By Jane Glenn Haas
The Orange County Register Men have a reputation of not being the most cooperative medical patients. Newport Beach, Calif., businessman Richard Stevens is no exception.
But he maintains he survived a heart transplant, multiple heart surgeries, colon cancer, a coma and acute thrombosis not by ignoring medical advice but by being proactive about his symptoms and treatments.
His book, “Never Give Up! The Six Secret Steps You Must Take to Protect Your Own Life,” says it all — simply and succinctly.
Q. You’ve created and operated some amazing facilities, like Southern California’s Balboa Bay Club, Disneyland Hotel and Queen Mary properties. How does your business experience translate into getting good medical care?
A. I did most of my most successful business deals during the 30 years I was sick. You have to ask continual questions. You have to think outside the box. For example, my wife, Joan, read about CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) long before doctors determined it’s beneficial to people with potential heart failure. She got it for me, we kept asking questions and I believe it kept me from needing a transplant for six years.
Ask and keep inquiring. Research the internet. Talk to whomever. Know yourself better than the doctor does. Don’t just accept what the doctor says.
Q. The medical profession must not be thrilled to hear that.
A. Amazingly, we thought we would be slammed by them for putting out the book, but the majority of doctors we deal with are very supportive. I’ve been asked to speak at a heart conference and before other groups of doctors, and I have endorsements from a number in the health field. The fact is they know they don’t have time to fool with you as an individual. The only one to look out for you is you.
Q. Let’s talk about your time in the hospital.
A. A lot of your medical success is not who you are but how you work the problem. In the hospital, always have a family team captain in the room with you most of the time. My wife refuses to leave the room when nurses ask her to, for instance. They are so overworked, sometimes they make mistakes. Joan checks to make sure there is no duplication of prescriptions. Just having your advocate there is half the battle.
Q. There is so much packed in this small book. “Dick’s Rules” for example, which range from “know yourself better than your doctor does,” through building a team of people from all walks of life to support you, think outside the box, demand attention, develop a daily routine for mental discipline and “embrace persistence and never give up.” Is this common sense?
A. You need to be constantly vigilant and prepared. My father died at a young age. I was convinced I would die young. Then I realized my business success was in corporate turnaround, making weak businesses profitable. And when I applied that approach to my personal needs, I have survived 27 years as a critical care patient. I’m 77 today.
Q. Let’s mention some important points you make:
A. Always carry a complete list of the medications you take in your wallet. Keep a list of your doctors and your patient advocate team on hand too.
Never go to a nursing home.
Have your hormone levels checked regularly.
Keep your mind open to alternatives. Acupuncture once was a no-no and so was physical therapy.
Most important, ask questions while you are healthy and while you can.
When a medical problem slams you is no time to look around. Concentrate on staying alive, not just getting the paper work done.
Develop a daily routine and never, never give up.
Q. And your book is in its second printing?
A. I’m very proud and grateful.
Jane Glenn Haas writes for The Orange County (Calif.) Register. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.