I went to my doctor’s appointment yesterday for the chest cold that I got while in St. Maarten. My doctor is scared to prescribe even antibiotics, and practices medicine like she is afraid. I’m not sure if she was sued for malpractice, but she definitely doesn’t like to prescribe common medications. She asked me once if I had trouble sleeping and I told her I did. She said she would prescribe a sleeping agent, and did. I was frankly surprised that she offered the prescription, but when I filled it, I was no longer surprised. She gave me five pills. Five.. Apparently she was concerned I would get addicted to them if I had access to more. Oh, and no refills.
Back to yesterday’s appointment. When I checked in, there was a sign in the lobby that said if I had a number of symptoms, I should wear one of their masks, but the box was empty. When I checked in, I explained that I had a cough and there were no masks in the lobby, and the receptionist gave me one. I told her I didn’t know if I was infectious, and had been in the Caribbean when I got sick, so she gave me a mask immediately, and threw away the pen I wrote with. (Smart move on her part, in my opinion. I have not been diagnosed with anything, so it’s better to be safe than sorry, and I don’t want to infect anyone else if I can avoid it.) They put me in a room and the nurse took my blood pressure, temperature and whatever that finger-thing they clip on measures. The nurse didn’t seem concerned, and put the finger-clip thing back in her pocket and I pointed to it and asked if she was going to disinfect it. She seemed a little miffed about it and said she would, but I’m not so sure.
The doctor came into the room and asked me some questions about symptoms, and I explained how I was feeling. She asked if I had taken any over-the-counter medications, and I said I had. Apparently, the only ones she feels that would be of value if I had a head cold (which I didn’t) would be the ones you have to ask a pharmacist for. The ones people can use to make meth. They really help with relieving the symptoms associated with a head cold, but NOT a chest cold, like I have. The others, the ones I took, she doesn’t think are helpful. Since I mainly had a cough, I thought the ones with dextromethorphan would be the most effective for me, (as they are in the cold aisle) and told her that. She ignored that and did the examination…She looked in my mouth, had me say ahhh, and might have looked in my ears, and then got out the stethoscope. She took one listen to me deep breathing and said “Oh.” Rich could see her face and said her eyes got really big when she said it. She listened to deep breathes and then had me breathe normally for a long time and then was done. She sat down and said “You have restrictive lung disease.” And then said something about asthma symptoms and prescribed a burst of prednisone and a rescue inhaler and said if I don’t feel better by Friday, to give her a call and she’ll prescribe something more then. She had asked if I have had these symptoms in the past, and I said yes, about twenty years ago. I’m not sure if that’s one of the reasons she gave the diagnosis, but regardless, she felt that’s what I have. I’ll explain this more later.
When I got home, I called my sister, who almost always talks to me on speaker. I told her the diagnosis and my brother-in-law, who was an Emergency Room physician as his career, said something in the background that I couldn’t understand. My sister said “John thinks you were misdiagnosed.” I trust John implicitly, because he’s an amazing diagnostician, and diagnosed my arthritis over the telephone while he was in medical school, after I’d been to five doctors/specialists who could not diagnose it. I didn’t really think much about what he’d said, because I hadn’t done any research on restrictive lung disease. I thought it was another term for asthma.
I was going to write this post this morning, but wanted to research my diagnosis so I could explain it, and I was amazed and disgusted by what I read, and I read a lot. Apparently there’s no cure for restrictive lung disease and it’s cause can be rheumatoid arthritis. I am angry. My doctor did not base her diagnosis on my symptoms, instead, based it solely on the fact that I have arthritis. If I was someone who had lung issues often, which I am not, or if this lung issue happened out of the blue, and not after both Rich and I had the same chest cold, then I would understand the correlation. Also, restrictive lung disease isn’t contagious, but she wiped her stethoscope with alcohol immediately after removing it from my chest and made sure my mask was in place the entire visit, except when she had me say “Ahhh.”
Instead, my brother-in-law says I have asthmatic bronchitis. Totally curable and, bronchitis caused by a virus, is contagious. He said my doctor gave me the correct medications, and if I don’t run a fever, or have a change in mucus color, I should be fine. I asked him how my doctor based her diagnosis (because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t barking up the wrong tree,) and he said she based it on the fact that you have rheumatoid arthritis. I was right, and that’s SO frustrating to me. My doctor apparently couldn’t see the forest of evidence for the tree of my arthritis and wanted to make sure she covered the worst case scenario and hope that I would be happy that in fact, I didn’t have restrictive lung disease.
Rich thinks I’m overreacting, and should let it go. He didn’t read any of the information on restrictive lung disease, because if he had, he would have been as upset as I am. It can be fatal….It’s not curable, and the only way to diagnose it, is with a test done with breathing into a machine, and, chest X-rays, CT scan or an Endoscope that they put in your airway. None of those tests were performed. I know I should let it go, but I can’t. I’m mad that this diagnosis is now in my medical records and that my insurance company will think I have this (from the code the doctor used for my diagnosis.) I don’t know what either of those things means to me, but when you have a chronic health issue, you worry about these things. Like I did in high school, when teachers would tell us, “this will go on your permanent record.” Maybe it means nothing, like those threats, but maybe, in the future, my insurance company could decide not to cover a “preexisting condition related to my lungs because of this diagnosis,” you never know. OK, I never know…
I wish I could change medical doctors, but all of the “good” family practice doctors in our area aren’t taking new patients, and I don’t want to drive an hour for things like this. I am exceptionally lucky, because I know I have my brother-in-law, my sister and my nephew, who are both RN’s, to help me through any kind of medical questions or issues. I think that’s the real reason I don’t change family practitioners, because I know I have a backup for when things like this happen. And frankly, my rheumatologist is the one that writes all of my prescriptions, even antibiotics, because my family doctor won’t. It’s sad when a medical doctor who went to good schools is afraid to practice medicine and makes a diagnosis like this.