Sunday, 26 May 2013

Hannah's story

Several people have written me and asked if the stories I tell are true.  Well yes, they all are and WHAT THE HELL?!  ARE YOU ACCUSING ME OF LYING?

Ok, I will freely admit to changing certain minor details like ages and names, but all of the stories here are absolutely true.  Seriously, I can't make this shit up.  But some stories simply don't need any alteration, because they seem like they belong here just as they actually happened.  Hannah (yes, her real name!) wrote me a little while back with a story of her own, and she thankfully gave her consent to use it and her first name.

Hi Doc,
I am an avid reader of your blog and the various stories you have to tell of your experiences as a doctor.  I have a story to tell myself.  Unfortunately not all doctors or hospital staff are as competent and caring as you seem to be, something I found out the hard way a few years back.

I can remember vividly one morning, when I was around 11 or 12, waking up with HORRENDOUS pain in my abdomen and lower back.  It was so bad I could barely move.  I was also very nauseated and feverish.  My mum heard me yelling, and after I managed to tell her what was wrong, rushed me to the local hospital.  Once there, I assume the doctor's first thoughts were of appendicitis, and I was promptly sent off for blood tests.  Whilst awaiting the results, I saw a doctor who poked and prodded me a bit and asked me whether it hurt (for the record, yes, very much so).  I remember him having to pause the examination a couple of times so I could throw up.  Finally he concluded that I most likely had appendicitis.  I had a fever of 39.5 degrees Celsius {103 degrees Fahrenheit - come on US!  Join the rest of the world!} and generally felt pretty rotten.  However, my blood tests came back perfectly normal.  Not appendicitis, then.  {Blood tests can be normal with appendicitis, by the way}  I was then diagnosed with a UTI.  They prescribed antibiotics and painkillers and I was sent home within a few hours.  
For the next few days my symptoms did seem to improve, but about a week and a half after my first hospital visit I was again vomiting and in agony.  I was again given blood tests again, and again they came back normal.  {This is generally regarded as bad.}  The doctor then concluded that it was either very severe growing pains or constipation.  {This is generally regarded as very bad - "growing pains"?  Seriously?  Idiot ER docs...}  I was again given painkillers and sent home. This cycle continued for around two months.  I think my parents took me to the local hospital five or six times during those two months, and every time we were told I was either growing, constipated, or suffering from a UTI.  {Doc's note - if a doctor can't figure out what's wrong with you after 1 or 2 attempts, find a smarter one.}  I was never given an ultrasound or CT scan or given any kind of test at all, besides blood tests and physical examinations.  My mother often asked why such tests weren't performed and was told that they 'weren't necessary'. 
Eventually my mother got so fed up that the next time the symptoms appeared she took me to a (much better) hospital an hour away.  After explaining my symptoms and history I was again given a blood test.  We all thought the cycle was going to repeat itself, but when the test again came back normal I was sent to see a paediatric urological surgeon.  He asked whether I had been given a CT or ultrasound and seemed horrified when he was told I hadn't.  I was immediately sent off to have both scans done, which showed a rather large obstruction (my mother was told after the surgery that the blockage was a benign tumour about the size of a tennis ball) in my right ureter. Yeah. It turns out that I probably WAS suffering from UTI's and kidney infections, but they were a symptom, not a cause.  The same urologist performed surgery the next day.  I was in hospital for a week after the surgery, and besides pain from the incision, I was feeling much better. 
I'm now 16 and haven't had any recurrence of symptoms since before the surgery.  My right kidney only functions at around 40% and I am still prone to UTIs, no doubt due to all the infections I suffered, but besides that I am in good health.  I know I am lucky that the tumour was benign. 

Keep up the great work Doc.  I know not all hospital staff are as incompetent as the ones I was unlucky enough to be 'treated' by initially.  I know that the majority of those in the medical profession do care about their patients and do their damnedest to see them get better.  
Regards, 
Hannah 
Well Hannah, that just about sums it up.  I'm glad it turned out ok, and I'm grateful for the story.  I only wish someone would have given you and your condition a little more thought instead of passing you off as a "growing" teenager.

No but seriously, growing pains??  What the fuck does that even mean?

18 comments:

  1. It means I can't figure out what's hurting you but I don't want to look that bad so I'll diagnose something and hope the problem fixes itself.

    Also, Doc, I'm curious about the holidays. Do people try to use holidays as excuses to ride a mortorcycle shirtless while drunk? Are there more idiots? Do you work often on holidays, and if so, does it really really suck? Hope to get some answers. :)

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  2. I am sorry Doc, but:

    1) How do you know the person who gave you consent, was Hannah herself, not someone who knows her story?

    2) Hannah seems to be under-age to give consent about such matters.

    3) Just because Hannah is not from US (I assume so, because of the mention of temperature in Celsius), and they are not your patient, it doesn't mean you can say "whatever, they are not covered by HIPAA" (or as you once said, "HIPAA can go fuck itself"). You took an oath when you become a doctor; I took it too. That is why I never publicly release ANY patient's information.

