Be more active in your health care

Features Column

Recently I took my vehicle in for a routine service check. In the last couple of weeks, I had noticed a squealing kind of noise coming from the front end of my vehicle. My initial thought was that it was my brakes, but I wasn’t sure this was the case since the noise was not a scrubbing sound and it did not happen when I actually engaged the brakes. So, of course, while I was there for one service, I talked with the mechanics about my observations and asked that they perform a diagnostic check to determine what might be causing the noise.

The mechanic explained to me that he had driven my vehicle and intentionally engaged the brake aggressively and was able to hear the noise. He informed me that the noise was in fact coming from my brakes at the front of the vehicle and that I needed new brake pads. I listened attentively and then inquired about the nature of the service I would need to correct the problem and the costs to have it done. I gathered this information and then decided to hold off at that moment with the intent to return later. I needed a moment to think about the slight hesitation I had and to talk it over with my pop who is mechanically inclined. I also researched the costs and different levels of quality of brake pads. I realized I was a bit ill at ease because what the mechanic had described didn’t match with what my experience had been and that is what gave me pause. But, because my history with the company has given me a sense of confidence and trust in their integrity and work, I decided to return a couple of hours later.

I did not pull up and say, “Have at it!” Instead, it was important to me that I be assertive, explain my concern with his description of how and when the noise occurred, and ask further questions. The mechanic responded in a very understanding manner and was open to my request to ride with me so that I could be reassured that we were on the same page. I was able to identify exactly when I was noticing the noise and to contrast that with his earlier description. He explained things in clearer and greater detail and helped me to understand what was happening and why. He then showed me my worn brake pads next to new ones so that I could have a visual of the problem. The mechanic answered all of my questions including those regarding quality and cost of the ones to be used. I felt at ease and moved forward with the service. Yes, in the end, I went with the recommended service suggested at the beginning, but I did so with the peace that comes from being an informed customer.

I advocated for myself. I had honored my voice by acknowledging my hesitation, doing some research, and asking questions for clarification. I chose not to be intimidated by the expertise of the mechanic because while he knows a lot about vehicles, various problems, and how to repair them, I also knew that I have a relationship with my own vehicle and I’m in tuned with how “she” works.

It occurred to me that people will question a mechanic about suggesting additional services whether because they think he might be trying to get over on them, or because they simply don’t understand. Is it not equally or more important to question the physician who is prescribing multiple medications to you for some ailment? We should respect doctors’ education and experience, and be open to considering what they recommend, but we should make any final decisions about our healthcare. Doctors know a lot about the body, various illnesses, and how to treat them, but you have a relationship with your body that the doctor doesn’t. Honor that. Educate yourself, ask questions, and become an informed patient. We have to be active participants and not helpless by standers in our own healthcare.

Be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.