with you into hospital.

The book is divided into chapters beginning with ‘Pre-admission preparation’ and ending with Weiss’ perspectives and opinions on healthcare in the US. Weiss is generous in the amount of material he makes available to others to help them deal with the administration side of the US healthcare system – this was fascinating to a UK based reader like me. Weiss supplies proforma letters, along with sound advice about what to copy and file.

The author has had over 50 hospitalisations so within the text there are plenty of lessons learned and tips which are based around a varierty of his own experiences. I’ve had quite a few hospitalisations and you do soon realise that some of the more perplexing aspects of hospitals aren’t down to your mirunderstanding, it is the system or a lack of communication. Some of the more common areas of confusion are explained carefully and tactfully, such as in the case of catheter removal – unless someone tells you, you don’t realise that you have to show the nurses everything you wee otherwise they force you to have the catheter replaced!

There is a plentiful appendix full of extremely useful outlines of things such as living wills and powers of attorney. I really appreciated the author addressing these issues as they can be easily overlooked.

It was really intersting to see that the hospital day, and general management of wards was virtually the same in the US and the UK. Then disheartening to read that dismissive treatment in accident and emergency also occured, albeit, very rarely.

(WordPress ate this section of the review, I will rewrite it tomorrow!)

In conclusion I think that this is an excellent book for anyone who has just been diagnosed with a chronic disease and expecting to spend some time in hospital. I also heartily recommend it to anyone in the medical profession who wishes to gain a patient perspective. I think it would particularly suit patients in the US who are trying to get to grips with the medical and insurance interface as I am sure that Weiss knows all the tips and tricks by now!

You can buy ‘Confessions’ from Amazon . Happy reading! Disclosure: I was delighted to receive a complimentary copy of ‘Confessions’ from Michael A. Weiss to review for my blog.

News round up 8th October 2011

New diagnostic test

The UCF Research Foundation has licensed a promising diagnostic test for the detection of the mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, also known as MAP, bacterium in humans to an international biopharmaceutical company that is developing a treatment for Crohn’s disease.

The diagnostic technology is able to diagnose MAP infection in humans using DNA testing based on nested PCR molecular technology. MAP is present in roughly 50 percent of people who suffer from Crohn’s disease and could be a leading cause of the disease. You can read more about this here.

Anti-biotics and Crohn’s

People who are prescribed a large number of antibiotics tend to have a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a new study finds, providing more evidence that antibiotics may be disturbing bacteria in our intestine.

“It’s not that antibiotics cause inflammatory bowel disease, but that it further supports the hypothesis that changing the gut flora may be disadvantageous,” co-author Dr. Charles N. Bernstein, who studies bowel disorders at the University of Manitoba, told Reuters Health. You can read more here.

Perforated Bowel

A young man with Crohn’s Disease from Wigan was attacked in a nightclub and suffered a perforated bowel – very nasty. Sadly his recovery has been slow. You can read more here.

Casey Abrams announces the finalists in his IBD sufferer of the year competion. You can read more here.

If you know you get stressed here are some things you can do to learn to be less stressed

This is the fifth post in a series about stress. Previous posts are:

You might want to actively take action to prevent stress or learn techniques that will help you manage stress. Here are eight commonly available ideas to get you started

  1. Try out a few local Yoga classes and attend the one that suits you the most
  2. Look for a meditation class
  3. Learn relaxation techniques
  4. Learn assertiveness / mental toughness
  5. Confidence
  6. Talk to someone you really trust
  7. Learn time management techniques
  8. Work off your stress with physical or mental activity

7 Active stress busters

This is the fourth post in a series about stress. Previous posts can be found here, here and here.

