Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is That Your Medical Expertise, Doctor?

I apologize for the abandonment of this blog. It has been a while since my last post, but I just have to say that... I'm back and more peeved than ever!

Before I get into the wonderful doctors that have helped me this year (-insert sarcastic tone here-), I would like to explain to everyone the disease I was
finally diagnosed with.

For a few years now, I haven't been feeling like myself. It started with extreme fatigue, which is a general symptom for most diseases, including mental disturbances such as: stress and anxiety...understandable. However, throughought the years, other symptoms kept on popping up, and I refused to label those symptoms as stress -or- anxiety related. I know my body, and I know when something is wrong. Something wasn't right. Yet, my primary doctor kept insisting that it was "just stress."

About a year ago, my first symptom besides fatigue began to surface. I remember that I was in my Sidney Circle class, taking in the text of Astrophil and Stella, when all of a sudden, the words in my book seemed to fuse together and shift from side to side. I was experiencing double vision. This new symptom was unbearable. Not only did I struggle to read the words in my book, but I was getting a massive headache from trying to focus of the words. I closed my book and just decided to listen to the lecture. From that moment on, my double vision would come and go.

My next symptom began in the year 2010. Admittedly, I would say 2010 was a stressful year. I was finishing up my BA in English and at the same time, I was crossing along that familiar college graduate road "what now? avenue." All of a sudden, I realized that my speech was somewhat impaired. I would be talking with friends, when I realized I was slurring my words. It was understandable because I would force myself to pronounce the words, but it still was a struggle for me to speak. It wasn't until one night when I was at an outing with my friends, that I just burst into tears because I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. Some words that I remember struggling with were: "tooth brush", "better", "thank." For the rest of the night, I didn't say a word to anyone. At that time, I hadn't told anyone. I just thought maybe it was my primary doctor's diagnosis of "stress". However, I couldn't hold in my frustrations any longer. I drove home and told my parents about my slurring. Because I had been at an outing with my friends, they assumed that I was just drunk and hysterical. When I explained I didn't even touch a drop of alcohol, they didn't believe it because I did not go to them before (which I regret now).

It wasn't until my birthday in July 2010, when things started getting serious. The slurring of the speech went away for a month or so, but then came back in July, and with a vengeance! My friend Christina and I were going to Orlando on July 17th, and on that specific day, I noticed my throat felt very sore and swollen, and I couldn't communicate verbally AT ALL. I had to get my dad to tell Christina what was going on on our way to the airport.

Things just got worse as the day progressed. My throat felt worse and worse, and it got to the point where I couldn't swallow anything, both liquids and solids. I would come close to choking on them. It wasn't until we went to City Walk at night when things got really bad. Christina and I sat down at a karaoke bar. We weren't even there for five minutes when I started choking on a cherry. I kept slapping the table and turning red. Since we were at a karaoke bar, Christina had mistaken my flailing limbs and gasping breath as fits of laughter due to the dorky man getting "down and jiggy with it" to the song of Sweet Child of Mine on the stage. Suddenly, she realized... "Holy crap Jade, are you choking?!"

To make a long story short, the waitress got the paramedics and I would have been in better hands, or should I say "paws", with a German Shepherd. Again, since we were out at night, the paramedics made the assumption that I was "drunk" because of the way I was talking. When I tried to communicate with the main paramedic, with tears rolling down my face, I took out my cell phone and I was going to write down the situation (because he couldn't understand me when I spoke). When my determined fingers hit the keys to my phone, he took the phone out of my hands and started screaming at me!"This is no time for texting! I need you to speak to me!" My friend looked at him with an arched brow and a comment: "I THINK she was trying to write it down on her phone. She can't talk." The paramedic simply replied: "I can understand her just fine when she talks. NOW TALK!" I forced myself to speak as clearly as I possibly could, but I spoke with the diction of Rain Man and a clam, to where I received the intelligent response of, "huh?!"

The paramedic wanted to know if we wanted to be escorted to the hospital. I said, "No thanks, we'll take a cab." I couldn't stand being near that guy. I thought that finally I would have some answers to what was going on. Unfortunately, the hospital wasn't a better experience. The doctor that saw me, treated me the same way the paramedic did, just as if I was a crazy woman sitting on the hospital bed. He asked me very little questions and "diagnosed" me by that. I told him my symptoms, starting from the fatigue, the double vision, a droopy right eye, trouble swallowing and chewing, and slurring my speech. When I told him my speech was "slurred", he argued with me that the way I was talking was not "slurred". My friend that was in the room with me laughed and asked him: "what would you call her form of speech," where he responded: "um...nasaly." I kid you not, the man said "um, nasaly" and left the room with no other comments but that. Before he left however, I noticed how his interest wasn't in my well-being, but at my friend's chest! That was the creepiest doctor vistit ever! With his best judgment and his years of schooling, he diagnosed me as being "stressed" and having a sore throat and handed me a prescription for penicilin.

I took the penicilin, and to my ASTONISHMENT, it didn't work. The swallowing was a little bit better, but it still wasn't back to normal. I went to my primary again after that and told her the events that had happened prior to this visit, and she still insisted that it was stress and to continue with the penicilin to see if I saw any changes. I refused to believe that this was "just stress." So... I saw my Mother's doctor, Dr. Eric Smith, and thank GOD I did. Till this day, I owe this man my life. Without his diagnosis, things could have gotten a lot worse.

Without any hesitation he took his time to ask me a wide array of questions, and within minutes he told me "I'm going to be honest. I can't tell you as of now what you have, but with the proper testing I'll be able to. I think you may have this autoimmune disease called myasthenia gravis. But we need to get the proper blood tests, and we need to get you situated with a neurologist." I know what you're thinking..."myawhat?" To sum up myasthenia gravis in a nutshell, basically, it works as any other autoimmune disease... The body is overactive and attacks itself. Other autoimmune diseases that you may be familiar with are: type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's Disease, the list goes on.... In normal people, certain viruses and foreign forms are attacked, keeping the body healthy, but in autoimmune diseases, it not only attacks foreign forms, but healty tissue in the body. In my case, it attacks the communication that goes on between nerves and certain muscle contractions, which explains the droopy eyelid (which Dr. Smith informed me was a DEAD giveaway to myasthenia gravis), the slurred speech, and the trouble chewing.

If I hadn't been diagnosed by Dr. Smith, I don't know what would have happened. One thing is for certain, if I continued on the way I was, without the proper treatment, there is no doubt in my mind that the condition and symptoms would have gotten worse. It could have went from trouble swallowing, to trouble walking. Another thing that was discovered and recently taken care of in December of 2010, was an invasive thymoma (a tumor on the thymus gland that was spreading). Thankfully the tumor was benign, and the wonderful thoracic surgeons at Jackson Memorial Hospital were able to remove both the thymus and tumor.

Through this experience I've grown as a person. Even though I went undiagnosed for years, I don't hold a grudge against the doctors that have treated me in the past. They've just made me realize that no one knows their own body better than themselves. If doctors are just going to call you crazy and prescribe penicilin, then it's up to you to seek additional advice. Because I refused to believe that I was just "stressed", I ended up finding wonderful doctors that gave me my life back.