Two years ago in Ramadan, my kidneys shut down. Over the following six months, I underwent dialysis in the form of three weekly 4-hour sessions. A few days after Mubarak stepped down, I was being prepped for a life-changing event: a kidney transplant.
Not to delve into my medical background, over the years I’ve tried to befriend a chronic illness for the sake of leading a normal life, enduring hospital stays, and undergoing painful medical procedures. On this journey, I faltered and got away with noncompliance, taking Allah’s blessings for granted. After 11 years of more downs than ups, I finally got it. Yes, the damage was done, but then it was all set in stone even before I was born.
Drawing on my experience, in this series I’d like to share with you several medical, spiritual and social tips that have helped me become a productive patient, in hopes of helping others who may be going through a similar situation or know someone who is.
I will begin by covering top medical tips, which relate to managing one’s illness and time effectively, and looking after oneself, stressing the importance of being a well-informed patient and playing an active role in the doctor-patient relationship.
1. Educate yourself about your condition.
It is important that you understand your condition well—its causes, symptoms, progression, etc.—in addition to any medication you’re taking for it, primarily their side effects and the role they play in your treatment. You can consult trusted websites like Mayo Clinic’s, WebMD, and Medscape, plus ask your doctor all the questions you have. The same applies to any procedure or surgery you’re about to go through. Being prepared and knowing what to expect makes the experience a lot easier. Also, go prepared to your appointments with any questions or concerns. If you need to make lifestyle changes, like lower your salt intake or lose some weight, spring into action. A word of caution: don’t take medical action based on what you read; always validate with your doctor any relevant study or piece of information you come across. Don’t turn it into an obsession either!
2. Be completely compliant.
Beware of falling into this trap: “I feel good today. I’ll skip my medication.” Undoubtedly, the ultimate Healer is Allah; in the words of Prophet Ibrahim :
“And when I am ill, it is He who cures me” [26:80]
However, tawakkul (reliance upon Allah) also involves taking the means, i.e. medical treatment. So, if you have current or future concerns about your medication, discuss them with your doctor. If you’re taking too many pills and feel confused, buy a pill organizer that’s easy to carry around—they come in assorted colors, shapes and sizes! If you’re forgetful, set a daily alarm or ask family members to remind you. If you tend to prioritize your work or studies (my favorite excuse!), remind yourself that without your health in top shape, you cannot accomplish anything. Treat your medication as you would treat your daily prayers.
3. Listen to your body.
Our body is an amazing creation that deserves our attention and care; it is a blessing that Allah will hold us accountable for if we neglect it. Most of the time, it will give you signals when something is about to go wrong. When you feel stressed out, give your body the rest it needs. If you notice a new or strange symptom, check with your doctor immediately. Follow a healthy diet, sleep well, and get regular exercise. Learning how to work with your body goes a long way in managing your health.
4. Spend your time wisely.
Hospital stays and recovering at home typically involve plenty of free time. Stay productive without overworking your body. For example, I used my time on dialysis to study for two SAT exams and keep up with my Quran memorization. When I felt too tired to exert mental effort, I slept, watched some TV, or chatted with the nurses. The inpatient routine in particular involves waking up early (for breakfast, medication, and doctor rounds) and going to bed early (the lights are switched off). My top two tools were my laptop and internet USB and a variety of books. This is also a good chance to think about and set your goals, write articles or personal reflections, and finish any procrastinated non-physical activity!
As an aspiring medical student and time-conscious person, I exceled at no.1 and 4 above, but failed miserably at being compliant and – more often than not – pushed myself to the extreme. Partly as a result, my condition worsened before I realized my mistakes. In a nutshell, listen to your doctor and always put your health first! In the next part of this series, we will move on to the spiritual tools that contribute to a patient’s productivity.
About the Author:
Dina El-Zohairy is Head of Content & Translation at ProductiveMuslim’s Arabic website. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management and works as Graduation Coordinator at a university, yet has always wanted to become a medical doctor. Dina enjoys writing and started freelance translation and editing a few years ago with Egypt-based Dar al-Tarjama. Now, she is seriously considering pursuing postgraduate studies in translation.