As Spring brings new buds after the thaw from the harshest of Winters sometimes one finds unexpected reprieve even at the 11th hour; maybe even because of it. Although I don’t want to jinx it today’s visit to Emory General Neurology was more hopeful than I’d expected. I’d prepared a list of things I needed help with, placed it in my soft briefcase, and after dragging myself out of bed having barely slept, back and core aching, dark circles under my eyes, feeling gutted and weak I forged ahead not knowing what lay ahead. 7 AM is not my best time of morning and I was holding it together by a thread. As I arrived on the 5th floor I was already starting to feel worse and sucked on ice cubes from a large styrofoam cup with a plastic lid on it in a rather ineffective attempt to settle my stomach. After about 20 minutes in the waiting room a nurse in a light green scrub outfit, red hair parted slightly to the side and flipped upward called me to come back. She had a Hispanic accent, so at first I thought she was the Nurse Practitioner although the name of the woman I was to see sounded quite WASPY. I didn’t quite get a good look at her name tag as she sat at the small wraparound desk in front of her computer terminal. She asked me the usual mundane questions about my medications, weight and height and took my bloodpressure which as is usually the case at Emory appointments runs somewhat high. It seemed as though they were well versed as to what I was asking before I ever arrived and although it was a little unnerving, it didn’t appear that they were at all viewing it negatively. I wondered if they’d had a meeting earlier that morning. The nurse assured me that I was in good hands and that this was a “good team”. She informed me that the Nurse Practitioner would be in shortly.
In just a few minutes another woman came in. She had dark brown hair a little longer than shoulder length, but as bad as I was feeling I didn’t register much more detail than that. She introduced herself as the Nurse Practitioner and explained that Dr. V. was going to advise her and that she didn’t have a clear-cut idea about where to go from here. She told me that she could write orders but had to check with Dr. V. first although she was covering for her.
It was unclear whether she’d read the scan or if any of the doctors had but at that point I really didn’t care since it was the Dysautonomia that was most pressing. I handed her my succinct list which she was grateful for and she looked it over, commenting on several of the items favorably.
This was very different from my recent experiences with Dr. B. I felt comfortable with her enough to tell her what happened in the ER and told her they treated me like I was nuts, and what had transpired since, including the dumping by Dr. B after he failed to treat my Dysautonomia for so many months and she didn’t bat an eye.
“I’m not nuts; I swear” I said preemptively, but no opposition came.
“I don’t believe you are either” she responded looking me squarely in the eye. She seemed warm and genuinely open. She went on to tell me she’d heard alot about the Undiagnosed Diseases Network and that many of Dr. V’s patients asked for referrals there. Apparently Dr. V. liked to see patients 3 times before referring them so that she was familiar enough to write a good letter but that given my difficulty getting the help I needed until way late she would ask if there was enough in the file and from my interview with her (the Nurse Practitioner) to make the referral sooner. This was more like it! Finally, someone who really wanted to make some headway!
I told her about how my adoption yielded no medical history and that there was no documentation of my ever having been born in the State of Pennsylvania, how I’d had strange symptoms for years ever since early childhood and that I’d needed genetic testing for a long time.
I went on to tell her that it had mainly been brushed off. She thought my line of thinking made perfect sense and was intrigued by the possibility that I might have some genetic form of Dystonia or that this may be secondary to a larger genetic syndrome.
“I don’t know what so many doctors have against acknowledging Dysautonomia. It seems like this dirty little secret that nobody wants to touch with a ten foot pole.” She smiled in agreement.
“I don’t know what it is that makes people view it any differently than any other disorder.”
“I Don’t know either” I said. “It seems like the doctor at Piedmont who had that unofficial conversation with me at my bedside didn’t want to go on record for the diagnosis nor the IV Saline treatment, but when I got home I discovered there are quite a few doctors doing that for the condition. It’s really not that controversial.”
“Really Dr. V. is into controversial!”
“Really?” I had to hear this.
“Yes”, she continued. “She really likes that.”
“So I have the right doctor” I queried.
“I really hope she’ll do it because I’m absolutely miserable going for almost 4 months untreated. I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“I’m sorry”, she said looking a little sad.
The nurse practitioner asked a few details about my abnormal movements and noted these, then said she’d call Dr. V. at home and see if she could get permission to write these orders and that she’d get back to me once she got an answer. I got her card and headed out into the waiting room to call my transportation service. Then I went downstairs to wait by the front entrance. After sitting there awhile I got really cold and the near fainting spells hit me like a ton of bricks. My core ached from the spine inward and increased in intensity. I doubled over in pain and tried holding my head down but that wasn’t very effective and I began seeing stars and getting dizzy. I figured I’d better go back upstairs because if I fell and passed out in that downstairs lobby alone it could be bad.
Heading back upstairs I went to the front desk and asked if there were some coffee as there was in some of the other doctor’s offices. The receptionist said no, but that she might have some in the back she could bring me. I needed some sort of external heat source to warm myself up. As she went to bring me some coffee I lay down on the one couch they had in the waiting room and put my feet up on the armrest. Finally the faint feeling started to subside but the hot and cold spells continued to alternate every few minutes. I managed to drink the coffee but still felt very nauseated.
It took an inordinately long time to be picked up to go home, and even longer to be picked back up from the pharmacy after refilling my prescriptions.
Once home and situated in bed I called Daria. The woman answering at the front desk asked who it was and after giving my name I had the feeling that was why she was unavailable. I was told hastily that she’d call me back as soon as she could, but it was implied it wouldn’t be today.
I hope after all this that she isn’t tired of all the doctors not having followed through and that she’s not bored with me already just when I might be getting this treatment successfully.
I sent the nurse practitioner an email to follow up and send her the photos of blood pooling in my feet and a few other details I’d forgotten when I was in the office as well as filling her in on the fact that my condition has continued to get worse. Hopefully she called her today and didn’t wait, as I’ve waited too long already.
Tomorrow I have an appointment with my pulmonologist. I might have him do liver enzyme blood work, as it always seems to be elevated again when I feel this way.