Stress can impact on Crohn’s Disease and so it is important that you actively manage your stress levels. Here are some active positive things that you can do which will keep your mid off stressful thoughts and get you doing / thinking about something else instead:

  1. Learn to say no – you can’t do everything all of the time
  2. Delegate or allocate tasks to others – this can be at work or home e.g. let someone else book the restaurant or cook a meal
  3. Treat yourself regularly – what do you enjoy? Theatre, cinema, favourite restaurant, evening class or massage?
  4. Make time every day to switch off with friends or family – as Jane Howard said ‘Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.  Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one’
  5. Try to have a special goal to acheive – something to look forward to such as a party or a holiday that can keep your mind focussed on something positive
  6. One day / evening a week try to go out of the house to do something – don’t just stay in and watch TV
  7. If you have children, try to have some time on your own where you can prioritise your needs

7 behavioural things to watch out for stress wise

This is the third post in a series about stress. Previous posts can be found here and here. naughty coping mechanism

If you are aware that you are stressed you can work to develop awareness of behaviour patterns that might bring temporary short term relief but unfortunately exacerbate your stress in the long term.

Here are seven common behaviours to watch – put your sensible head on and try to overcome your inclination to go with them.

  1. Watch what you eat – are you consoling yourself with sugary or fatty snacks?
  2. Watch out for other behaviour such as self-medicating stress with nicotine, alcohol, tranquillisers or painkillers
  3. Make sure you are getting enough sleep – I try to make sure that I am in bed by ‘pumpkin time’ i.e. midnight  because I know that the calm, collected and fresh looking Catharine won’t be around tomorrow if I am in bed later than midnight.
  4. On the otherhand – don’t oversleep or stay in bed all day
  5. Watch out for when you are getting tired and do something about it before you get too stressed
  6. Watch out for signs and symptoms and if you think you might be getting ill, you probably are, so don’t carry on as if you aren’t ill.
  7. If you can anticipate stressful situations then you might be able to work towards managing them a bit better – increase your ‘down time’ or reduce other committments.

You might be stressed if…

This is the second post in a series about stress. The first post can be found here. The other day I described some physical signs of stress, but sometimes stress manifests itself more noticeably in your behaviour.

The following list describes typical behaviours that are associated with stress. The impact of stress on chronic disease is varied but important to recognise as it can exacerbate your symptoms or lead to further health problems. If you find that you are exhibiting these behaviours you might want to find ways to destress and unwind or talk to your Doctor about other ways of managing your condition.

  1. You need nicotine, alcohol or drugs to unwind or feel relaxed
  2. Your sleep patterns change – you need more sleep, can’t get to sleep or wake up in the night
  3. You feel lethargic and disinclined to do anything
  4. You are short tempered for no particular obvious reason
  5. You tend to argue with people rather than discuss things with them
  6. You often feel angry with yourself, sometimes because of the other behaviours on this list
  7. You often feel angry with other people for no particular reason, or for insignificant reasons
  8. You stop doing things you enjoyed doing before
  9. You withdraw from society, for example staying at home all the time, declining invitations to go out with friends
  10. You become paranoid about the people aorund you
  11. You become weepy for no reason

Am I stressed? Symptoms of stress

This is the first post in a series about stress. If you have chronic disease, it is important to understand stress because  it can make many chronic diseases worse, and can lead to other symptoms un-related to your original condition.



These symptoms can be confusing, can be confused with other ailments, and can increase / decrease depending on what is happening in your life.

You might not have the mental machinations of stress and anxiety such as thinking about a situation all the time or feeling stuck, but you might be experiencing it all the same.

The following list is a range of symptoms which might be related to stress and can be used as signs from your body that you need to make some changes to become less stressed.

If you experience any of the symptoms below you should get in touch with your Doctor to discuss them immediately, as they could be a major emergency:

If you experience any of the following for longer than a few days it is worth talking to your Doctor about management / treatment options:

The following are mental rather than physical symptoms:

What symptoms do you experience when you get stressed?

Second draft of the medical history proforma – so you don’t have to repeat yourself over and over

One of the most frustrating things about Crohn‘s (especially if you have blockages and adhesions) is that you can unexpectedly end up in hospital all over the place. I had a period of a few years where every holiday was doomed to end up with me in hospital somewhere – eventually the problem was found.  It turned out that there was a grapefruit sized abscess wrapped around my bowel which led to exciting impromptu re-enactments of ‘that scene’ from the exorcist.

