“You can’t have that, you’re too young.”
A phrase I have heard all too often. Granted, some of the time I, along with many others are just being a hypochondriac (that’s what happens when you learn a lot of pathologies in PT school). That being said, I feel this phrase needs to be abolished. The common misconception that only “older” or “inactive” or “unhealthy” people get sick or have certain injuries needs to change.
Of course, certain comorbidities and risk factors definitely make people predisposed to certain diseases, conditions, injuries, or a slower healing process. However, this does not mean they are the ONLY ones that can suffer.
As I currently work in a hospital, I see a variety of people with different illnesses or injuries–One very common one being patients who suffer a stroke. Now, if you would ask the general public or even many physicians who is your typical person who would get a stroke? Likely, the answer would be someone over 60 with high blood pressure, maybe a clotting disorder, who knows. But regardless, the answer, I guarantee you would not be “someone in their mid 20s, maybe 30s, who is super fit and exercises all the time.” Why would they have a stroke, right? They are WAY too YOUNG for that to happen. Oh, but surprise! In my short few months working in the hospital, I have seen a few people in their 20s, some in their 30s, many in their 40s and 50s who have suffered strokes. Some of these people lived extremely healthy and active lifestyles prior to suffering their stroke.
Another example that I have personally experienced is having a blood clot. We are taught that when people are immobile, overweight, after they travel long distances, when they possess a higher clotting factor, have various heart issues, are a smoker, etc – they are at a higher risk for having some sort of blood clot. Sure, of course! They are at a HIGHER risk. The misconception here being that they are the ONLY ones at risk.
As I said, I personally recently experienced a superficial blood clot in my arm. Every physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, ultrasound tech – EVERYONE was like “How did you get this? Are you a smoker? Did you travel?” My answer? No idea, no, and no. Just a perfectly healthy 23 year old at the time. (Although I was studying for boards, so stress could have been an added factor.. but I did enough research on myself that I won’t go into detail..). I worked out at least 4 times a week (usually more, but boards studying could get crazy sometimes) varying between weightlifting, running, biking, and yoga. Yes, I realize a superficial clot in the arm is not as big of a deal as a DVT (deep blood clot) in the calf. BUT, how many times have you heard of “freak stories” of a young person having DVTs in their legs? I know I’ve heard of a few personally! Scary thing is, these clots could lead to something worse if not caught and diagnosed in a timely manner (even in a “young” person..gasp!)
This post is not backed up with research (although I’m sure I could do that and probably will in the future). It is merely me trying to advocate for myself, for your patient, and for you. It is so important that our differential diagnosis abilities as clinicians continue to improve. My plea is that you do not rule out anything for someone who is “young and healthy,” that is not a good enough reason. Strokes, cancer, blood clots, tumors, and other very sad illnesses occur in young people. You can be the person that starts them on their road to discovering his/her diagnosis and the appropriate treatment whether that be medical (refer out!!) or more of a physical rehabilitation (go PT!!).
Again, while this is more of an opinion/my-pet-peeve blog – I hope you see how important it is to take things very seriously in people, no matter the age or lifestyle. It could be a matter of life or death!
Until next time…
“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag