About 5 or 6 years ago, I suddenly began having episodes of extreme weakness. I often woke up, ate breakfast, took my morning regimen of meds, and headed for the shower. I suddenly felt dizzy. My arms felt like lead when I raised them above my head to shampoo my hair. My legs felt like they would collapse beneath me. I barely made it to the bed before the black spots in my vision and the racing heart beat won. I lay there with my eyes closed trying to figure out what was wrong.
This series of events happened to me sporadically over a month. It sometimes took a few minutes to recover. Other times, it took an hour to recover.
I explained these symptoms to my family practice doctor who once again tested me for diabetes. There is a very strong family history of diabetes in our family. I can understand her concern. However, I tried to explain to her that I ate breakfast, I did not have the urgency to use the bathroom, or the need to drink fluids. Each time my A1C was tested, my blood sugar was perfect. . . almost amazingly so.
One particular day, I awoke with the dizziness, weakness, and racing heat beat. It quickly passed. It was a Saturday and my husband came home earlier than expected from work. I wanted to go to the mall.
We took the wheelchair just in case I had another episode. Sure enough, I did. As we placed the wheelchair back in the truck as we prepared to leave the mall, I suddenly felt faint. I held onto the bed of the truck for support then found a brick wall on which to sit until we were ready to leave.
I still felt dizzy and weak which made me increasingly uncomfortable. I began calling my doctor’s offices even though I knew I would get the on call doctor.
The only doctor I could reach was my sleep specialist. She had no idea what it could be, but she was so concerned she told me to immediately go to the closest ER and even gave me her personal cell phone number! If the ER doctor needed to talk to her, she was more than happy to add her input. It was the ONLY time a doctor has ever given me their personal phone number, but she did it because she was that concerned.
I arrived at the ER which was seemingly quiet. I told the staff what was going on and what my doctor said. They seemed unphased. At one point, I became so weak that I doubled over unable to sit up. I began crying out of panic and frustration. My husband went back up to the admin desk and a security guard came over to him and asked what the problem was. He was treated like we were doing something wrong. My husband was asked to sit back down and was told I was most likely faking it. I was only moved when the women sitting next to me complained to the front desk that I looked completely pale and they thought I was about to pass out.
The intake nurse told me to sit up and act my age because he didn’t deal with babies or fakers. It was at that point I handed him my doctor’s personal phone number and told him if he did not believe me, he could call my doctor directly. He refused to do so. He then accused me of seeking pain meds when I said I have fibromyalgia. This just made me more frustrated and I cried even more.
About 45 minutes later, I was finally moved to an exam room. The doctor came into the room to examine me and it was obvious that he was already coached by the intake nurse.
Before I could begin to explain myself, he too accused me of seeking pain meds. My husband and I looked at each other in complete shock. “As I told the nurse, I am here because I am experiencing intermittent episodes of dizziness, weakness, and fatigue. The nurse got it in his head that I wanted pain meds when he asked about my medical conditions. If you look on the list you will see I also have chronic sinus problems as well as fibromyalgia. Using his logic, that would mean I am also here for allergy shots,” I replied to the allegations.
The doctor responded, “That nurse is one of our very best nurses. He often gets compliments from patients. Are you accusing him of something?”
“Will you just please forget the pain meds? I am the one being accused of something. I came here with a list of symptoms. Look at my chart. Here is my doctor’s phone number. She is very concerned and recommended that I go to the ER. She made it clear that any ER doctor is welcome to call her.”
The doctor then began arguing with me about the need for calling my doctor. He barely asked me any questions. He barely wrote anything down. He accused me of needing a psyche eval to which I asked him why my SED Rate, ANA, C-Reactive Protein, etc. . . were constantly elevated if it was all in my head. He responded by saying he didn’t have all the answers. I quickly cut him off by telling him to not arrogantly act like it then and just do his job.
To get back at me, he ignored me completely for 2 hours. The nurse did not even come into check on me. Remember, by this point I had searched for answers for several years and suddenly I was being accused of being a pill popper. I lost it. I completely broke down crying for nearly the entire time the doctor and nurse were gone. In my mind, I only remember it being 5 minutes. My husband told me I cried for nearly 2 hours while he walked the hall in front of my room. He asked the nurse to give me something just to calm me down. He never saw me like this. No one came to help until the doctor returned with the labs.
To further spite me, the doctor ran more than 125 tests checking for the most bazaar things to prove to me that I was just a head case.
That was a Saturday. Tuesday, I had an appointment with my sleep specialist. The first thing she asked me was, “Why didn’t anyone call me?” I explained what happened and she was livid. I had a copy of my tests because I wanted to know if the tests were even remotely associated to the symptoms I told the doctor I experienced. Let’s just say my doctor was no longer livid. She was wrathful.
First, most of the tests had no connection to my symptoms. Secondly, a doctor should not abuse a patient’s insurance to prove a point. Thirdly, of all the tests the man ran, he never tested my iron levels (both blood iron and the stored iron). It was such a simple thing to over look.
Sure enough, my iron levels were so low that my doctor told me had she been my ER doctor that Saturday, she would have admitted me to the hospital for immediate IV treatment.
Thankfully, she contacted the ER and made a complaint against the doctor. She also contacted my insurance company and told them not to pay for most of the charges.
This is just one example of ridiculous situations I have experienced over the last few years. I brought it up because it highlights a principle, “The easiest solution is often the solution.” In other words, doctors often disregard something so simple as low iron and instead look for the least likely possibility.
Over the next week or two, I would like to share with you, my readers, my experience over the years with anemia and the IV infusion treatments I am now getting from a hematologist.