Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here We Go Again

I am interrupting my scheduled What Have We Been Doing Part 5 programming to bring you all this recent news flash:
I Feel Awful.

For those of you who really don't want to hear my sad tale of woe, I don't blame you....I don't either.  But I'm still going to write about it because it makes me feel better.  
Sort of.

Yes, Chronic Karen is back on a hypothyroid-induced roller coaster.  Some people call roller coasters 'thrill rides'.  Well, that may be, but so far I haven't had any fun on this ride.  

At all.  None.  Zip. 

And I really don't want to end up where I was in 2010 being hauled down the highway riding backward in an ambulance, either.  I've learned my lesson; I won't be tossing around vague questions about heart health that nervous practitioners take seriously.  Because when you're strapped to a gurney in the back of that truck and the siren is wailing, well, it's a little too late.  

(If you are unfamiliar with that episode and provided you are interested, I refer you to this post from 2010:  Karen Gets Taken for a Ride )

Why am I posting about my aches and pains?  Well, mostly because I can't do much else right now.  I'm so bone tired.  My head ache is unbelievably bad.  My joints hurt.  My heart bangs around like a crazy moth trying to get to a porch light.  I'm weak.  And I cry.  No, wait, I'll take that back, I don't just cry, I Weep.  Profusely.  My eyes are so sore they are mere slits.  And then just as suddenly, I can find the humor in the whole situation and laugh which makes me wonder for my sanity.  My sense of humor is about the only thing keeping me going right now.  God help me when that goes.

As I sit here writing this, I'm waiting for the results of blood work drawn yesterday afternoon.  I hate waiting. 

So I will write.   Maybe some of you can relate to my experiences.  My hope is not many of you, though.  It's no fun, is it?

I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism way back in 1992.  Our youngest son David, was two years old, Joel was six and Carl and I were 32.  I was having horrible trouble with headaches, insomnia, joint aches, crushing fatigue, full-blown crying jags, hopelessness, despair, and weakness.  My weight was going up at a steady rate and my hair was falling out.  My hands and feet were always cold, but curiously, hot weather nearly incapacitated me.  I would feel faint and nauseous in the hot sun.  My feet, especially my heels, were so sore it felt as if bones were broken.  After sitting for a little while, walking the first five feet or so was pure agony, I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz forgot to oil the Tin Man.  I swear I could hear the joints creaking.  

I did have a doctor in those days.  As I've written before, I have not had great luck with doctors over the years.  I suspect it is because I have a fear of authority figures.  Well, maybe not a fear, per se, more like an unhealthy respect for people who are supposedly professionals and 'In Charge'. 

 Doctors, in their lab coats and with stethoscopes, always intimidate me.  I know this goes way back to my childhood and mental abuse, so when I can think things through rationally, I can see where I play my own part in setting up authority figures as little 'gods'.  Far too often in the past I have given people the power that rightly and justly belongs to me.  And apologized to them for troubling them with my problems which were obviously all in my head, to boot.

Case in point, the early undiagnosed thyroid problem.  I had a whale of a post-partum depression at age 28 with our eldest son, Joel.  Baby blues are normal, they say, and the doctor at that time brushed it off as just that, baby blues. 

"It's due to your fluctuating hormones, once you get through the first month, you'll be all better," the doctor said.  But since I had to have two blood tranfusions due to a forceps delivery, the doctor did look at my iron levels and prescribed a supplement or, in his words, "It would take me a long time to crawl out of the mental and physical hole" I was in. 

When they handed me baby Joel in the hospital for an attempt at a 3AM feeding, the tears would not stop flowing.   I was an emotional wreck.  Through my tears I whispered, "Oh, you poor, poor baby.  All you have is me to take care of you and I don't know what I'm doing." 

 I tried so hard to keep it together, but just couldn't.  I wanted to breast feed  but try as I might, it wouldn't work.  One of the nurses was genuinely concerned about my mental state and I do remember her asking the doctor if there was a possibility it was more than just the blues.  No, it was decided that the low iron level and the postpartum was the cause.  Just take your iron and relax.  Congratulations, you are a New Mom!  This should be a Happy Time.  And it should have been.  We had a healthy, beautiful son, what more could we ask for? 

We went through a nightmare after we got home from the hospital.  I couldn't stop crying, my milk supply was non-existent.  Joel was crying, I was crying, Carl was frantic.  God bless Carl, he was a saint.  He had taken off two weeks of work to ease our transition into parenthood and was just as sleep deprived as I was.  I pumped what little milk I had and we attempted to feed our baby with a bottle as he could sense my anxiety and refused to latch on.  I felt like a complete and utter failure.  We eventually switched to formula.  (But I did use cloth diapers to save money.)

