Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ranting On

A few months ago, we had been planning a trip to Yellowstone.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel well for the last few weeks, so we canceled the trip. Our son, Joel, didn't think it would be a good idea to haul me out to the mountains only to end up possibly having to haul me out of the mountains and  to a hospital somewhere if things possibly went from bad to worse.

I felt so bad about this change of plans, but thought maybe a less strenuous, shorter trip would be better, so we took a trip with a rather shaky me to Ohio and Michigan.  Joel, Carl, Ann and I left last Saturday and arrived home on Tuesday evening.  I didn't feel very well, but still had fun.  We invited Ann along, too; she deserved a vacation after helping us so much here in the gardens. ( I was still sorry it wasn't the Yellowstone trip, though.)

We toured the Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland (home of the Wade Memorial Chapel and the most beautiful Tiffany window I have ever seen) the Cleveland Art Museum, Botanical Garden and then onto Akron and 'Stan Hywet' a beautiful mansion.  In Michigan, we toured Hidden Lake Gardens (SO worth the visit if you are a nut for dwarf conifers!) and finally, the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden in Grand Rapids, MI. 

I have to organize the pictures yet, so I will post them soon....but in the meantime, here's where I am with the medical junk........and my apologies in advance for whining.  But if you can relate, please let me know I'm not alone with this experience.  Sometimes I feel I'm just not lucky with the medical community, ya know?  So, here goes:

 I'm still waiting for some test results and there are so many loose ends yet to be figured out, including the big one, finding a new doctor....egads, I'd rather dig quackgrass out of my lawn with a tweezers in 90 degree temps wearing a wool coat and long underwear than deal with another new MD.

I seem to have a fatal flaw when it comes to finding a doctor.  I always pick the wrong one.  This is also the reason I don't play the lottery or gamble.  I lose.

All the time.


I started out with one doctor a few years ago, who, while asking me to stick out my tongue and say 'Ah', was pleased to inform me my sore throat wasn't due to tonsillitis since he could see I'd had my tonsils removed.  I dutifully shook my head in agreement, oh, what a relief! until I remembered a pesky little detail; I never had my tonsils removed.  He looked at me sternly (you know how they do that sometimes?) and said, "No, you have definitely had surgery, you have no tonsils."

Ah, that makes you have faith in the medical profession, doesn't it?  And, by the way, for those of you keeping score, I am still in possession of my tonsils.  The very next doctor I met with found them. 

I don't go to the doctor unless it's really necessary except for yearly exams (or missing tonsils) which I hate, but I know it's preventative medicine, like an oil change after 2000 miles, so to head off whatever calamity might befall me, I bite the bullet and have the Yearly Physical.   It went well this past May, just the usual cholesterol issue and my usual promise to eat better, which I really thought I was doing.  I was told to take fish oil supplements, which I  did, thinking I was being 'heart healthy'.

Then the dizziness and weakness, and joint issues and all the other boring, weird stuff started happening a few weeks ago which scared me enough to head back in to the doctor, who I found out, isn't a doctor, but a  nurse practitioner.

I miss the doctor I used to have; he was one in a million but moved away to Iowa six or seven years ago.  (I hope I wasn't responsible for the move...?)

Since Dr. Perfect has been gone, it's been a crapshoot, and not because I am picky about MD's either, it's because doctors are shuffled from one clinic to another, and you rarely see the same doctor twice.  They don't know me, I don't know them, it's awkward at best.  And lately none of them look at my chart enough to know even the slightest thing about me, and believe me, my chart is not all that thick.  It's not like they have to wade through a file the size of 'War and Peace'.  I try very hard not to be a complainer and a hypochondriac, I really do.

I just don't feel well lately. 

So, the nurse-practitioner went through my symptoms and ordered some tests, the first of which was pregnancy, and let me tell you, at 52, that nearly laid me out on the table when she suggested it was a possible cause.....I know they have to check for it, but wow, I really, REALLY wish she would have told me immediately after she knew the results of that test right upon coming back in the exam room, because I was sitting on the table sweating bullets. 

