Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Symptom Saga Continues...

…with yet another visit to the doctor.  Friday morning I was at the SGU clinic per my doctor’s request.  It was the third follow-up since my original visit.  Here’s how the appointments usually run: I sign in and wait and wait and wait; twenty minutes after the clinic has opened, the doctor shows up; twenty-five minutes after the doctor shows up, I am called in to see him; he confirms again that I am not experiencing any joint pain (because he clearly desperately wants to just diagnose dengue fever and be done with it); he examines the wheals that are not dissuaded by medication; he pulls another diagnosis out of a hat, writes up another prescription, schedules a follow-up, and sends me on my way.

I would have put a stop to these consultations if I were being charged.  As it is, I’ve only paid for the first visit and a little sliver of altruism keeps me going back because I know I’m giving the doc an educational trial and error challenge in the tricky field of dermatology.  Maybe my enigmatic symptoms will land me in a medical journal.

Friday morning I’m back at the clinic.  The steroids prescribed one week earlier are gone and I am almost out of the antihistamines as well.  Yet persistent red blots creep along my legs and arms.  Happily, I find them to be nothing more than an aesthetic nuisance—ugly, yes, but not unbearably itchy.

The doctor prods at them with his fingertips, watching my skin’s coloration change at the pressure.  Then he leans back in his chair, intertwines his fingers behind his head, purses his lips and furrows his brow.  Classic confusion.  For a brief moment I think to myself, Awesome.  I stumped a doctor!  How cool!  Then the logic sets in, Oh wait.  That’s a bad thing.

Doctor asks me, “Have you been around pets?  Dogs?”

I tell him our landlord has four.

“And do they have ticks?” he asks.

I think of the adorable, and somewhat homely, furballs.  How they’re always waiting for me at the gate.  How they occasionally try to follow me into our apartment.  How they’re covered in not only mats, but also practically dripping with the soft swollen bodies of ticks, like they’re wrapped in strings of Christmas tree lights.

I lay off the imagery with a simple, “Yes.”

Then Doctor tells me I might have Lyme disease.

It takes all of my willpower not to explode into laughter as he says it.  And the effort it takes about causes me to wet myself.  In two short weeks, I have been tentatively diagnosed with dengue, food allergies and now Lyme.  Dengue seemed farfetched to me; food allergies seemed reasonable; but Lyme disease seems just absurd.  I can’t help but feel Doctor’s got no idea what might be ailing me and is relying a little too heavily on his photographic dermatology book to locate the next insanely catastrophic diagnosis.  As he begins to explain how Lyme disease is contracted, I interrupt him.  I am no stranger to Lyme disease as infected deer ticks are prevalent around the game lands and parks of my hometown.  I tell him that I haven’t noticed any ticks on me, but he waves away my comment, assuring me that they are not always noticed.  Really?  Because I feel like I’d notice a grossly engorged parasite dangling from my body.

The doctor tells me Grenada doesn’t have the test for Lyme disease.  That makes sense.  I mean, this is me we’re talking about, right?  Naturally I would be diagnosed with something that can’t be confirmed on the island.  I’m not interested in leaving the island for testing either, for two reasons.  One, I don’t have the telltale bull’s-eye rash or any other symptoms.  Two, because one of the tests for Lyme disease is a lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap).  Having already experienced that horror once already, I think I’ll pass.  I’m too skeptical to consent to any tests anyway.

He prescribes an antibiotic and schedules a follow-up for Monday.  If the welts persist, he says he will order another CBC.  In the meantime, I’m to refill the antihistamine, add on the doxy and avoid too much direct sunlight.  I’m guessing if I show up still afflicted on Monday he’ll probably diagnose me with yellow fever, mad cow or cancer.  I’m still hoping to make it into that medical journal.

Ivan has been more studious lately because of a test known as the unified exam.  He will be taking it on Monday and with the exception of Bioethics, it will cover all of his courses’ material up to this point.  The test itself is not worth many points, but its value is in its ability to prepare students for the upcoming midterms.  The outcome of the unified exam will help students gauge their studying habits and understand what material requires more or less focus.

I realize that I have been negligent conveying Ivan’s POV.  Right now his courses are Bioethics, Histology, Anatomy, and Biochemistry.  Bioethics is only half of a term long and he has his final for it on February 20th.  The rest of his courses hold midterms during the first week of March.  During the day he has a block of classes from 1 in the afternoon to 5 in the evening.  All of his classes are in the same lecture hall and the professors rotate in and out.  Some of his courses are taught by multiple professors, which can lead to confusion and unclear expectations.  In those courses, he studies the most.  A couple days a week, Ivan has workgroups or labs in the morning.  He is already elbow deep in cadavers, locating muscles and nerves in a time limit.  He and his classmates have been performing physical exams on local volunteers and he even tried testing my reflexes.  He didn’t have to try very hard though; a butterfly landing on my knee would send my leg flipping in the air.

Good news: the weather has been wonderful; I don’t have any more heartburn; the produce stall had rock figs; we got another propane tank.

You may have noticed: Yes, I radically changed my blog layout.  It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.  The photo header on the old layout was not exactly centered over the posts and sidebar, and no amount of tweaking on my end seemed to help it.  Since I’m obviously nuts, I just got rid of the whole thing.  Plus there’s a gajillion free templates online, so I’m probably just going to start changing the template every couple months or so.  I like to keep things fresh.

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