I had worked full-time at an insurance company for the first ten years of our marriage and had worked right up until the day I delivered.  I intended to become a stay-at-home mom for we were now at a financial place that wasn't too bad; our house was nearly paid for and we had a small nest egg.  Still living on one paycheck has it's scary times, but we know how to stretch a buck.  What I'm saying is we don't lead a lavish lifestyle.  Once Carl went back to work, I had a very hard time with the anxiety of being home alone with an infant.  I'd never changed a diaper in my life; never babysat.  Yeah, I was green as grass and profoundly depressed.

About three weeks after Joel was born, work called me and asked me if I wanted to come back full-time.  The thought was tempting.  I wasn't feeling much better, and I was lonely.  My mom would come down to see me once or twice a day but my father was not happy about it because that meant she left him home alone so her blessed visits were always fraught with anxiety and tension.  I would simply try to wish the hands on the clock forward to 4PM when Carl would come home.  

When I went in for the newborn checkup, I mentioned the terrible depression.  The doctor pooh-poohed it.  Nothing to worry about.  After all, it will take time for the iron levels and my other hormones to stabilize.  

"You're a new mom, that's very common," he replied.  "Try to take time for yourself.  Relax.  Go to a movie."

Ok, I gulped back the tears and tried to smile.  

"See, it's not so bad, now is it?  You'll be fine."

So I stumbled back home and somehow or other poor Joel managed to survive his infancy.  As time went on, I did feel a little better, but it took almost six months before I saw light at the end of the tunnel.

I never felt great, but what I was good at was faking it til I make it, and I Faked On.  What else could I do, there wasn't going to be any help forthcoming.

Then I became pregnant with David four years later.  Everything was ok with that pregnancy until the second month when I started bleeding a bit on a Friday afternoon.  The same clueless doc told me I was probably going to miscarry.  If I hadn't obvious signs of a miscarriage by the following Monday, I was to make an appointment to see him for a D and C. 

Monday came, I had no further bleeding,  and in I went.  I asked him if he could check for a heartbeat.  He looked at me rather impatiently and said, "Well, I think it's a waste of time, but ok."

I searched his face as he wielded the stethoscope and finally he stopped abruptly.  "Well, I'll be.  There is a heartbeat.  Huh."

He gave me a hand up off the table into the sitting position and then announced I was going to have an ultrasound to see what was going on.  I had to wait a few days, drink a whole bunch of water, and then found myself on another exam table with a nervous young girl scanning my barely there tummy with a wand.  Once again, I searched her face anxiously, and though I asked, she said she couldn't say anything.  She did whisper that as far as she was concerned, everything looked normal and finally turned the screen to let me see the baby moving.  I was elated. 

Later on that day, back home, I received a phone call from the doctor's office. "Doctor has reviewed the ultrasound results and has determined you are three, not two months along.  We will be running some blood tests and will get back to you with the results."

I argued that my dates clearly pointed out that I was not three months along, but only two.

"You may think you know your dates, but ultrasound clearly indicates the size of the fetus and through measurements, we know you are truly three months along."

Ok, well, I guess I was wrong.  Huh.

The blood work was done and on New Year's Eve, 1989 I received another phone call from the doctor's office.

"The blood tests reveal your baby has a high likelihood of Down's Syndrome.  Doctor would like you to become educated before you deliver on the topic, so here's a list of reading material to prepare you.  Oh, and Happy New Year!"

I sat there, stunned, and thought I was surely dreaming.  I told Carl the news and went to our bedroom and laid down on the floor.  Then, I got back up again and called the doctor's office right back.  I told them I wanted an appointment right that afternoon, I didn't care it was New Year's Eve.  Somehow, we got in, I'm not sure how, but there we were, sitting in a conference room with a very impatient MD.  I suppose we were keeping him from a cocktail party or something.

"What do you want me to tell you?" he asked.  "Do you want me to guarantee you a healthy child?  I am not God, I cannot do that.  And IF you are here to talk about an abortion, then you will have to find another doctor.  I'm just telling you that the results of the alphafetoprotein test came back conclusive for Down's Syndrome.  We won't know how severe it will be until the child is born, that is, if you carry to term."

Abortion?  What?  Who said anything about that??  It was the farthest thing from our minds and here he's acting like we were demanding a termination of the pregnancy.

This was before the internet, so I had no place to turn for information.  I countered with, "But does it make a difference when the test is run?  Maybe if we rechecked it would be different?"

"No, there is a narrow window of time that we check the alfa-levels and since you are in your third month, this is when it is done.  If we wait too long, the result won't matter. "

I said, "But I still say I'm in my second month," but before I could finish that sentence he shot me down.

"No, I've told you before, the ultrasound test is the definitive test to determine the age of a fetus.  We take careful measurements and there is NO doubt you are in your third month.  Women's cycles and your memories of when your last menses was are faulty.  Science is not faulty.  You could elect to have an amniocentesis done, where we would use a fine needle to remove some amniotic fluid and see what the extent of the problem is, but I don't do that procedure, you'd have to see a specialist."