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    Replies
    1. You took an oath not to divulge patient information? Funny, I don't remember Hippocrates mentioning anything about that.

      I won't even address your first point, because it's just silly. I suppose Hannah could be a pseudonym and she could have made the whole thing up. But I'm inclined to believe her.

      HIPAA is an American invention. Hannah is apparently not American. Plus, nothing other than her age (which may or may not be accurate) and her first name are revealed, so identifying her will be rather difficult, wouldn't you agree?

      I realise that medical blogs are a touchy subject. I go through great pains to keep my patients' identities (and everyone else's) safe. I know I'm treading a fine line here.

      Delete
    2. Merik,

      Believe it or not, it's Hannah (yes, THAT Hannah) here.

      I distinctly remember telling Doc my story, and I also distinctly remember giving Doc permission to use my name. Doc may not have known that it was me who told him my story, but I certainly did, since I wrote the damn email. Not that it matters, nor do you probably care, but Hannah is my real name. This most certainly did happen to me, I have a lovely memento in the form of a six inch long scar on my abdomen to show for it. Do you seriously think I would be sad enough, and have so little to do with my spare time, that I would make this up?

      I'm 16, will be 17 very soon. I may not be an adult, but I'm sure 16 is perfectly old enough to give consent for something I wrote in the first place to be published online.

      Yes, I'm not from the US. I'm British.

      Doc did nothing wrong whatsoever. He hasn't published anything that I didn't give my full permission to. It's sad that you'd think so little of Doc that he'd publish something online for the world to see without getting permission first. Relax, he only published my first name, not my height, weight and my mother's maiden name.

      Thanks,
      Hannah

      Delete
    3. Looks like no fight this time, Gastro. =|

      Delete
    4. Might have to start one myself, by the looks of things. Doc, I fart in your general direction.

      Yeah, that'll show 'im.

      Delete
    5. I'm not taking the bait, Gastro. As you can see, Hannah herself did a fine job quieting things down. I will admit it makes me less enthusiastic about posting people's personal stories like this in the future.

      Delete
  3. I wonder if Hannah had the same doctors I did growing up. I have pretty bad joint pain, particularly in my knees, and a line down my foot that gets sharp pain if I walk too long or step wrong. I was always told it was growing pains. Apparently growing pains continue on for about 12 years. Now at 17 I finally received a new doctor who actually took a look at the problem. Turns out I may have rheumatoid arthritis, along with a never that sticks out on the bottom of my foot. I have deep seated hatred of the wonderfully vague diagnosis of "growing pains" that incompetent doctors use as a catch all to avoid actually doing their jobs.

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    Replies
    1. Huh, they certainly sound very similar to the doctors I was subjected to. It does seem that if a child comes to the ER with pain, and the docs can't find an obvious cause, must be growing pains! It's not right and it obviously causes unnecessary suffering, but it does seem to happen pretty often.

      Delete
    2. I had a doctor who did all these tests, then concluded that it was all in my head, well if I had listened to her, my colon would have burst and I'd be even more sick then I was.

      Well, after MANY tests, they (a different doctor) found that my colon had shut down, and I had to have it removed, that was when I was 13, then at 16 I had to have my rectum removed, then at 18 I had to have an ileostomy, which I still have, and I'm 31.

      I don't know why some doctors are stupid like that, but it's irritating!

      Delete
  4. The last time I was diagnosed with growing pains, they actually were growing pains - I ended up growing six inches that year (which I know doesn't mean growing pains for certain but makes them likely). By the way, you're not the only one who wishes that we would switch to the metric system. Every other country on THE WHOLE F***ING PLANET did it, so why not the United States?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We like to be different, makes us feel special ;)

      Delete
    2. No, its because its expensive. The us is in enough debt and changing every sign, spedometer, stoping the selling of non metric measuring devices, would overall just be so god damned expensive and the us frankly is spending all our money on stupid crap, so theres none left over to do the switch

      Delete
  5. Thanks for sharing my story, Doc. Just reading it back makes it seem even more ridiculous. 'Growing pains'? Honestly.... You couldn't make this crap up.

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    Replies
    1. Typical NHS. I've heard some serious horror stories, I'm glad your mother took you to another hospital in the end :)

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  6. I'm not sure what it means exactly. But I remember every few years or so growing up, my mom held me as I cried because my legs or arms were hurting so badly at night. She would massage them for a few minutes to help me sleep. I'm 18 now and haven't had these pains since puberty. She always told me they were caused my the muscles in my limbs growing.

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  7. I've spent way too much time reading this fabulous blog this afternoon. So glad I found it. Of all of the interesting things I have read here the diagnoses of "growing pains" is one I can relate to. I was diagnosed with "growing pains" as a teen - until I was in my early twenties ( was I ever going to stop growing??) Turns out I have acute intermittent porphyria and the pain had nothing to do with growing!

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