His chair squeaked as he shifted the weight of his tall frame on the doctor’s stool. Sitting across from him and beside my baby girl who was in her carseat, I felt at ease about my appointment. It’s always conversational and comfortable there.
“Medicine isn’t what you think it is, Jessica. It’s a business, nothing personal. Strictly business,” he conveyed. His tall, dark skinned honesty refreshed me. It’s my second checkup after baby, the month of August, and I’ve been newly diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that had flared up severely postpartum.
Confused about how my diagnosis was missed, or ignored by another doctor for 4 years, Dr. S. took a candid look at my electronic files right there in front of me. Clicking at the computer, he invited me over to see. “Look here, you see that?” He pointed a long black finger at the screen. (He has big hands made for catching babies in the delivery room.) “That is your antibody level only a few years ago. It’s in the negative range. “Now look here…”
A few more clicks and another one of my own results screens appeared, this time from 2016. “You see that? You are positive for thyroid antibodies (Hashimoto’s disease) according to the old lab reference range. Your numbers would’ve clearly indicated a positive a few years ago. You do have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. BUT, just recently they’ve gone and changed the reference range, and made it higher. So your blood tests fall in their new normal range. That’s why your family doctor missed it. He did a good work up on you, it’s just that they’d have give him a hard time.” Throughout this post, “they” means a certain hospital/insurance company that is highly influential in my area.
I looked at him, astonished. They went and changed the reference ranges so less people are treated who actually need help! “Jessica, you have to understand, it’s nothing personal. It’s just a business. Medicine is a business.” “But Dr. S.!, I have been suffering and I had a premature baby and a miscarriage! They think it’s okay to let me live like that? And all my symptoms that give me a lower quality of life?” I protested to him.
“I know, I know,” he said in an understanding fatherly way with his slight Haitian accent. “It’s not fair, but it’s not personal. They would’ve let you get a lot worse, if it wasn’t for you seeing an endocrinologist.” He shakes his head left and right, slowly, in a disapproving yet accepting way it’s just the way it is. “But I have a lot of respect for your endocrinologist. He’s very good. Targets his treatment, and doesn’t mess around. I’d have started you out on a lower dosage, but he knows what he’s doing.”
Dr. S. has been my ObGyn for over 5 years and I’ve grown to cherish his genuine interest and honesty. He is the one who truly listened and tested me for a thyroid problem after my third baby was born 6-weeks early–and he’s been following that issue ever since with suspicion that I *did* have somewhere to pin my symptoms.
Do you have a doctor who’s been by your side, helping you through when others weren’t really hearing you? Is there an MD that has advocated for you and been your partner in finding answers? I think I owe my doctor a note of thanks. From the bottom of my heart, he’s one in a million. I’m going to get started on that handwritten letter. He deserves it.
With gratitude for those incredible doctors,