Diagnosed With Not Quite Surgical Precision

, , , , | Healthy | November 17, 2019

(In college, I start getting severe fatigue; I am sleeping ten hours a night, getting an hour or two nap each day, and still feeling exhausted all the time. I go to the student health center where they do some blood tests and diagnose me with hypothyroidism, where my thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone. I am given a prescription for the generic of a synthetic thyroid hormone, and things improve drastically for several months. But after I have my prescription filled at a different pharmacy, I start having different symptoms: anxiety, feeling jittery all the time, being unreasonably cold, etc. I go back to the health center where they run more blood tests. This is what happens at the followup appointment when those blood test results come back.)

Doctor: “So, your thyroid hormone levels are much too high. You have hyperthyroidism.” *goes into treatment options, which basically boil down to either radiation to kill off part of my thyroid or surgery to remove part of it*

Me: “Okay. Well, before we start talking about surgery, don’t you think we should try reducing my [medication] dosage?”

Doctor: *stares at me for a second, then reads my chart more carefully* “Ah. Yes, yes, we should probably try that first.”

(A DIFFERENT doctor in the health center was able to explain that I’m in a small group of people that are sufficiently sensitive to thyroid hormone that the different levels in different generic brands can act like a completely different dosage, meaning that I need to be on the name brand to ensure my dosage stays constant. We put me on the name brand and I didn’t have any more problems, and I never saw the other doctor again.)

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One Ring To Rue Them All

, , , | Healthy | November 13, 2019

My mom has an accident at work and spills boiling water directly on her hand, badly burning several of her fingers, one of which happens to be the finger she wears her wedding ring on. Her boss drives her to a nearby pharmacy clinic where she is seen by the on-call doctor.

At this point, her fingers have swelled a lot, locking her wedding ring on her finger and causing painful constriction. It’s clear that the ring needs to be removed. My mother is assuming they will cut the ring off of her finger, which she is sad about, but at this point, she’s much more concerned about relieving the intense pain she is in. The doctor comes into the room and quickly examines her hand, saying, “What a beautiful ring! It would be such a shame to damage it by cutting it off!”

He then proceeds to forcibly yank the ring off of her finger past the swelling, putting my mother in even more pain and tearing open the blisters that have started to form. 

She has since healed and is relieved to be able to wear her ring again and not need to pay to have it fixed, but she isn’t sure it was worth all of the pain and the extra time it took to recover due to the blisters being torn.

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A Shot Of Ignorance

, , , , | Healthy | November 11, 2019

(One evening, I get the call every person with an elderly relative fears: my 90+ grandma has fallen down and can’t get up. Luckily, she ended up next to the phone; she actually tripped as she was walking over to it because it was ringing. Since everyone else in our small family is either on vacation, not on speaking terms with Grandma, or living in a nursing home on the other side of town and not in possession of a driving license — or their full mental faculties — I am the only one who can help her out. I race over, hoping it’s just a case of having to help her up because she is in an awkward position, but as soon as I walk in the door and see the unnatural angle of her leg, I know we have a fracture on our hands and have to go to the hospital. We end up in an examination room at the ER, waiting for either the x-ray nurse or the neurologist, whoever shows up first. The neurologist has been called because Grandma hit her head on the stone windowsill when she fell, which caused a small wound and a bit of blood. That wound is the cause of the following conversation with a very chipper ER doctor.)

Doctor: “Well, Mrs. [Grandma], I know you’re waiting for the x-ray nurse and the neurologist, but I’m neither; I’m just here to give you a little tetanus shot.”

(My grandma is neither stupid nor suffering from dementia, but she has never had more than an elementary-school education, and apparently, she never learned what a tetanus shot is, leading to this little gem:)

Grandma: “A tetanus shot? What is that for?”

Doctor: “Well, ma’am, that’s for what we call ‘street dirt’–“

Grandma: *interrupting indignantly* “Street dirt? I fell inside my own home!”

