This post had been sitting in my drafts file for six months! I may as well finally publish it! 🙂
For the second year now, I have been lucky enough to have a full medical provided by the medical insurance that I have as part of my job. The small amount of money we get to actually go quite far in Asia and as well as having all the basics done, I always like to ask to have a few extras done, especially those nutrients that a vegan can be lacking. I headed on over to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok (because I just moved back here… YAY) early in the morning with an empty belly to get all my numbers done.
After lots of poking and blood work, I went back to the doctor and listened to the results. Here is our interaction, because I think it illustrates just how much many seeds that can be planted in such a short exchange.
Doctor: So your results are in. Your blood pressure is a little bit low but not low enough to require any treatment. Your BMI is excellent, calcium is fine, iron is a tiny bit low, but not enough to require any work to be done. B12 is good and your cholesterol is excellent.
Brighde: Great. Do you know why my numbers are so good?
Brighde: Well, I have a family history of osteoporosis and high cholesterol, so I am quite sure the numbers being good is because I am vegan. Do you know what that is?
Brighde: Someone who eats only plants, like jeh. No meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, fish etc. You know, you should recommend eating this way to your patients who have heart disease. I think it would really help them.
Doctor: But, I think that it is really difficult. Even I cannot do that.
Brighde: Well, I agree with you, that at first it is difficult while you learn to eat a different way, but I want to know. What is worse? Having your chest cut open or eating vegetables?
Doctor: Hmm… Well, what about burgers? I would miss burgers.
Brighde: I can teach you how to make burgers that will be really tasty.
Doctor: Well, that sounds interesting. (She is being very polite while I am telling her how to do her job.)
Brighde: Can I have a piece of paper?
I scrawled down the names of some important films or books that she might like to peruse in her own time.
After our pleasantries, I left the office with a skip in my step knowing that I had planted some really good seeds in that interaction.
Today, I need to go an see her again to pick up the report, and I will be offering her a USB stick with my favourite health related movies which of course, she might watch.
Some other thoughts about this interaction is:
1. Why don’t doctors know more about the health benefits of eating a vegan diet? Well, I think part of this is just the few hours that doctors spend on nutrition in medical school?
2. Why are regular doctors prescribing such moderate and ineffective recommendations to heart disease patients which are rarely successful? I think an answer to this, is that they feel it is impossible to make such ‘drastic’ changes to THEIR lifestyle, surely their patients could not do it either.
3. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hospitals had health coaches in them, that were covered by insurance that would give the sick people all the help they needed to live a plant-based lifestyle, eg cooking lessons, supermarket trips, counselling etc? Bumrungrad does have a ‘nutrition program and weight management area’ which I must find out more about, but I bet it is not what I have just described.