In 1994 I suffered an injury to one of my cervical discs (C5/C6). I sought various treatments including pain meds, chiropractic, and physical therapy. None gave me any permanent relief. I consulted with a neurologist who was willing to do surgery but recommended I avoid it for as long as possible. While many feel surgeons are knife wielding maniacs, this gent was not. He felt strongly that surgery was the wrong approach for me due to my age. He encouraged me to wait as long as possible.
I suffered another episode in 2000 and once again had an MRI which confirmed the discs were progressing in their disease. Again, more pain meds, therapy and such. I get through it.
A few weeks ago, a few days after working out with my trainer at the gym, I find myself in a pain like I have never felt. The pain was so severe at times I would silent cry. What I mean by this is that I was completely unaware that I was even crying. The tears would just fall from my eyes as I lay immobile on my couch with ice packs on my neck and back. I was prescribed various medications, several of which I had allergic reactions to, and eventually managed to find some minor relief.
It was during this time frame that a secondary problem, more serious, was discovered. It is the type of problem that has the potential to be life threatening, certainly life span shortening. I would be lying if I said it did not freak me out. It did. It still kind of is. It is a health condition that has been seen in my family in the past generations. The first two days I was deeply effected by thoughts of dying young, leaving my sons, never getting a chance again to meet my daughter. It was a dark few days.
Whilst in my gloomy freaking out pain ridden state, it occurs to me that I am better off than many of my adoption friends. I have my health history. I know what is in my family. When I go to the doctors and fill out the myriad forms, I can check all the boxes, answer all the questions. I can call my mother up on the phone and ask her to remind me what Choo Choo Gramma died of or what disease Papa had. I can take that information back to my medical team and they can use it to formulate plans for my care and make a better diagnosis and prognosis.
This is not true of many of my friends. They go through medical crisis after medical crisis with no health history, no records, no idea what sort of diseases may be laying dormant in their veins waiting to spring forth. Their children suffer serious illnesses and they and their doctors are limited in their ability to find cures.
Proponents of adoption and specifically closed records often state “there is no value to medical history”. To this I say “Oh, really?”. I would offer that even if there is no perceived medical value (and I question that), there is definitely, for me and possibly for others, some psychological value. While some argue ignorance is bliss, I would not agree. I find comfort in knowing what I am dealing with and what I might deal with. Being forewarned is forearmed. If I know, for example, that heart disease runs rampant in my family, I can make a conscious choice to do my best to minimize the disease, to eat better, to exercise or not. It may not help in the long-term, but it might, it may also decrease the likelihood of stress. The less time spent worrying and wondering can, for some, equal less time stressing and therefore, less time becoming ill.
Researchers from UCLA found that stress reactions can increase inflammation in the body. For those who experience chronic stress problems, this can lead to serious complications like heart disease, depression and asthma. Would a non adopted person with a medical history stress over a mysterious disease? I can personally say “yes” . We do. What if you are an individual who has no medical history? What about the adult adoptee mother with no medical history and a very sick child? When attempting to help your child, the doctors ask about medical history and you cannot provide it. Would that stress you out? Just a teeny bit?
To these situations and more I say yes, stress can cause disease. Lack of medical history can cause stress and untreated disease. Lack of medical history can cause premature death.
Lead researcher in the UCLA testing George Slavic states “We have known for a long time that social stress can ‘get under the skin’ to increase risk for disease, but it’s been unclear exactly how these effects occur.” I offer Mr. Slavic one factor for consideration: lack of medical history.
Why would anyone doubt the value of providing adoption separated individuals with their medical history? I never have but let me tell you that going through what I am now I am even more sure that all adopted individuals have a right to their medical history. I will further state that not providing that is a form of child abuse, a form that can kill not only the adoptee but their own future children.
Image/Artwork Credit: Lina Eve