The Ultimate Contradiction: Mistrust of Doctors When You Are One

Last updated: July 2022

I was diagnosed in 2019 when I suddenly started having difficulty walking and using my hands, but it all started at least ten years before. I woke up one morning in college and couldn't feel my left foot. It was completely numb and then over the next two weeks it went through a process of burning and painful cold as it returned to full feeling.

Plausible vs implausible

I went to my PCP and he did an x-ray (what on earth would that have shown?) and did order a nerve conduction study and I was diagnosed with a neuroma. I am a podiatrist. Trust me, I do not have a neuroma. A few months later I started having spasms of my tongue and neck. I told my doctor and she thought it was a vitamin imbalance. Ok, that seems plausible. Shortly thereafter I started podiatry school. I was shaving my legs one day and realized that a strip of skin on my left leg was numb. I was having back pain and just assumed that I had hurt something moving.

The new symptom that made me see a neurologist

After a year in school, I was studying for my boards. At this time, I was having this electric sensation up my spine when I bent my head forward. I decided to see a neurologist. He examined me and suggested that I could have MS. He ordered the appropriate MRIs and the read said: "clinically correlate". I knew what that meant. I was studying for my boards and my MRIs looked like the MRIs of MS patients.

I was essentially dismissed

I wanted to discuss my results with him, but he would not return my calls. I had to go to his office one afternoon and make him review them with me. At that time he told me what I now know was an explanation of clinically isolated syndrome...and basically told me to have a nice life. Over the next few years, there would be so many episodes of pain and weakness and dysfunction or spasms in my throat that would be attributed to being out of shape or being a paranoid medical resident or GERD but then after I had my daughter and started actually practicing, my vision started to go blurry.

The symptoms just kept coming

I was told that MS didn't present this way and we don't know what's wrong but if it doesn't get better let us know. (excuse me what?) My right breast went numb after a flu shot and I called my PCP thinking that I was developing GBS. He told me it was just stress and I needed more sex and exercise. (I assure you that's not it.) So I was at a professional conference and I noticed I couldn't lift my arm or hold a pencil and my handwriting had changed. I was falling all over the place and I had a livewire running up the back of my head.

How this has made me a better doctor

Like everyone else, I blew it off until I got home and could barely lift my right leg. This was when someone finally took me seriously (and they would later not when I said I was having a relapse on Ocrevus) and diagnosed me. My point is be your own advocate. Don't let anyone make you feel like you are crazy when you know something is wrong. I do not trust doctors or hospitals, in general, which in some capacity makes me a better doctor myself. I am more likely to investigate the zebras and take my patients seriously when no one else does. As a medical community, we need to do better. Thanks for reading as I try to navigate this dichotomy in my life.

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