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Michael Hingson: A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare

You’ll hear a patient’s perspective on healthcare and a really interesting story about what happened on 9/11 from Michael Hingson on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare podcast with Rob Oliver. Michael and his wife are both people with disabilities. Their experiences in the healthcare arena have definite highs and lows. Additionally, Michael’s story about his experiences on 9/11 is fascinating. This is interview 20 in the patient’s perspective interview Marathon.

Here is the transcript of Michael Hingson: A Nation’s Perspective on Healthcare:

Rob Oliver: Thank you and welcome to another episode of Perspectives on Health Care. Today’s perspective is a patient’s perspective. It comes from Michael Hingson. He has some interesting thoughts from the patient side of things, but he also has a fascinating story because Michael was in the World Trade Center when it was attacked on 911. And he will tell you the story because it’s fascinating. He is blind, he uses a guide dog, and his experience there was phenomenal. So today’s episode is a doubly wonderful episode. Not only do we get the patient’s perspective on health care, but you also get a really cool story about what happened on 911. This is number 20 in the Patient’s Perspective interview marathon. I hope you enjoy.

Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare Interview:

Rob Oliver: Welcome. What is your name?

Michael Hingson: I’m Michael Hingson.

Rob Oliver: And Michael, where are you from?

Michael Hingson: I’m in Southern California.

Rob Oliver: Sunny, warm, lovely Southern California.

Michael Hingson: Sometimes.

Rob Oliver: Good. So Michael, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experiences in healthcare, please?

Michael Hingson: Sure. I am blind. I have been blind my entire life. So outside of being born, in a sense, my experiences with healthcare began very early on, before I remember them, when it was discovered I was blind, my parents were told by the ophthalmologists and the eye care professionals to send me to a home because no blind child could ever grow up to amount to anything in society. And that still all too often happens today. On the other hand, I have had a lot of good experiences with healthcare over the years. I and my wife, my wife happens to use a wheelchair and we both had challenges and we both had successes with healthcare.

Rob Oliver: So what was your parents reaction to that suggestion of putting you in a home?

Michael Hingson: Absolutely right from the beginning they said, you’re wrong. He can grow up to do whatever he chooses and we’re going to give him that opportunity.

Rob Oliver: Matt Seeley was on a little while ago and his dad was a powerful advocate for him in the same way. So kudos to your parents for understanding where you’re coming from and what’s going on. So, along your journey, have you met any healthcare heroes or any people who are really doing it right?

Michael Hingson: A number of people. Probably more for my wife than me. She became critically ill in 2014 and the doctors just did incredible things. She had double pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. And the result was she was on a ventilator for over two weeks and they actually had to use a very high peeps or air pressure level to get air into her lungs to clean out the pneumonia. That was so high that people in the hospital didn’t even believe that it was possible. And they all kept coming to look at the machines. They were calm. They did everything that they were supposed to do, and they did it right, and she survived.

Rob Oliver: This is one of the drawbacks of going to a teaching hospital is you become kind of an observation experience in which everybody needs to come into in and see what’s going on with you so that they can all learn about it and treat other people.

Michael Hingson: But I can’t well, this was a Kaiser hospital, so I don’t know if it was a teaching hospital, but it was so unusual that people had to come and look.

Rob Oliver: Okay, that makes sense. I was thinking about there are times when you don’t want to be that person, and there are things that are going on that are private enough. You know what? No, I don’t want everybody coming and looking at this particular thing.

Michael Hingson: She was unconscious, so she didn’t know.

Rob Oliver: Sure. Okay. Very cool. So, Michael, what does quality health care mean to you?

