19 Vials of Blood Made Me Fall in Love With My Doctor
The other day, I sent a message to my rheumatologist asking about getting a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was 11 p.m. on a Sunday, but I had to send it before I forgot. A half-hour later, I received two notifications about a new message and a letter referencing the conditions and medications that make me eligible for a third shot, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
I love her. But this isn’t even what made me fall in love with her.
Most people with chronic illnesses see several doctors before receiving an accurate diagnosis. And when it’s a multisystem disease like sarcoidosis, we’ll also see several specialists after diagnosis, including one for each of the body’s affected systems. In addition to that, sarcoidosis patients usually have a bunch of comorbidities, which prompts the need for even more health professionals.
In all, I see 12 doctors regularly, not to mention those who appear when an unexpected need arises, such as a broken foot.
Improving, but not quite there yet
Starting in 2012, all of the doctors I saw at the time belonged to the same medical group, which offers a range of specialties and providers across several locations in my county. They share a computer network, so all of the doctors in the group can access everyone else’s notes and patient test results, and they’d easily communicate with one another while managing my care.
It was an incredible change from previous years when I would be passed back and forth between gastroenterologists and gynecologists who couldn’t agree on the cause of my abdominal pain or other issues, which left me without answers or relief. The level of communication and shared information I found at the medical group was a godsend.
Over time, though, I realized I had a major problem seeing a dozen doctors in the same medical group: None of them were sarcoidosis specialists. Because they didn’t fully understand my disease, they didn’t know which symptoms were attributed to it.
What that meant, depending on the doctor, was that everything was attributed to sarcoidosis or nothing was. Either way, the doctors were no longer looking for answers because they thought they already had them.
Ultimately, I often ended up doing my own research about my disease, symptoms, and treatments. I’d learn about common complications and comorbidities of sarcoidosis, and see how my symptoms compared.
The search begins anew
Last year, the rheumatologist I’d been with for eight years left her practice unexpectedly without any forwarding information. She was the first doctor I’d seen who looked at more than test results. She really listened to what I said about my symptoms, and didn’t give up when there wasn’t an easy answer. She sent me for a chest X-ray that ultimately led to my sarcoidosis diagnosis.
I needed a new rheumatologist immediately, because at the same time, my insurance company suddenly decided to stop covering the medication I’d been taking for five years. I eventually found a rheumatologist who seemed great — until my insurance wouldn’t cover him.
After a long search, my neurologist finally recommended a rheumatologist she’d worked with before, who she said had a good understanding of my conditions and treatments. I made an appointment, but it was almost four months later. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait.
At my first appointment, the rheumatologist took her time talking to me, and she really listened. She reviewed the medical records I’d sent, examined my joints, and asked if there was anything else I wanted to share. We talked about possible comorbid conditions and potential treatment changes.
Then her medical assistant took 19 vials of blood and a urine sample, and I fell in love.
I’d never had a doctor order so many tests at once. She was thorough. She knew I was a complicated case, and wanted to understand which symptoms were caused by sarcoidosis and which weren’t. More than that, she wanted to figure out the cause of other symptoms and ensure that she was addressing all of my rheumatological needs.
As it turns out, those tests led to two more diagnoses, which explained a lot of what I was experiencing. The answers helped us establish a new treatment plan, which we’re currently working on. At each visit, I fall in love with her even more.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of rheumatologists (kissed a lot of frogs?), but I’ve finally found “the one.” And all it took was 19 vials of blood and a urine sample.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.