Through my tears, I told him to bring on his specialist.  I had to wait until January 2, 1990, but I did manage to somehow drive myself to the hospital on a terribly snowy, cold day.  The specialist was a big man, very quiet, and asked me to lie down on his exam table.  He pulled my t-shirt up and stood there for a moment, not saying a word.  He never touched me.

I had been having crying jags for days and was so nervous I was about ready to shake off the table, and this big man's quietly staring at my exposed belly was rather unnerving.

He finally said, "How far along are you?"

"Well, I think two months, but my doctor says three, according to ultrasound results."

"I agree with you," he said.  "You certainly don't look three months pregnant.  Well, we will get you ready for the amniocentesis, and I'll see you when you're ready."

So, I drank the gallons of water they prescribe, ok, it's a quart or three, but seems like an ocean, I don't remember, and then I shakily climbed up on the ultrasound table again.   The specialist came in the room, took one look at the picture the ultrasound tech was displaying on the monitor.  Then he took the wand away from her, did some exploring of his own and stopped.

"Get me Dr. H on the phone," he tersely told the nurse.

While he was waiting for a connection, he turned to me and said, "There is nothing wrong with this baby.  And you are indeed correct.  You are only two months pregnant.  The test was run at the wrong time and that is why the results came back for Down's.  I am so sorry you were put through all of this worry for nothing."

Then this very quiet man became a very loud one when he was handed the phone. 

"I have your patient on the ultrasound equipment at this moment, in preparation for an amniocentesis.  I have one question for you, do you ever listen to your patients?  She is clearly only two months into this pregnancy and has told me, and apparently, you, the same thing before.  But you chose to ignore her wisdom and went ahead and ordered a test a full four weeks early for no good reason. Then she is given devastating news and put through untold stress which, I may educate you with, is certainly not good for either the child or the mother!  I would not blame her if she brings you up on malpractice."

Wonder of wonders, the arrogant Dr. H asked the specialist if he could speak to me.  I was still lying flat on my back with a distended bladder which was very uncomfortable.  And I was crying silently as this conversation was going on from relief and depression and frustration and weariness. This was good news, truly it was.  I was thankful.  But what an emotional drain.

The specialist grumbled, "Dr H. wants to talk to you, do you want to talk to him?"

I took the phone shakily and mumbled hello through my tears.  Dr. H was all apologetic and happy-sounding, gee, isn't this Fantastic News?  And good golly, who knew?  And would I possibly have the time to come and see him tomorrow at his office?  

I said OK. 

Why?  The specialist was shocked to hear me say it. 

"Are you sure you want to go back to see him?  I would take over for him for this pregnancy if you would like."

WHY didn't I say yes to the Nice Specialist? 

Because I wasn't thinking straight.

I asked him, "Is your practice strictly Ob-gyn?"

"Yes," he said.

"I'd have to find another doctor for my four year old son, too," I stammered, and broke down again.  I had to pee really bad by this time, it was Urgent.

The specialist kindly left then, and asked me to stop in at his office after I was dressed.

He once again assured me nothing was wrong, it had all been an error.  He apologized for the ineptness of Dr. H, reminded me I could make an appointment for my next pregnancy checkup with his office and sent me on my way with a warm handshake and a solemn wish for my peace of mind.

And what did I do?

I went back to Dr. H.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Karen ~ You have been through some very traumatic experiences with the medical establishment. My husband did too, and that's why he did not like going to them.

I hope things will turn out well for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Rosemary said...

Oh My no wonder you have trouble with a Dr. That Dr. was horrible...his harshness so unnecessary.... I had a Downs child who was a joy but there was a sadness in me at the loss of what she could have been.
Do take care hope you start to feel better soon...

Pamela Gordon said...

Oh Karen, I was riveted to the screen reading this story. I'm so sorry you have gone through all this with your pregnancies and still suffer from hypothyroidism. I hope you get some answers for it. I have never had thyroid problems although sometimes I think I might have and the blood tests always come back normal. Take care of yourself. Hugs. Pam

africanaussie said...

Gosh I am so sorry that you are ill again Karen. I remember some of your nasty stories about doctors, and how hard you have worked to lose the weight and get fit. I hope you have a good caring doctor this time around. I also hope that he sorts you out so that we can have our happy, chatty Karen back!

Alison said...

Oh Karen. Hugs from me to you. I'm so sorry to hear you're having thyroid problems again. And to read about what you went through with your second pregnancy.

Doctors are idiots. I hate going to them too. I'd rather stay sick.

Karen said...

Dear Lorraine, Rosemary, Pam, africanaussie, and Alison,

Thank you all so much for your good wishes and encouragement. I am overwhelmed by your caring hearts.

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Karen, I'm sending hugs your way and you are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you start to feel better sooner than later. Take care.


Dana Trentini said...

Karen, I felt like I was right there with you as I read about your ordeal. I am sorry all you went through. It is upsetting to know how little awareness there is about thyroid conditions. I had so many of your same symptoms before being properly treated. Know there is hope to be well.