Michael Hingson: I think that quality health care needs to mean, and it means to me that your doctors connect with you. They take enough time to learn about you when it’s possible, talk with you, understand you, and make the most intelligent decisions possible. I mentioned what happened to me early on. I’ve experienced in my life a number of times when I’ve visited ophthalmologist, I had a serious case of glaucoma once and went to the doctor. Now, understand, I am a college graduate. I have a master’s degree in physics, and I have been in the professional world for many years. I go into this doctor, and he looks at my eyes, and he said, all I can say is your eyes are mad at you. I said, I want a diagnosis. Well, they’re mad at you. And he walked out. I will also tell you we didn’t pay his bill. That is not the way to deal with me. I’ve also, on the other hand, had ophthalmologists who were really good at trying to do the things that they needed to do, not only in terms of dealing with my eye pressure and other things, but explaining what they were doing and talking to me about it and allowing me to ask questions, which sometimes were pretty advanced questions. The only serious medical experience that I’ve had outside of the ophthalmological stuff wasn’t serious, but the only serious thing was I had a gallbladder removed in 2015. And even there, the surgeon started out a little bit difficult to deal with, but we talked, and he wanted to do the surgery that day, and I really wanted to wait a couple of days. And when we did finally do the surgery and we did wait, he said, you are absolutely right. You know, your body. And I should have listened, which was great. But I think that quality health care means that people have to understand you and really become aware of you and find out how much you know about your body, because they can talk to you more intelligently if they believe and understand that you know something about your condition or whatever, or your situation. Doesn’t need to be a bad condition.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack in what you just said. First of all, the question of what does it mean that your eyes are angry at you? Right. That’s not a diagnosis of any sort. It’s a generalism. And then you’re talking about the doctor saying, you know what you’re talking about, and I should have listened to you from the beginning how condescending it is to think, oh, he’s just a patient, he doesn’t know what’s going on. What’s your reaction to that?

Michael Hingson: Well, when they realize we’re more than just a patient, but we’re human beings and treat us like human beings, the relationship grows. My current regular doctor is great. He has conversations with me. We talk about things as I go in for annual physicals and so on, and does a great job. I can’t complain a bit about him.

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. What do you wish your medical providers understood about you?

Michael Hingson: That blindness isn’t the problem. Their attitudes about blindness is the problem. Let me give you a perfect example, and it goes across the board, not just to me, but around this country and around the world. Kaiser foundation two years ago, where last year did a survey of COVID-19 websites that would allow people to schedule vaccinations or COVID tests when that was the way to do it. Out of 94 they surveyed, ten had some level of accessibility. Most did not. Wow. And the medical profession doesn’t deal with disabilities very well. They don’t generally understand my wife, what she knows, and in terms of how to deal with chronic paraplegic, they certainly don’t mostly understand about blindness. They need to learn we are as capable as everyone else. We may use different tools, but we can do the same things that others can do, and we need to not be left out of the discussions.

Rob Oliver: Your statement, we can do what everybody else can do. Don’t dismiss us another Tweetable moment, which I love. So thank you very much for sharing that. I think that this is where I’m supposed to be. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of health care?

Michael Hingson: Well, again, they could start connecting with patients. They could start learning about the people that they serve, and they are providing a service. In the case of people with disabilities, they need to spend more time understanding disabilities and learning what they need. But I think all of us, what they need to do is to recognize that we are part of the equation, and our minds and our abilities are part of the equation, no matter who we are.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. It’s so right that you can’t dismiss the patient. You can’t leave them out of the equation. It’s got to be, as one of my previous guests said, it’s got to be a health care team. I think it was MJ. Calloway was talking about it’s got to be a team. And that team is not just doctors, nurses, and therapists, but the patient has to be included in that team concept. Is that…

Michael Hingson: Yes, I would agree with that 100%.

Rob Oliver: Cool. All right. So, Michael, we’re almost at the end of our time together, but I want to give you a chance. We’ve got about a minute and a half left for you to just share a completely nonmedical related story about you and I, how we met, and your story from 20020.

Michael Hingson: So basically my story is that I was the MidAtlantic region sales manager for a computer company and opened an office for them in August of 2000. The office happened to be on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. And, of course, needless to say, I was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in my office doing some work, preparing to do some sales seminars that day when the airplanes hit the towers and we were able to walk down the stairs with everyone else, I learned what to do. I knew what to do to get out. I led others and helped others and worked with others to help others to get out because I knew what to do. I had taken the time to learn what to do in an emergency, and so we did that. And so I was not afraid leaving the buildings. We wrote a book about it called Thunderdog. The story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust that’s available everywhere. It was a number one New York Times bestseller. One of the things that I realized during the pandemic is that I specifically have not really taught people how to do the same things that I did. That is, how to face an unusual and unexpected situation and not fear it to the point of being blinded or paralyzed so you can’t move forward. So we’re starting a new book, and we’ve got a contract for it. We’ve started writing. The working title is A Guide Dog’s Guide to Being Brave, because I’ve been working with guide dogs for 58 years, and we’re working on it, and it will help people learn how to deal with things that they would otherwise be afraid of and face them and think more intelligently about making wise decisions.

Rob Oliver: Fantastic, Michael. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate you, and I appreciate your perspective on healthcare.

Michael Hingson: Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here and hope all the rest of the podcasts go well.

Rob Oliver: All right. Take care, Michael.

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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