I finally asked her and she just turned and giggled, "No, you're not expecting," as if the idea of testing for it was my idea.  (Maybe it was, I could have been delirious for all I know.)  "I hope you're not disappointed," she added.

No, disappointed was not the word.  I mean, my hat is off to the many movie stars who postpone parenthood until their fifties, but I don't have the luxury of a full-time staff of nannies like I used to read about in stuffy English novels--'Nanny, please have our son/daughter present  for viewing at dinner this evening so that we may observe him/her and show the child to our assembled guests."

Then when the nanny brings the aforementioned offspring into the room, the parents and their guests take a gander at their progeny to see if they meet with their approval and they are dismissed.  (Gee, come to think of it, we could have used a nanny when we had our two sons........but anyway---)

The nurse practitioner did run a bunch of blood tests and sent me home.   The next morning, she called me to tell me what the results were, I don't have diabetes or this or that, but I do have 'markers' for rheumatoid arthritis (gee, they made me an appointment with a rheumatologist for the end of the month) and an elevated calcium level they are puzzled about and she recommended having an additional test run for parathyroid problems.  This could be the reason I've been dizzy and exhausted and brain fogged and aching, so I was rather relieved to hear there was a possible cause.  And get this, despite my Fish Oil Regime and New Improved Diet/Exercise Program of the last three months, my cholesterol is now up a whopping 203 points higher!

"Time for a statin," she cheerily announced. 

But because I see an endocrinologist for my thyroid problems,  she couldn't run the parathyroid test for fear of 'stepping on his toes'.

I said, "Go ahead, stomp on his foot,  if that's what it takes," but she refused to proceed with the next step.  They have to follow the Chain of Command.

"I would do the test right away, if it was up to me," she said, "But it's not.  You need to talk to your endocrinologist."  (The test would be non-invasive, I simply have to have a 24 hour urine test where I, ah, how to put this delicately? pee into a bottle for 24 hours and they see if any calcium is being excreted.  I'm not asking for exploratory brain surgery.) 

So I called my endocrinologist's office at 9AM that morning which is nearly 90 miles from home and told them of my predicament.

His nurse said, "We have your blood test results here; I'll get back to you after I talk to Doctor Endocrinologist."

I said, "Will that be sometime today?"

"Yes, as soon as I speak with him I will call you, should be in a hour or two."

So I waited and waited and waited some more.  Being miserable, I slowly and shakily did some laundry and cleaned some house, all the while with the phone in my pocket, waiting for The Call.  Doing whatever work I can do takes my mind off the clock.  That is one of my mother's rules:  If you can't do anything about a problem, then go and do something productive while you wait.

Please call.

No call.

2:30PM arrives, so I call Dr. Endocrinologist's office again.  The cheery receptionist informs me that Dr. Endo and his Nurse have gone home for the day, gee whiz, goody gumdrops, they NEVER work past noon on Thursdays.  But they will be back in tomorrow if I want to try calling then. 

Oh.  I see.  "Well, can I talk to someone else?"

"I'll have another nurse get back to you, but she's busy right now.  Can I have your phone number?"

Sure can, I dutifully repeat my name and number. And wait again, for another three hours.

Getting close to clinic closing time again, so I call back, talk to a different receptionist, and lo and behold, the nurse who had supposedly gone home for the day at noon was now there, in the office.  Wow.  And wow, she wasn't too thrilled to talk to me.

"I talked to Dr. Endo about your test results.  He feels your symptoms have nothing to do with your thyroid.  You can stop taking your meds for two days, and then start taking them again, if you want.  He suggests if you feel this badly, go to the ER."

Go to the Emergency Room?  And why stop taking my meds for two days? and if I start again, I'm supposed to take the same dose?  Huh?

"But what about the elevated levels of calcium and the parathyroids?" I stammered.  "Doesn't he think there's a chance we're on to something here? If I could just take the 24 hour urine test," but before I could finish the sentence she said, "I told you: Dr. Endo feels your symptoms have nothing to do with your thyroid."

I said, "That's possible, but what about the parathyroid glands?"

