doubting the doc?

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Health struggles stink. I’ve encountered a few this year, none life threatening, but enough to create a pretty stressful 2012.  In March, I had a complete migraine workup to address chronic headaches that I’ve had my whole life.  In the midst, my doctor informed me that I had abnormal seizure activity and prescribed an anti-seizure medicine that would hopefully treat both my headaches and cure the brainwave abnormality.

The doctor scared me to death, warning me that all signs indicated that I could have a seizure at any moment. He urged me not to under sleep, overheat, or have even one glass of wine, detailing the seizure I’d have and the lifetime impression that it would leave on my children.  He also said that I could expect the medicine to work right away and that I would be off it within a year.  When he retested me 6 weeks later with anticipation the abnormality would be gone, he saw it again and increased my dosage.  His nurse said it was likely I had a seizure disorder and would take this life-altering medication forever.

All along, I asked questions, but never really got answers. When I complained about the medicine’s side effects, the office responded with very little information, kind of like a “this is what you have to deal with” response.  When I asked to talk with my doctor, they gave me the nurse.  My intuition was screaming that something was off about this whole thing, and so were my friends and family.

I’m lucky to have both the top services and friendship of truly great medical practitioners in my life. I have a passion for all things medical and the utmost respect for the profession.  I was the weirdo during her C-sections who asked for a mirror above the operating table. (They said no, but they did show me the placenta – it was cool!)  Still, I’m aware that doctors are human and I know they make mistakes.  I had a second opinion yesterday and I’m still in shock.

The adult epilepsy center director of one of Chicago’s most acclaimed hospitals retested me and delivered the wonderful, but frustrating news:  My EEG shows no signs of abnormality.  What’s more, I learned that it is not the standard of care to ever treat someone based on EEG results alone.  Typically, a patient will have two actual seizures before treatment begins.  My new doctor actually turned to the fellow in the room and said, “I really can’t believe this, can you?  I mean, have you ever heard of anything like this?” He plans to take me off the medicine following one more “no chance it will show anything” test. (So, if you see me public with wires and a baseball hat attached to my head in the next few weeks, don’t be offended if I run the other way!)

Second opinions are an integral part of good healthcare.  In a world where we must be our own advocates and the advocate for others in our care, knowledge is power.  We need to seek out additional information when something doesn’t sit well or involves a serious treatment or surgery.  The Patient Advocate Foundation website says that some doctors are conservative while others are aggressive and a second opinion is the best way to learn about all your options when dealing with any illness.  Don’t be like me.  Don’t get caught up worrying about hurt feelings or being a pain of a patient. This is your one lovely life to live, so do what you need to do to make it long and healthy.

In this moment, I’m forcing myself to take my own advice.  To be grateful that I’ll have this life quality-sucker of a medicine out of my daily regime soon, instead of dwelling on the fact that I’ve had to stomach it, agonize over it, pay for it, and feel like a walking seizure time bomb for the last six months.  I’m grabbing the good, part of which was getting the second opinion in the first place. If a health situation has you in a quandary or feeling as if you’re not getting the answers you need, don’t hesitate. Book an appointment to learn about all your options, today.

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