My very own Christmas miracle: How I met Dr. Unicorn
This morning, after several weeks of begging my PCP's office to refer me, a confrontation with my PCP wherein he explained that he never called the clinicians at UNUM back because he thought I was trying to scam the system and get put on disability permanently, and a lot of tears... I finally went for my appointment with a neurologist. Let me start at when she said, "Hello," because hear me when I say that she effing had me at 'Hello!!'
She came in and introduced herself and immediately began asking about what I was making/stitching. (Yes, I take my self-care with me to my doctor's appointments.)
She had me show her all of it - the pattern, the thread, the beads and sequins, and said, "I want to do this! Can I do this?! How do I do this?!"
Next, she began to ask me about every one of my tattoos that she could see, and demanded to know the artists who had done this incredible work.
I said, "I think you're my miracle doctor. So many doctors see these and cast preconceived judgments onto me."
I began recounting the last 7 months of my life. She stopped me to say:
I think they sent you to me because they don't know what to do with you. I want to be honest with you, the most I can do for you is write you a prescription for medications you're already on, and order a nerve conduction study (EMG) which will tell you that you have nerve damage. But you already know that, it's getting the doctors to listen to you.
I told her I had to request the referral to see her.
I told her that doctors in Michigan were looking at my MRI scans because doctors here kept saying that my symptoms and pain weren't justified by my MRI.
I told her about how my own doctor betrayed me and thought somehow that I was trying to scam the system, so he wouldn't even return the phone calls coming from UNUM.
She looked like a mama bear about to protect her cub and asked:
Is that man going to fix what he did?
I already love her.
She says again,
I can't help you... but hold on, I'm going to call my colleague and see if he can see you right now. Don't you give up yet, I'm going to go now and ask him.
She left the room and I texted my mom, boyfriend, and friend:
She believes me! She's calling another doctor to see if he can see me right now!
About five minutes later, she walked back into the room with a sizeable smile on her face and told me that he would see me right then and there. Then, she said:
I can already tell that you are too bright and too motivated, and that you want to work and have your life back. Just because I can't help you doesn't mean that I won't make sure someone else can. Don't you leave, you stay right there, help is on the way.
Tears of appreciation were already streaming down my face and I said:
You helped me by listening to me and believing me, thank you, you are exactly who I needed you to be. (Note: This doctor will heretofore be referred to as Dr. Miracle.)
So... now I go on to see Dr. No. 2.
Believe me when I say that I was a nervous wreck. My thoughts were a mixture of things.
OMG she believes me. Someone finally believes me. What if he isn't as nice as the other doctor? What if he can't help me right away? Shit, I just ran out of things to stitch while I wait. OMG can I lay back? Does this thing go back? My back is killing me right now.
In walks Dr. Unicorn, though I didn't know that at the time.
We introduce ourselves and he has me explains everything that's been happening and all the pain, the treatments and medications, physical therapy, and results.
Then he tells me in what I believe to be the most diplomatic way possible, that I had gotten crap care from the others.
Cue more tears.
He does a physical examination which hurt like the Dickens, because I had skipped taking some of my meds this morning so that I wouldn't be drooling on myself in the waiting room.
He says many things, here are the important excerpts:
I believe you and you are not crazy.
The pain that you are having on your right side is being caused by your gluteus muscles. Your gluteus-maximus, -medias, and -minimus are frozen in spasm.
Technical terms and things, blah blah blah, this is a very hard-to-diagnose issue and some doctors don't want to deal with it. The first thing we need to do is get you on a new kind of muscle relaxer, that will actually work, and increase your Gabapentin.
But my doctor said I was already on the maximum dose of Gabapentin...
That is incorrect, the maximum dose for seeing maximum benefit is 3600mg daily and you currently take 2700mg daily, correct?
(More technical things, poorly drawn diagram that he was embarrassed by and I told him he didn't need to be a good cartoonist, I wasn't judging, and that I'm not a good pain interventionist, either, so we're even.)
I am going to send you for another MRI, this time of your pelvis, and we will look at your sacrum and SI joint to see if that gives us any clues on the sciatica. I need to do injections into your spinal joints in your lumbar spine, because you have a significant amount of arthritis there... it doesn't surprise me that the other injections didn't work, you don't have that kind of exact targeted pain.
I will see you again in 30 days. No, you will not have to live the rest of your life on all of these medications. Tell your physical therapist that you have a new doctor who wants you to work on your piriformis muscle on that side, and all of your gluteus muscles on that side, and let me know if I need to put in any new orders or anything for that.
But are you guys ready for the best part?!?!
I've had other cases like yours, and I've seen pain like yours, and it is very real.
Your sciatica is a bigger mystery to me than the pain on your right side, but I believe we can figure it out. It all starts with getting your pain under control as much as possible and getting that new MRI.
I can't promise you that everything I try will work. I can promise you that if I try something and it doesn't work, I will keep trying new things, and I won't just give up and tell you to find another doctor.
I will also promise that if something doesn't work, like those epidural spine injections, I won't keep doing the same thing over and over, hoping that it will eventually work.
Well, Hell's Bells! THAT, I can live with!
It wouldn't be right of me to leave out the part where I really wanted to drive over to my PCP's office and yell, "Booyah, motherfucker! I fucking told you!"
(Yes, I am absolutely petty AF. I am smart, I am driven, I am a highly educated professional, but I can still be petty and I still got street in me. Don't get it twisted.)
It also wouldn't be right if I left out the part where I cursed those other doctors under my breath, and said, "Excuse my language but my life the past seven months has been a total shit show."
Dr. Unicorn may not be able to fix me right away, but for the first time throughout this whole process, I feel like I have a doctor who gives a shit, and who wants to help me.
Dr. Miracle and Dr. Unicorn will never know how much today means to me. I'm sure they think they're just doing their job(s.) But I'll be damned if I don't feel real, serious, honest-to-goodness HOPE, for the first time in all of this.
Thanks for indulging me.
p.s. My PCP is known as Dr. Douchenozzle, in case you wondered.