See, I did some reading online, and NO, I don't believe everything I read online, but doctors tell you they want patients to educate themselves and be effective advocates, so I was doing my best not to sound like a head case and my Nurse Practitioner and internet research all agreed further testing would be the usual course of action when blood calcium levels are elevated. 

"Dr. Endo feels your levels are not elevated enough to warrant testing. I don't know what else to tell you."  She sounded very bored and annoyed and I felt like a pestering gnat.  I asked if I could make an appointment to see him.

"If you'd like," and she transfered me back to the appointment desk.

If I'd like?  I'd LIKE to whack you one 'upside the head, is what I wanted to say, but I said, "Thank you," in my Very Appreciative, So Sorry to Have Bothered You Voice. 

I used to work for a large, huge, make that giant, insurance company as records clerk and had to deal with very irate people all the time.  It was no fun.  And since that job, I learned a lot about people.  The one thing that is embedded in my brain is  I NEVER speak down to a clerk in any office or cash register operator in any store, or whatever a person does for a living, because  I know that the clerks/sercretaries/nurses/ what-have-you are not responsible for the doctors or their 'higher up's' decisions. They are simply doing their job, and for the most part, I believe they are doing the best they can.  But every once in awhile, you run into the exception to the rule.  I know we are all human and can have a bad day, but this particular nurse is really a piece of work. 

I went back to the Nurse Practitioner who had said I should have the test and talked to her in person, this time with Joel, and pleaded my case for the P test.  Nope, she wouldn't budge either, she still thinks the test is warranted, but......Can't step on Dr. Endocrinologist's toes.  So, back to a dizzy, weak, Square One.

But she did refer me to a different, New and Exciting Endo, who (or is it whom?) I can see September 28.  Oh, that soon?  And, no, he won't run the P Test either, not until he sees me.  I hope his nurse is nicer.  I hope he will at least listen.  I won't find out for two weeks. 

I just hope he can locate my tonsils.


Darla said...

I have been wondering about you...this is strange because I went to another follow up surgery appt. yesterday about my elbow and hand. I am having a blood test today to check for RA markers...did they check your protein levels for fibromyalgia?

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

Karen, I'm so sorry you are having such a problem with the medical profession. You story is a perfect example of the horror stories we hear at work about "what not to do". You absolutely don't have to tell me but I hope it isn't Aurora Drs. Yup, that's who I work for,but in the business office. The " not calling you back when promised" is one of the biggest no no a nurse can make.I can't tell you how much they (Aurora)stress how important our patients.
We have an absolutely wonderful endocrinology in Marinette,his name is Dr Panja and everyone who sees him just loves him. very thorough and an extremely nice guy.
Darla is right about the fibromyalgia ,something to consider,also I know lime's disease is still around,but I don't really know what the systems are.
Just know that I will keep you in my prayers ,
God Bless,Lynda

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your illness, but that is some story. I had to admit it was crazy funny at times and so unbelievable at others. Like a book you can't put down. Hope you get a doctor that finds those tonsils and cures your ills. What a ring-around you were put through.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, that window is gorgeous! I hope you get some magic elixer soon, as there is nothing worse than a gardener who can't garden. I have been there so I know how you must feel.


Karen said...

Darla, the fibromyalgia is something I will check into. (That is, if the new doc lets I am sorry to hear you are still having problems, too. I hope neither of us have RA!

Gardenwalkgardentalk, thank you, and yes, my first test of a doctor/patient relationship is to see if he can locate my tonsils.

Eileen, oh, I hope I find the elixer too! Thank you!

Lynda, you're not gonna believe this, but it's a very small world.....if you can drop me a line via email, I'd appreciate it. You can reach me at

Alison said...

I totally understand your frustration. I hate going to the doctor, sometimes it is just so hard to make them understand the problem. Getting stonewalled by the front of house staff is so unacceptable. I've been wondering about your health issues, I hope you get it sorted out.

So sorry you didn't get to make the trip to Yellowstone because of it.

Missy said...

It's the same worldwide. If we went to a mechanic who said he had no idea what's wrong with the car or a drycleaner that said they couldn't remove a stain we wouldn't pay them and we certainly wouldn't go back. Hope you can find a good doctor & get back to normal again soon.

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