health care 88.
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After months of suffering you have been finally diagnosed with fibromylagia. You now have a name for your pain and tiredness, but your doctor doesn't offer much in the way of prognosis or advice. Can anything be done to alleviate the pain? Will you always be so tired?
Your doctor has told you that your blood tests show that your homocysteine levels are far too high, and you've never even heard of the word. Where can you turn to find out more details about your condition?
In both cases, the address to turn to is Da'at, an organization that provides patients with comprehensive and extensive medical information about their condition. The staff at Da'at (Hebrew for knowledge) are all qualified medical personnel and/or database managers, who comb the myriad of medical avenues and search through medical text books, reports on latest research and articles in medical journals to find the answers to your own personal questions. All this information will be photocopied and sent out to you by mail - totally free of charge.
Although many conditions are basically similar, Da'at will never just send out a generic package of information. When you call (most of their enquiries are by telephone from all over the country), you will first speak to a nurse who will take down all the details pertaining to your personal situation. Then up to five people will start searching for answers to your questions.
Since the advent of the Internet, patients are becoming more involved in searching for medical information, but it's very difficult for the layman to know which websites are reliable. Also, many of the best medical sites are subscription-based and subscriptions can run to hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year.
The staff searching for solutions and information for you will get together with the appropriate volunteer medical personnel who work with Da'at, such as a gynecologist, endocrinologist or neurologist to discuss their findings and decide which information is appropriate to send you.
Nava Dolev, nurse, midwife and founder of Da'at, explains that she and her staff "become" the patient. "They look for information as though they are you. They are putting themselves in your shoes and searching every possible avenue, whether it is for surgery, medication, alternative therapies or an appropriate diet."
You may also be asked questions which may perhaps seem irrelevant to you but often hold the solution to your problem. One patient found that his thyroid medication wasn't effective any more, and contacted Da'at to see what else he could use instead.
In the course of the initial interview Dolev asked him what he ate for breakfast. He replied that he ate a very healthy breakfast with plenty of fiber. This would normally be praiseworthy, but as this was eaten just a short time after he had taken his medication, the fiber was absorbing all the medication and not allowing it to take effect. Once he left a longer time span between taking his medication and eating breakfast, the medication started being effective again.
These seemingly small details can make the world of difference, but are often not explained properly in the leaflet accompanying your medication. A busy doctor simply does not have as much time to devote to each patient as do the staff of Da'at.
It's also very easy to be overwhelmed when you first get a diagnosis, especially if it's something as frightening as cancer. Your mind may go numb, and fear stops you asking the many questions tumbling around in your head. In this situation you may simply acquiesce to whatever treatment the doctor first suggests. This can happen no matter how intelligent, successful or mature you are.
Dolev recalls another client who was diagnosed with bladder cancer and told that she would have to be operated on. The client and several members of her family were in various fields of medicine, but they came to Da'at for help and advice to see if, in her particular case, an operation was really the only option. After extensive research, another treatment option was decided on and the family returned to their doctor confident in the knowledge, and successfully argued their case against the operation.
"People engage in more market research when buying a cooker than when facing brain surgery," says Dolev.
Often, patients think they are unable to argue with a doctor because they don't know enough, so at Da'at they give the patient all the information and knowledge that he needs to make an informed and intelligent decision about his own treatment. They want to give the control of his body back to the patient, making him a partner in all decision making.
Da'at was first established over nine years ago by Hadassah International and Hadassah-Israel. Although giving an excellent service, Dolev realized that they weren't reaching the wider public and after several years of involved negotiations, Da'at joined forces with Yad Sarah that aids disabled, elderly and housebound people. The largest volunteer organization in the country with 104 branches, Yad Sarah is run by more than 6,000 volunteers.
The two organizations complement each other perfectly. Yad Sarah is well known to the public and thousands of people pass through its doors every year, mostly to borrow wheelchairs, walkers or crutches. Few know about the many other facilities that the organization has to offer - and this is where Da'at comes in.
When clients turn to Da'at for help regarding a medical problem or procedure, the staff, as well as giving them written information, can also refer them to an appropriate section of Yad Sarah. For example, few people are aware of the 'shikuman' facility which offers rehabilitation to younger members of the population, usually not available under the kupot holim health funds.
Under 60s suffering from a degenerative disease or perhaps after a car accident have only limited care in a regular rehabilitation program, after which they fall between the bureaucratic cracks. The shikuman rehabilitation program offered by Yad Sarah provides physiotherapy, music therapy and occupational therapy. Yad Sarah also provides a volunteer service to the housebound who cannot get out to fetch medications or food.
Information from Da'at is available in seven languages, although the majority is in English. If a patient has difficulty understanding Hebrew and therefore doesn't understand his own medical documents, the staff at Da'at will help out.
A patient's physical circumstance is only part of his condition, and the staff at Da'at are sensitive to emotional needs as well. One patient, who had a terminal illness and was very depressed, was encouraged to record his life-story which was then made into a booklet by Yad Sarah. This took quite some time, with a volunteer going to the patient's home regularly and sitting with him while he told his story, giving him a real purpose and a chance to forget his illness for a while.
Although most of Da'at's queries come by telephone from all over the country, until now the only physical branch was in Jerusalem. A new branch has just started operating out of Yad Sarah House in Rishon Lezion on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 4 pm to 7 pm. Dolev hopes that eventually there will be branches of Da'at in many of the Yad Sarah facilities.
In the meantime, telephone enquires can always be made to Da'at's Jerusalem office at 02-6444500, open Sunday to Thursday 10 am to 3 pm. If you leave a message one of the staff will get back to you. The Rishon Lezion branch can be reached at 03-9543376 or 9543377.