I now have an outline of my medical history to give to medical staff on my ‘travels’. The aim of the outline is to help me remember key dates and events, which can be forgotten in the begging for morphine confusion of admission.

I have attached a draft version of the outline here to share with readers: Summary of medical history (Draft 2) in order to get some comments from you about it.

  • Is there anything I have missed?
  • Is there about the right amount of space or do you want more?

Medical staff often ask you to repeat your medical history as a way of:

  • building rapport
  • checking you are compos mentis (composed mind)
  • checking that you are not suffering any ill effects of medication
  • checking for delirium that comes with fever

So having an outline to hand won’t necessarily reduce the number of times you are questioned but it will make a difference when it matters.

It is also useful to have to hand so that a carer, friend or relative can give all the important details to medical staff if you are not able to coherently communicate. This can happen if you have a fever or are in considerable pain.

So do let me know what you think about the second draft version, here it is:Summary of medical history (Draft 2))

and then I will upload a final version for you to write your own outline.

Coming up – Five part series on stress

This is just a very quick announcement to say that I have been working on a short series of posts about stress.As some of you know I teach Yoga and have crohn’s Disease, so chronic disease and stress identification and management are two things I know about.

I’ll be publishing the posts over the next 10 days.

If there is anything you want to know about stress, do post a question below and I’ll see what I can do for you!

Joint mobilising series

This collection of movements is a multi-purpose series designed to:

  • warm up some of the major muscles of the body
  • warm up some of the major joints of the body
  • develop your physical awareness of some of the major muscles and joints in your body
  • help transition from the stresses and strains of the day towards a calming Yoga practice

It is also a very useful sequence to do if you are confined to bed, or the sofa, but are feeling achy and in need of doing something.

1. Shoulder mobilising sequence from this post

2. Leg stretch

Have your knees bent and feet on the floor/bed. Draw your right knee in towards your belly and hold the back of your right thigh with both hands. As you breathe in (inhale) straighten your leg as much as you can and as you breathe out (exhale) bend your knee back to the starting position.

Draw your left knee in towards your belly and hold the back of your  left thigh  with both hands. As you breathe in (inhale) straighten your leg as much as you can and as you breathe out (exhale) bend your knee back to the starting position.

Recommendation: repeat up to five times, building up to ten times.

Extension 1: Extend your leg, and hold the stretch for up to 10 breaths.

Extension 2: repeat the movement using both legs

Extension 3:extend both legs and hold the stretch for up to 10 breaths

3. Ankle twirls

Have your knees bent and feet on the floor/bed. Draw your right knee in towards your belly and hold the back of your right thigh with both hands. As you breathe in (inhale) straighten your leg as much as you can. Twirl your ankle around one way and then twirl your ankle around in the opposite direction. As you breathe out (exhale) bend your knee back to the starting position.

Have your knees bent and feet on the floor/bed. Draw your left knee in towards your belly and hold the back of your left thigh with both hands. As you breathe in (inhale) straighten your leg as much as you can. Twirl your ankle around one way and then twirl your ankle around in the opposite direction. As you breathe out (exhale) bend your knee back to the starting position.

Recommendation: repeat up to five times, building up to ten times.

4. Hip openers

Gently rest both hands on your right knee and move your knee in a circle by pulling it towards you. opening to the side, pushing it away from you and then taking your knee over your left hip.

Repeat with your left knee.

Recommendation: repeat up to five times, building up to ten times.

5. Reclining cobblers pose

Start with knees bent and feet on the bed / floor. when you are ready, drop your left knee out to the left side, and then drop your right knee out to the right.. Bring your soles together. If you want to you can place cushions underneath your thighs to help support your legs. You may wish to put your hands on your thighs to help increase the stretch. Just do what feels right.

Recommendation: hold for between 5 and 10 breaths.