morning tea:
some reflections

I have a love/hate relationship with our health care system. And since it seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, this morning I was doing a little reflecting…

About six years ago I got sick. It turned out to be something that could be fixed. And for that, I love our health care system. Technology has made it so that we can fix things, repair things, replace things, in ways we almost never imagined possible.

But here’s what happened to me along the way…I’ll try to keep this short, but it’s a long story.

I was 41 at the time. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t make my normal run around my block. I couldn’t breathe, and if I finished, I got tunnel vision and felt like I was going to pass out. And then I would be extremely exhausted. (Usually I’m energized.)

Then I noticed that I got out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs. And I was dizzy a lot. Nauseous. About half the time I ended up back in bed. And I should add that I take pretty good care of myself in general, eat fairly healthy, exercise regularly, etc. So there wasn’t any obvious reason for the way I was feeling.

I went to the doctor. I could tell right away she didn’t take me very seriously. My blood pressure, usually quite low, was higher, but still within normal, so that was dismissed. “Do you drink enough water?” was one of the first questions she asked me.  She started with blood work: normal. And then she decided it must be acid reflux disease. She gave me a prescription, although I insisted that wasn’t the problem. No results. I was tested for asthma. Normal.

At one point, after several more fruitless tests and visits, I was asked by my doctor, “Do you think you’re just getting older?” Seriously? You’re telling me that in one year’s time I have aged so much that, at 41, I can no longer run around the block?

Around this time I started looking on the internet. Which can be a big mistake, because you suddenly find that you might have every horrible disease known to man. However, in my case, I figured out my problem. Sort of.

When I punched in all my symptoms, the thing that kept coming up was kidney failure. I mentioned this to my doctor. She instantly waved it aside, saying that would have shown up in my blood work. Instead, she ordered a full heart workup that included being injected with something nuclear, yes, nuclear, and then a scan that created a three dimensional image of my heart. I can only imagine how much that cost. They put me on a treadmill to stress my heart, only they finally had to tell me to stop running because nothing was happening. Because there was nothing wrong with my heart. Every test came back normal. They put me on beta blockers anyway. After that, I was tested for multiple sclerosis. Normal.

At around this time, my doctor, clearly stumped, told me to just keep looking on the internet. She actually said that. She also said that sometimes weird things like this happen and they just get better on their own. She then scheduled an upper endoscopy, as she clearly still thought I had acid reflux. I called the day before the procedure and told her I didn’t want to do it because I was sure it wasn’t reflux. After a little back and forth, I let her convince me to go through with it. I went. It was normal.

But the doctor that performed it said he wanted to check my gall bladder, just in case, and scheduled an ultrasound. I knew it wasn’t gall bladder either, but, desperate, went through with it anyway. During the ultrasound, the technician said something to the effect of: “Are you having any problems with your kidneys?”

I just looked at her, and she said, “Your right kidney is huge.”

At this point I almost jumped up off the table and hugged her. She couldn’t tell me any more, but when the doctor called with the results, I actually said, “I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!” Long pause. I said, “Oops, that didn’t sound right, but I am just so happy that someone finally figured out what is wrong with me.”

One of my ureters was being blocked by a blood vessel (apparently that IS a getting older thing) and my kidney couldn’t drain properly. It was blowing up like a balloon. The more tea (or other fluids) I drank, the larger my kidney got and the worse I felt. I never made the connection. I thought drinking lots of fluids was good for you.

So, to end this saga, I had laparoscopic surgery that fixed my problem. I was down and out for a couple of weeks. Apparently, if that method hadn’t recently been developed, I would have had an incision going all around my torso, and they would have had to cut through my ribs. And I would have been down and out for 4-6 months.

So, you can see why I have the love/hate thing. There are so many miraculous things they can do these days: fix kidneys, replace knees and hips, repair bad eyesight, and even, finally, come up with a pill that cures migraines (my favorite besides the kidney thing.)

But first, they have to stop and figure out the problem. And that means taking the time to listen, really listen. I can’t imagine how much all those tests cost. But I know how many unnecessary pills I took. How many hours I wasted in doctor’s offices. If my doctor had just paused when I said “kidney failure,” if she had just investigated further, maybe all of that could have been avoided.

