Wow, I have managed to keep on schedule and get out a Waspish Wednesday post every week for three weeks! It’s so unlike me to be able to maintain a regular publishing schedule. Go, me!
This is another Lyme-related post in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. This tells the oh-so-bittersweet story of how I was recently able to go back to one of the doctors who told me I didn’t have Lyme and say, in effect, “You were wrong!”
It also is kind of a sequel to my first Waspish Wednesday post, wherein I discussed a certain doctor whom I strongly dislike.
There are many reasons I dislike this doctor: That he has absolutely forbidden me access with my service dogs and failed to provide other reasonable accommodation in their place; that he thinks his office is MCS- and wheelchair-accessible, when it is neither; that he does not provide American Sign Language interpreters to Deaf patients who require them, despite the fact that it’s the law; that he is smarmy and pompous and condescending; that he once suggested my cognitive impairment (brain damage) which is well documented, was caused by “watching too much TV.” You get the idea.
However, perhaps his most egregious sin was the way he treated me when I was so severely ill with Lyme disease and coinfections that I was probably dying.
I’ve written about my Lyme story before, but in a nutshell, here’s what happened:
I was bitten by a tick, and a few weeks later developed classic signs of acute Lyme disease. I was put on antibiotics; I improved, but did not get better. Eventually, I got much, much worse, until I couldn’t speak or move my limbs, was in excruciating pain all the time, had dozens of other symptoms, and was unable to leave my bed. This doctor was supposedly a Lyme-literate physician (LLMD), which means that, unlike most doctors, he knew about coinfections and “believed in” chronic Lyme, etcetera.
I went to see him, with a friend interpreting for me (because, remember, he doesn’t pay for ASL interpreters), and he was so rattled by how sick I was that he could barely stand to be in the same room with me. He said, “I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t Lyme. Lyme can’t do this. You need to find a doctor who can diagnose and treat you, and then come back, and I can help you.”
Then he got me out of his office so fast, you’d have thought I was a pile of shit on fire.
He wasn’t the only “unhelpful” doctor I dealt with. Some doctors refused to see me at all, just because I had Lyme. Others said they didn’t know what was wrong, and/or thought I didn’t have Lyme because my tests were negative. Still others did believe I had Lyme but didn’t want to take on my case because I was so sick, they were afraid they couldn’t provide adequate care.
However, none of these other doctors advertised themselves as Lyme specialists, then told me I didn’t have Lyme because “Lyme can’t do this.” No other physician told me that after another doctor diagnosed and treated me, he could help me. (What was he planning to do for me, exactly? Sing “Kumbaya”?)
Now, three years later, I’ve been definitively diagnosed with Lyme disease, babesia, and bartonella, and have been on aggressive antibiotic and antiparasitic treatment. Most of the time, I can speak. Most of the time I can sit up, move my limbs, brush my own teeth, do limited walking inside my house, and all sorts of other things I couldn’t do when I was being refused treatment because “Lyme can’t do that.”
So, two weeks ago, I went to see this doctor because he’s the only specialist in this region for another condition I have, and I was told if I didn’t have an appointment, they’d withhold treatment.
I started our appointment by refreshing his memory about the state I was in when last I saw him. Then I said, “Remember how you said, ‘Lyme can’t cause this’? Well, it turns out that Lyme did cause that. I got tested again in October 2008, and I was positive for Lyme and babesia.”
He expressed moderate surprise and requested copies of the labwork. I knew he would do that. I hadn’t brought it. He asked me to fax them to him. I said I would, but I probably won’t.
He did not say, “Wow, I really blew it on that one. I’m so glad that after nine months of multiple infections digging deeper into your organs and central nervous system, you got treatment. I have learned my lesson and will treat severe Lyme cases much differently in the future.”
Not that I expected it.
A lot of other annoying things happened, which I won’t go into, and then he asked me who was treating me for Lyme. I told him, and he asked me to please pass along his kind regards, as he thinks very highly of my treating doctor.
“Yes,” I said. “I think Dr. ___ saved my life.”
Either he didn’t hear me say that or he pretended not to. I don’t know if he caught the implication that he essentially left me to die.
Then, he yanked the plug on the only treatment I’d been getting from him — the entire reason I schlepped my tired ass to his office after avoiding him for over three years — and I left.
I don’t know if anything I said penetrated his thick armor of smugness, but for the sake of the next Lyme patient who enters his office, I sure as hell hope so.
I don’t know why he’s unable to say a mea culpa. Maybe he has some sort of brain injury that interferes with his “guilt processing center.” If so, it’s probably caused by not watching enough TV.
– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I got stung by a bee waiting outside his office because he wouldn’t let me in!), and Barnum, SDiT?