06 December 2006

Back to the Doctor I Go

Today will be my third (or fourth?) doctor's visit in about 2 months as it relates to my mysterious stomach pain. The last time I went round this merry-go-round was in June/July. I was put on Protonix (a proton-pump inhibitor generally prescribed for acid reflux conditions such as GERD) which seemed to help ... after I was taking it for 5-6 weeks ... and the results lasted for about two months.

I went back to the doctor on Nov 22, having had the same symptoms again for about 2 weeks. Symptoms tend to be icky & I won't go into great detail, but it's like having a stabbing stomach ache for a month, accompanied by heartburn and lots of other fun things.

They tested for helicobacter pylori (aka "h. pylori"), a fierce bacteria that causes 90% of ulcers (think of how gnarly this stuff must be to survive in stomach acid). My test came back negative. My feelings were mixed as in GREAT!! I don't have a vicious ulcer-causing bacteria, but CRAP!! I still don't have any idea what's going on here. I was initially told to "wait & see" how I did on the Protonix.

This is my third time round with this ailment & the proton-pump inhibitor should be helping by now (if acid reflux were really the problem). But it's not, so I am going back as these painful symptoms are of a different breed. I was in such pain yesterday, I was in tears. The "wait & see" approach clearly isn't appropriate anymore.

I am learning (for myself, and vicariously) that the patient has to be proactive when it comes to healthcare. If you know something is not right, you must knock down whatever doors you have to until you get the appropriate care. Patients need to speak up; it is your body. You know better than anyone what is or is not right.

UPDATE 07 Dec 2006:
I had a really good appointment with my doctor yesterday. She felt so badly that I was back & in as much pain as I was. I have a really good rapport with her, so I knew I wouldn’t have to do much insisting in terms of what I needed for medical care.

She got a very thorough list of my symptoms (it is just weird to talk about bowel function, even with a doctor) & palpitated my belly to see exactly where it was hurting. She knows all about my family history with this kind of ailment & is fairly certain it’s not gall bladder related (I have my mother's side of the family to thank for tummy issues). They did a CBC and blood test for liver function. My white count was normal, but my blood pressure was through the roof as I had been in a fair amount of pain for 2-3 days. Tests for liver function are forthcoming. She also gave me a GI cocktail (a mixture consisting of lidocaine & an antacid), making my stomach feel happy (because it was numb!) for about 30-45 minutes. :o)

She’s taken me off the Protonix & has put me on Prevacid instead and added another drug called Carafate to help ease my stomach. It is often prescribed for ulcer patients (not sure if that is what I'm dealing with or not) & she said it basically coats & protects the stomach walls from further irritation which in my case, are obviously very irritated & inflamed. This should (Lord-willing) buy me some time until I can see the gastroenterologist on January 11.

My doc said it’s definitely a concern not only that the symptoms have returned, but that they’re getting more severe in someone my age & overall general health. I’m still in pain of course, but I really feel good that more is being done to move this along. She said if my symptoms got funky or grew even more severe, not to hesitate to go to emergency if that’s what I needed, or to call her no matter the hour, even if it is a weekend. I have a lot of peace knowing I'm in the hands of some good physicians, & the Great Physician Himself!

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