(She sounds like she thinks what the doctor said is the most ridiculous thing she’s ever heard, and he and I simply couldn’t contain our laughter. The doctor gives a brief explanation of what a tetanus shot is for, but too brief, apparently, because as soon as he is out the door…)

Grandma: “[My Name], what was all that about? I don’t get it. My house is clean!”

(I gave her a much more expansive explanation of germs, and why even her nice clean house wasn’t free of them. She was pretty horrified, but finding out her femur was broken soon took precedence. She could laugh about it later, though, when I mimicked her indignant tone. She almost sounded insulted at being associated with any kind of dirt.)

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It Can Cause Anxiety To Diagnose Anxiety

, , , | Healthy | November 3, 2019

(In Australia, we have a universal healthcare program called Medicare which covers a significant portion of our medical bills. If you want to see a psychologist, Medicare will often cover 50-100% of the bill for ten sessions. However, you first have to go to a GP and get a referral to qualify. I have been struggling with my anxiety recently, so I went to the GP for a referral.)

GP: “How can I help you today?”

Me: “I’m looking to get a referral to a psychologist to help me with my anxiety.”

GP: “You’re a uni student, right?”

Me: “Yes. Working on my Masters.”

GP: “Do you really need a psychologist? I mean, it’s the end of the semester. All your classmates are stressed, just like you are. I’m sure how you’re feeling is no big deal.”

Me: “Right… and are all of my classmates having panic attacks in front of their student support officers because the support officer tried to start up a conversation about finding a job after graduation?”

GP: “Um… no.”

Me: “And is that something a mentally healthy person does?”

GP: “No. I’ll write you a referral.”

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Your Treatment Of Hypermobility Is Making Me Hypertense

, , , , | Healthy | October 31, 2019

(This story has taken about five years to come to a close. When I was seventeen, I started having awful fatigue problems, sleeping up to fourteen hours a day, and being constantly exhausted. I’ve always been fairly healthy, hiking for fun and rock climbing on a weekly basis, but after a while, I became so tired and my joints and muscles started hurting so much that I couldn’t exercise anymore. Because of this, I put on some weight. At nineteen, I go to the doctor because I’m in constant pain and believe I may have hypermobility.)

Doctor #1: “So, what’s the problem today?”

Me: *explains the last two years of problems, and how a friend showed me a list of hypermobility symptoms which seem to match up with what I’m experiencing*

Doctor #1: “Okay, well, I’m actually the hypermobility specialist for this surgery so I’m going to take you through a series of tests.”

(He takes me through the tests, including touching the floor with my legs straight, bending my fingers and arms, etc.)

Doctor #1: “Right, well, you definitely don’t have hypermobility; I don’t know how you got that idea in your head. You just need to lose some weight and you’ll be fine.”

Me: “How am I supposed to do that if I’m in pain all the time?”

Doctor #1: “Oh, just take some painkillers, exercise more, and eat less junk food. You’ll be fine.”

(Miserable, but believing him, I spend the next three years in increasing pain, eventually unable to work, socialise, or do any of my old hobbies because I’m so exhausted all the time. I fall into a deep depression, believing that I’m making it up and that I’m just lazy. Finally, after counselling and heaps of support from my friends, I get an appointment at the closest rheumatology clinic.)

Doctor #2: “All right, how can I help you today?”

Me: *twists my neck, making three to four loud pops on each side*

Doctor #2: *blinks in surprise* “Oh… are they all like that?”

Me: “Yup. I can crack pretty much every joint in my body, including my elbows and my kneecaps.”

Doctor #2: *after she takes me through all the same tests for hypermobility as the first doctor and a pressure point test to check for fibromyalgia* “Well, you’re definitely hypermobile in your upper body — anyone could see that — and the swelling around your knees is particularly concerning. I’m going to send you off for some tests and give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory painkiller tablet. If it’s not enough, come back and I’ll give you some more. I can’t believe you’ve been dealing with this for five years!”

(Now, after a year and a half of unemployment, I have a job I love and am able to do with energy left over for twice-weekly climbing sessions and plenty of socialising. Thank you to the second doctor I saw, and to the first doctor? F*** you.)

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