Monday, January 22, 2007

It's like a Greek Chorus

Many people have been blogging about how sick they or their family members are right now. I hate to add to the cacophony of that, but since I have a somewhat unique story, I hope you will bear with me as I do it anyway.

If you are a close friend or family member, you will know that I have been battling a mysterious illness for about a year and a half now. This illness manifests itself in achy, swollen lymph nodes. Sounds tame, I know, and for the most part it is, but it keeps coming back and my doctor has no idea what it is. When the swelling starts and I get uncomfortable, I head to the doctor's, she writes me a prescription for an antibiotic and sends me on my way. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't. The swelling will eventually go away, but it inevitably comes back again.

I've been to the doctor about my neck three times this school year. This latest time I went in, complaining of pain in the left side of my throat when I swallowed. I figured it was an infected tonsil or something similar. My doctor felt my neck and said, "hmmm, I can't seem to feel any real swelling." She must have seen the twin expressions of disbelief and frustration on my face, because she added, "But let's test you for Mono just to be sure." Thinking that Mono could certainly explain how tired I've been, I agreed.
I called the office on the following Tuesday (they were closed for MLK day), and found out that the mono test was negative. They put me on an antibiotic and told me to come back on the coming Friday. She said I'd have an ultrasound to look at my neck.
At this point I have spent $25 in copays and meds. That is one gas fill up for my car - I'm breaking my budget, and it does NOT make me happy.
Friday comes at long last and with it comes a snow storm. I drive the 50 miles to my Dr's office. It takes me about an hour and a half. I hate driving in the snow, so I'm in a pretty ugly mood when I pull into the driveway. When I get there and get in to the doctor, she feels my glands again, asks me what the mono test results were (shouldn't she know??), and says it's too soon to say if the antibiotics are working or not. She does not do the ultrasound on my neck and orders SIX more blood tests. Basically, she has no idea what is wrong with me. The tests were for the following:
1. A virus present at the onset of Mono (but not Mono)
2. Another virus present at the onset of Mono (but not Mono)
3. My Thyroid
4. My Liver
5. A CBC (I dont' know what that tests, but I think it's pretty broad spectrum)
6. HIV.

That's right, she is so out of ideas, she is even testing me for HIV. She was adamant that she didn't think I have it, but wanted "to be safe." Okay, fine, whatever, I don't care. Super.

So I go over to the lab place to get my blood drawn. They take one look at the orders and stop. "Did you sign a consent form for the HIV test?"
"Ummm... no, but she asked me if it was okay to test for it and I said yes."
"That's not enough. We can't test you for that today. You need to sign the form and come back."
"Well, can I get the other five done and come back later?"
"Sure." They take me back to the room and draw five vials of blood. After I leave, I call my doctor's office. They have no form, didn't know I needed a form, can't give me a form to sign. They recommend that I go to the Bangor STD Clinic for this test.


Whatever. At this point, I am seriously pissed, irritated, and embarassed. Why this test has to be such a pain, I don't know. When I get to the clinic, I almost walk back out again. It is dark and dingy with an atmosphere of squalor. I don't belong here, I think to myself. I am college educated, in a monogamous relationship who has never behaved in a risky or unsafe manor. AFter asking three different women for assistance (and having to explain what I was doing there three separate times), I get to where I need to go. This enormous black woman with an almost noncoherent accent proceeds to ask me a series of embarassing questions:
1. Have you had sex with an infected person? (yes, I try to make a habit of that)
2. What will you do if the test comes back positive? (crawl into a hole and die of embarassment and shame. That IS what you want to hear, isn't it?)
3. Have you had unproteced sex with a partner? (I'm on the pill. I'm guessing you don't count that).
4. Vaginal, Oral, or Anal? (Are you SERIOUSLY asking me that?!?!?)
5. With a male or a female? (?!?!?)

There are a host of other embarassing questions. This woman has basically made me feel dirty, ashamed, embarassed and guilty. I tried to explain why I was there, that I don't have HIV, that this was just a test for testing's sake. She looked at me like I was lying.

I am NEVER going back there again.

Not to mention that the test cost $25, which was another car fillup. Add the $15 of the second dr's visit copay, and I have completely and totally blown my budget.

I called this morning to get my results, and was told, "Yep, I put them on her desk. She will probably be calling you later."

Another day, another non-answer. *sigh*


1 comment:

Sue Flaska said...

Good lord, what the hell?!?!? I am kind of surprised that they haven't checked for Lymphoma or Non-Hodgkins, but I am always on the cancer path. BTW, a CBC is a complete blood count...white and red cells count, platelets, etc. Just had one done today...
What you yell at the medical profession when they put you through what you went through.