By the grace of God, I have been a physician for about three decades. During this time, I have seen quite a bit. Sometimes, physicians and patients just talk past each other with hilarious effects.

There was the female patient who responded “No” to “Are you sexually active?” from a Doctor and turned out to be pregnant. When confronted, she said, “Oh, I just lie down and my husband does it”. There was also the guy who was asked whether he “drinks” and he said, “Yes”. When asked how much he drank, he said, “Six cups of water a day and a bit of milk.”

Today, though, let me start a conversation on when we communicate harmful behaviour.

1: “I left the emergency room because the wait was too long!”. I have heard this sentence from people with chest pain, dizziness and other life-threatening conditions. Some leave to go to doctors’ offices or home. I asked the last patient to tell me this, “What were you going to do that was more important than your health?”

2: “I am here for my six-month Sexually Transmitted Disease test”. Seriously? Some people, most of them young people do think an STD test every six months counts as prevention. No, it does not. One of these days, the test will be positive for something. The corollary of this is ” I don’t use condoms because I trust him”. Protect yourself unless you are married and trying to have children. The only person you should trust unconditionally is your mother– and maybe your dad.

3: “I stopped my medications because I felt better”. This is most often heard with regards to Diabetes and Blood pressure. The reason you feel better is because of the medicine– don’t stop it.

4: “My friend gave me the medicine to try” Ah, friends! You are not your friend. Sometimes, what appears similar to your friend’s illness may be different and even if diseases are similar, you may be allergic to your friend’s medicine. Besides, a lot of people who use illegal drugs or become addicted to narcotics first got it from a well-meaning friend. Trust but verify what friends tell you about health–except when they happen to be doctors.

5: “I do not go to the doctor because I feel fine”. That is unwise. There are many diseases that are quiet for years while doing irreparable harm. These include Hypertension, diabetes and some cancers. Periodic visits to doctors might unearth these diseases early enough to control them.

6: “I went to a prayer camp when the problem started”. Wrong. While we must always pray, we must seek care from Doctors and then support the care with prayers.

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7:”I bought some herbs by the Roadside that I am using for this”. While some herbs are useful, the dosages and side-effects are unknown. Sometimes, they interact with prescription medications. Consult a doctor first and make him aware of the herbs you take.

8: From loved ones, “I knew it was wrong for him to take alcohol/drugs etc but I did not want to offend him”. Well, they will end up addicted and blame you. Sometimes, tough love is what we need. Remember, “Spare the rod and spoil the child?”

9: “I know my body. I know what is wrong”. Not really. While it seems like common sense to say this and it is true sometimes, it is generally untrue. I have met patients who are up to 6 months pregnant and a few in labour who did not know they were pregnant!! Many people with HTN and Asthma and cancer have no idea what is happening. Indeed, physicians have felt unwell and ascribed their symptoms to colds when they were having heart attacks!

If any of these applies to you, rethink your approach and help your Doctors to care for you.

Stay well and be a good patient.

The writer, Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy, is a Ghanaian medical doctor based in the United States