Saturday, December 22, 2012

Down with White Male Doctors

In my last post, I mentioned how I might have poison ivy. Well, I'm pretty sure that I don't. For the record, this is mostly an angry rant.

I first noticed the rash almost two weeks ago. I woke up with four large itchy spots, that looked a lot like mosquito bites, on my neck. I made a mental note to secure the window above our bed, and went on with my day. At noon, driving down the road, I felt another spot on a different part of my neck. I figured I just hadn't noticed it that morning.

In the meantime, by boobs were hurting. That's a normal symptom of pregnancy. I didn't think anything of it until I undressed that night. There it was: a hot pink rash all over my breasts, including over the nipples. (Let me tell you. Ouch.) I had to be allergic to something.

 By Friday morning it had spread to palm sized red blotches on both sides of my neck, my stomach and my legs. I made a doctor's appointment and a (rather loud) resident interrogated me about the possibility of new foods, lotions, soaps, materials, and exposure to nature. He determined that I was having an allergic reaction to something, gave me a strong steroid cream, and sent me on my way.

By the following Tuesday, the itch was unbearable, and still spreading. I went back to see my own doctor (the cute and peppy Dr Sheila) who immediately had me sent up to Dermatology for an appointment with Dr Stern.

Whatever you picture, when you think of Dr Stern, whatever image comes to your mind, you are absolutely accurate. The epitome of an old, white, male doctor, a with grey mustache. He concluded that I contracted poison ivy. In the winter. From my dog.

If you haven't met Bailey, our dog, it would be relevant for you to note at this point that never has there been a dog so averse to nature. And yet Dr Stern, in all his white male doctor wisdom, insists that I have poison ivy. I reminded him of some of the "delicate" placement of the rash, and told him I don't make it a habit of rubbing my dog on my boobs. He replied with a cough and a "hrumph." I also brought up that my husband is allergic to poison ivy as well, so it would stand to reason he should have it too. Dr Stern speculated that since he grew up, first in China where there is no poison ivy, then in the city of Chicago, he must not really be allergic to poison ivy.

Dr Stern was satisfied that he'd "explained away" my rash. He instructed me to wash my sheets (duh), and scolded me (yes, scolded me) for scratching. I convinced him to take a biopsy of the rash for testing. For the record, I now have a stitch on my butt.

I just got the test results back yesterday. The biopsy concluded that I am having an allergic reaction to something. Three doctors appointments, two prescriptions, two over the counter drugs, and one stitch in my butt, and all I know is that I'm allergic to something.

Since I haven't bought anything in the manner of clothes, lotions, detergents or soaps in over a month (thank you, bulk purchases) I must conclude that pregnancy has created an allergic reaction to something. I'm working on my own ways of dealing with it. The rash appeared on my face once, but only lasted a few days. I've started washing my whole body with my face wash, and it may or may not be helping.

I did get one thing from this whole experience: I love my Primary Care Physician. Dr Sheila was the only one out of three doctors (four if you include the intern who took my skin biopsy) who recognized that my opinion was important and sympathized with my discomfort.

It is so, so, so important to build a relationship with a good doctor who cares more about you than about getting you out the door. When you go see a doctor, and you feel you are being treated unfairly, or are not being listened to, you have the right to request a new doctor. You may get some dirty looks or attitude, but it is your right as a patient. Find the right doctor. Even if they don't have the solution, they can help you in more ways than just the physical.

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