Yet I’m grateful, so grateful, that they were able to fix what ailed me. In many ways, that experience changed my life in a positive manner. I appreciate my life, my health, so much more now.

And I have a new doctor. But even though I really like her, I simply hate going to see her. For anything. I put it off unless it is an emergency. I have lost my faith in the system.

But not the technology.

And that’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

6 Responses to “morning tea:
some reflections”

  • Debi Says:

    This is one amazing story, and I am damn glad you figured your problem out so I get to read you. And I won’t get political, but I know this feeling. So much works, so much doesn’t work. When my mom was going through medical stuff a couple of years ago, I thought if I didn’t have such an over-active imagination & could work in a hospital without thinking I had every disease in the world, I’d be some kind of medical liason – someone to aid in communications between patients and the medical profession. Because they didn’t listen. They still don’t. They still call me to remind HER of appointments, thinking my “number to call in case of emergency” is hers. I’ve told them countless times, and so has she, to change it. Yes, they say. Hasn’t happened yet. Love/hate.


  • Toni Says:

    I was fortunate in that my doctor actually did listen to me, but he was also a friend and a physician’s assistant and not an MD. Maybe they are more predisposed to listen and lack the ego and arrogance of an MD? I’m glad you kept at it until “they” figured out what you had already sleuthed. (Fantastic photo!!)

  • Marcie Says:

    Such an amazing story..and so familiar. I’ve heard this kind of thing happening over and over again. In the end – I think we have to remember that we are our own best advocates…but how frustrating to have doctors who won’t listen to what we have to say. Glad to hear the story had a happy ending…:-)

  • jill Says:

    Hi Mrs. M!

    Thanks for stopping by my place yesterday. i have to say though, that reading this first post at your place is very ironic. My youngest brother (46) had a very serious episode with his kidney last fall. One night he thought he was going to die he was so ill (diarrhea ill) that he passed out in the bathroom and the paramedics had to come take him to the hospital. They got him back on his feet, but he went through a myriad of tests afterwards to see what caused it and nothing was showing up. UNTIL…an X-ray that was taken for one reason (other than what showed up), found that one of his kidneys was showing up on this x-ray that shouldn’t have been there because it was too high up. Well, they did more scans or whatever and one thing led to another only to find out that his kidney had DIED!!!!!!! Their best guess was that a kidney stone had blocked it from functioning until one day all the toxins that had built up caused a major infection that resulted in him getting extremely ill. He had it surgically removed and the stone was still there. Pretty scary, huh!! He had only had one kidney stone several years before this and never had any problems since that time. And, I too, suffer from kidney stones, so I was shocked to find out this kind of thing can happen, although rare.

    You were very lucky that someone did find your problem!!

    • Mrs. Mediocrity Says:

      Wow, yes it is weird, maybe kidney trouble is just one of those weird things that it is hard to diagnose. But I do feel lucky, in so many ways…it really taught me too be grateful for my health, for life, and I try not to take that for granted any more. I hope your brother has recovered fully and is doing well…

  • wholly jeanne Says:

    oh, sugar, could we ever swap some stories. i grew more and more infuriated as i read this – and i didn’t even let myself start remembering my own experiences till i scrolled down to the comment section. in 2000 my daddy fell, hitting his head HARD. off to the er we go (because i knew this time was different. much more serious) where they treated him for a BLADDER INFECTION. i wish i were kidding. lord, did i have to get ugly and kick up some dust then. he died about a week later from subdural hematoma. from the head bump. sustained in a fall. which was caused, in part, by unhealthy levels of coumadin in his blood stream – unhealthy because when we had his levels checked 3 days before the fall and the doctor’s office said it was fine, keep it where it was even though i argued that they were giving him alarmingly high dosages, gave them a list of all his meds and a brief medical history to explain why we needed to scale back.

    and that’s just one of my stories.

    all that blessings stuff i said in yesterday’s post . . . there was a passive aggressive side to it, absolutely. i would never bless incompetence. never have, never will.

    just glad they eventually found and fixed. hope you have a new doctor now. i swear, my family lives to be 100 because they stay the hell out of doctor’s offices.

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