With an anesthesiologist standing over me saying just relax and the world went fuzzy. After what felt like two seconds, I woke up in the recovery room disorientated and groggy.
For five years before this event, I told my doctor multiple times that I would periodically cough up phlegm usually after a spicy meal. Without any other symptoms, my doctor would say it happens sometimes and nothing to worry about unless it happens at all meals.
A few months ago I pushed the issue since the symptom changed to coughing up phlegm every morning. I finally got the doctor to send me to the eyes, nose, and throat specialist (ENT).
On my first visit to the ENT, the nurse came in and took my vitals and said the doctor would be with me shortly. To my shock, the doctor was in the room just 30 seconds later. The doctor asked why I was there, and I informed him about the coughing and phlegm.
He took out a device that looked like the one Arnold Schwarzenegger used to pull out the tracking device in his brain during the movie “Total Recall.” I didn’t have to wrap a wet towel around my head. However, the ENT did numb my nose with a nasty tasting numbing solution he sprayed right up my nose. Then proceeded to stick that device up my nose so he would be able to get a full view of my throat.
After this bizarre procedure was over, the doctor said that I had acid reflux and needed to go on medication. He gave me a script for a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI), and I got it filled. The PPI decreases the amount of acid produced in the stomach.
I started the medication as prescribed. I got sick shortly after and my girlfriend at the time said it seems my body was detoxing. Since my girlfriend was very knowledgeable about food-related issues, I followed her suggestions. A day later I felt better.
For the next month, I religiously took the medication. During that month, I had a new symptom or two, and it appeared that my illness was worsening.
At my next ENT visit a month later, the nurse came in the examination room and took my vitals. I said that it seems like nothing had changed, and the nurse asked if I had removed acidic food from my diet. I informed the nurse that no one had told me to do that. The nurse said that I should look up the diet for GERD online and follow that diet.
During that visit, the doctor didn’t even inquire about my eating habits. He did numb my nose with a nasty tasting numbing solution he sprayed up my nose. Then the Doctor proceeded to stick that device up my nose to get a full view of my throat. Yippee!
After this bizarre procedure was over, the doctor said that my throat was still healing, and I needed to stay on medication for the next two months until our next visit. The doctor gave me another script for the PPI, and the appointment was over.
I was obsessed and overwhelmed with making changes to my diet over the next two months. My diet was the healthiest in years so why was the problem still there?
During my next doctor visit two months later he told me to continue to take the PPI he had prescribed and referred me to a Gastroenterologist, who recommended an endoscopy.
I now had five doctor visits within four months on the PPI, and nothing changed, but I had new symptoms. I was now coughing up phlegm, having burping attacks, coughing, losing my voice, was nauseated and had muscle aches.
Now I lay on a gurney at the Gastroenterologist office in the recovery room disorientated and groggy from my endoscopy. As the Gastroenterologist hands me photos of the inside of my digestive track and says that: “well it looks like you have mild acid reflux, nothing to worry about.” He handed me some info on living with acid reflux. I asked him if I continue to take the PPI. He said that since another doctor put me on it, I should keep taking it and that I should schedule an appointment with my ENT.
A month later I was still having symptoms, so I Googled the PPI. I had every side effect! I called up my GP and asked if I could stop the medication, and she agreed. I stopped the drug, and all the symptoms went away!
There are several lessons learned from my experience.
- Make sure you keep all your doctors in the loop.
- If you see several doctors, ask them to communicate with each other as a team.
- If they are not willing to communicate your other doctors, then you may want to find new doctors.
- Doctors are human and make mistakes, so it never hurts to get a second opinion.
- If you don’t know? ASK.
- Google your illness, the more informed you are, the better your medical decisions will be.
- Re-Google as you go along
- There is a lot of waiting for all these visits. Be patient and bring stuff to do at the doctor’s office like a book to read or your laptop, so you don’t feel like you are wasting time.
At the same time don’t ignore the doctor. I still have acid reflux that I will discuss why it is more prevalent in people living with diabetes in my next few blogs.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.