Julie* hates to be a bother. She lives alone and values her independence, so she always tries to solve problems on her own. And when she can’t, well, she tries to simply grin and bear it. 

That’s why, when the air conditioning stopped working in her car earlier this year, she tried to make due with putting down her windows or walking instead. 

After all, she’d always enjoyed her long walks in the neighborhood: the quiet, the scenery and above all the sense of accomplishment she felt on returning home. Plus, her Wellness Coach, Mary, had recommended Julie stick with the exercise as one way to help keep her high blood pressure in check.

In recent months, though, Mary learned that Julie’s walks had been getting shorter and shorter. Halfway up the hill, she’d turn back, completely drained, dizzy and struggling to find her footing. She’d need to lie down at home afterwards to recover, to cool off and get the room to stop spinning. 

Eventually, the walks stopped altogether. Even getting up from the couch to get a drink or feed the cat felt like a burden. Even worse, the dizziness left her reaching for the wall after just a few steps. 

Instead of that sense of accomplishment she’d enjoyed after her walks, her mornings had become filled with a heavy boredom and disappointment that bordered on depression.

When Mary asked about Julie’s symptoms on their weekly call, Julie blamed the recent heat. When Mary encouraged her to follow up with her doctor, Julie pointed to the hot car or to the pandemic, saying she couldn’t make it into the clinic just yet, but promising to get there soon. 

Julie didn’t want to trouble Mary or her doctor. So she decided to take matters into her own hands.

She started to look into the fatigue and dizziness herself, and after searching online, she discovered that they could be caused by her blood pressure medication. And it’s true — among other side effects, certain blood pressure medications can cause dizziness or fatigue. 

Never one to back down from a challenge, Julie started to experiment with her medication dosage. Instead of troubling her care team with questions and worry, she hoped to find a balance that worked for her, on her own. 

Some days she’d take just half her pill; other days, she’d take an extra half pill. With a little trial and error, she was convinced, she could solve this problem herself.

But when Julie’s blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level one day last month, Mary was on the case. Julie tried to downplay the extent of her symptoms and the adjustments she’d made to her medication, but Mary and Julie had been working together for some time, and Mary had learned how hard it was for Julie to ask for help.

“I know you mean well, but you can’t keep brushing this off,” Mary said.

Even if Julie’s medication was the cause of her symptoms, Mary explained, experimenting with dosages without medical guidance was very risky — too low a dose and you could end up with dangerously high blood pressure; too high and you could go into shock or worse. 

And if the medication wasn’t the cause of Julie’s symptoms, they could be a sign of something more serious, like a heart condition.

“What if I hadn’t been here?” Mary asked. “What if no one noticed that drop in your numbers?”

Mary promised to pass on Julie’s concerns about the medication to her doctor so that he could adjust her dosage if needed and again encouraged Julie to set up an appointment to talk about her symptoms in detail. She let Julie know that mynurse.ai could work with her to eliminate transportation barriers — like the hot car — or coordinate with her doctor to set up a telehealth or safe in-person visit in the midst of the pandemic. 

Finally, she reminded Julie of the walks she used to enjoy so much. Maybe, with a little help, she could get back to them. 

“Please,” Mary said. “This is about your quality of life.”

Just a few minutes after they’d finished their call, Mary got a text message from Julie: 

“I made that appointment,” she said. “Thank you so much for pushing me.”

*Member names and some details have been changed to protect privacy

Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the co-founder and CEO of mynurse.ai. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco.

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