Friday, May 30, 2008

Stand up and be strong

In college I got strep throat a lot. 4 or 5 times a year, 4 years in a row. Usually, people have their tonsils taken out when that's the case but I mean, whatever...I haven't.

So, I'm pretty familiar with how my body reacts to strep. I also know that when I was in college, every time I would go to the doctor for this they would give me 2 test; the 10 minute rapid strep test and the 24 hour culture. They would always explain to me that the if the 10 minute test comes back positive then it is in fact positive. However, it has a very high false negative rate so if it comes back negative, they do the 24 hour test just to be sure. I have never had a 10 minute test come back positive in all the times I've had strep throat.

With that being said, I went to the doctor yesterday morning with all the painful symptoms I have grown so accustomed to.

As the nurse is swiping my throat for the 10 minute test she tells me that yesterday she alone had 15 people who came in with strep throat symptoms but all of their test came back negative. 15 people!
"A few of them even had those white spots on the back of their throats, but their tests were still negative!"
Ok, I can see if 2 or 3 people come in with strep throat symptoms and it turns out they don't have it, but 15 people?? No way. No way in hell. And, I'm no doctor, but look, if you have white spots on your throat, you have strep.

So, she comes in, tells me the test is negative and the doctor will be right in.

He comes in, doesn't even look at my throat and says "test is negative, you probably just have the cold virus and your throat hurts."

"Well, could you do the 24 hour culture, please?"
"We don't do that here"
"But the 10 minute test often gives a false negative"
"I don't know about that"
"I do, and it does, see - here's my story..."

and I tell, him. I'm very careful to try and not hurt his ego because he immediately seemed to be on the offensive which really bothered me. I mean, he may be a doctor and knows a lot about medicine, but I'm me and I know a lot about me. And I also know that this test always gives me a false negative, this is not a personal attack against him. It has nothing to do with him. I wasn't asking for a second opinion, just a more reliable test.

He gets so ticked off, however, that he actually leaves the room and doesn't come back for five minutes. He comes back and tells me "ok, I find your story entertaining so I will write you a prescription for an antibiotic".

I decide to take the high road and interpret his comment as "I will entertain the idea that you might have strep" as opposed to "you're a fucking idiot and I want you out of here now so I will humor you with a script for drugs."

A friend of mine who is a nurse was appalled but not surprised. "It's not like you were self diagnosing yourself with a torn back muscle so you could con the doctor out of xanax, you wanted amoxicillin".

But here's the thing, this isn't the first time I've been in a situation like this. Unless it's a routine checkup to the gyno or something, I'm not gonna go to the doctor unless something is wrong and I'm either very concerned about it or I know I need prescription medication to take care of it. I don't want to waste my time or money or the doctors time unless I really feel like the doctor can help me. When I go to the doctor, I've done my research. I pay attention to my body. I know the difference between a normal kind of "this feels different" and a not normal "this feels different". So why is it that when I go to the doctors they treat me like I'm an a-hole? Because I'm prepared to give them a full run down of whats afflicting me? Because I know what tests don't work on me? Because I know myself better than they do?

I don't go on web-MD, type in my symptoms and come into the doctor and tell them that I have either a brain tumor or Alzheimer's because I've been having trouble finding my car keys lately. But I will look on web-MD to see if I can treat my symptoms from the comfort of my own home with out having to go to the doctors. (Ok, granted, I totally self diagnosed myself with strep, but that's different. I also self diagnose UTI's for the same reason. You just know.)

I will never stop being my own strongest advocate, and I'm sure I annoy the hell out of these doctors, but the moral is, a few hours after taking my first pill I stopped feeling like every swallow was a gulp of fire and I can feel myself getting better. I couldn't say for certainty that I had strep, but if I hadn't stated my case, I would still be in a lot of pain with a bag of cough drops and some liquid lidacaine, spreading strep to every one I came in contact with assuring them that it was just a cold, the doctor told me so.


Becs said...

That is such crap. I have heard so many horror stories about doctors doing stuff like that. If you don't want to listen to a patient and actually HELP them, why the hell do you go to med school and become a doctor?? Do your damn job!

I know exactly what you mean by "just knowing" what you have. I know when I have strep too. I used to get it a lot so as soon as I start feeling one coming on I just know. Trust your gut.

I recently went to the doctor because I was having dizzy spells. It was really scary and I made an appointment as soon as possible. I had only been to this doctor once before to get a physical. When I got the physical I asked to also get tested for STD's. I had just started dating my boyfriend and we both wanted to do that for each other.

When I went to see my doctor about the dizzy spells, he told me I was having anxiety attacks. I KNOW that is not what was happening. He was like "well last time you came in stressing out because you thought you had an STD. So it seems like you are a very stressed out person." Um what? I was not worried I had an STD, I was doing it for my boyfriend. I thought that was a good thing. Now I don't want to go see him again because I am afraid he will just think I am worrying too much.

bittersweetheart said...

Ugh, I feel your pain. I have a lot of sore throats, especially in college. One time though, I had one so bad I couldn't swallow. Could. Not. Swallow. So my friend takes me to the ER and the doctor gives me two Vicodin. Now, I appreciate getting a rad drug for a sore throat, but those things are horse pills and my friend about jumped down the doctor's throat because hello, we were there because I COULD NOT SWALLOW.

Also, my appointment today? My doctor didn't seem all that interested in my frequent headaches, how or where my head hurt, or that last year I lost feeling and vision in half my body for no reason. "I'm going to treat you myself. No scan brain yet. Migraine." I couldn't even finish a sentence describing my symptoms. Also? I found it incredibly difficult not to make Doogie Houser jokes about his little shadow doctor following him around all day. So I take some pills and if I don't feel better monday then he'll run tests.

In the meantime? My throat hurts. Ironic.

Vanessa said...

I"m glad you stood up for yourself. You know you best and the doctor should WANT to use the BEST diagnostics not the quickest.

heather said...

i just went to the doctor because i've had a low grade fever, severe sore throat, and fatigue for 4 days. but what really sent me to the doc was the fact that my tonsils were covered in white pus. the rapid strep test came back negative and i had also read that most doctors do another 24 hour culture. not this doc and he couldn't wait to get me out of the room. i also questioned him so much that he began to look annoyed. when i asked what all the white gunk was in my throat, he replied "maybe it's food debris". maybe he is a complete moron. he also ended up writing me a prescription anyway. i haven't filled it yet, thinking that maybe i'd start to feel better but i'm feeling worse and the white gunk is thicker. should i just fill the prescription? in a way, i just want to go to another doctor to feel vindicated or something.
apparently, he didn't feel compelled to do another culture because "my throat wasn't that red" and "my fever was not that high." well, everyone is different and i imagine everyone's bodies react differently to illness. i'm pretty frustrated and ibuprofen isn't even relieving the pain of the sore throat.

Sarah said...

of course! It is soooo strep. And even if it isn't, there aren't bad side effects to taking antibiotics, thats why he didn't actually have any moral qualms with perscribing them to you.
Just make sure that you absolutley take every single pill out of the dose, even after you feel better, or else your body will grow an immunity to them and your strep will come right back!