Why I do not trust doctors, part III

This time the doctor was a woman in her forties. She wore hot pink velour sweatpants. Her fingernails extended an inch past her fingertips, with electric yellow and green tiger-stripe polish and press-on diamond rhinestones. Her make-up was caked, her hair dyed pink. Of all that, it was the sweatpants that really threw me because what was this? Pyjama day at the walk-in clinic? I don’t remember what I went to see her for. I don’t remember what she advised me. In fact, I never heard what she advised me. I’m not a huge believer in the value of workplace dress codes, but I spent the entire time thinking is this woman actually a doctor?


Why I do not trust doctors, part II

Eyeball by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

The whites of my eyes turned noticeably yellow. Banana yellow. I did not want to see a doctor about this, because I otherwise felt fine.

My eyeball yellowness went on several days. I stared at my eyeballs in the bathroom mirror. Was this yellowness the start of something? Early onset jaundice?

I called the nurse’s advice hotline. The nurse would advise me what to do.

‘I don’t know what could be causing that,’ she said. ‘You need to see a doctor.’

‘ … What if I didn’t see a doctor?’

‘My advice is for you to see a doctor.’ You could tell she was stating this clearly so that if I died of yellow eye, my family couldn’t dig up a recording of this call and sue.

I went to a different walk-in clinic. This time, I saw a young woman who wore a white lab coat. There wasn’t even any dog hair on it.

‘What are you here about?’

‘The whites of my eyes have turned yellow.’

She shone a tiny flashlight in my eyes. Then she laughed. ‘Well, I don’t know how yellow the whites of your eyes normally are.’

‘They’re normally white.’

‘Uh-huh.’ She laughed again. ‘I’m not sure what you want me to say.’

I went home. A few days later, my eyeballs returned to their usual colour.


Why I do not trust doctors, part I

Canadian winter by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

I woke up one morning with my left eye swollen shut and a hard lump protruding from my eyebrow. The upper left region of my face had gone full puff. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and I couldn’t figure out any explanation for it. By lunchtime the swelling hadn’t gone down, so I went to the walk-in clinic.

The doctor was a stooped, wrinkled man with snow-white hair. If a police officer had later asked me to guess his age, I would have said 90. His navy blazer was three sizes too large, making him look like a kid playing dress-up. More disturbingly, the blazer was coated in white dog hair. This man looked less like a medical professional and more like a homeless guy who’d wandered in from the alley.

I pointed to my eye. He reached a withered finger toward me and pressed on the lump, hard.

‘It’s an insect bite. Might even be a wasp sting.’

This was January in Winnipeg, Canada. Outside, the snow banks were up past my knees. I had not seen a wasp in months, probably because they were all dead or hibernating underground through the winter. Maybe he was a hobo who’d recently arrived from Florida and hadn’t yet figured out what insects to randomly attribute his extremely professional diagnoses to.

Also, I feel like I would have known if a wasp had stung me on the face.

I went home. The swelling went away on its own.

Congratulations, you’ve won post-infective fatigue syndrome

Congratulations, you've got post-infective fatigue syndromeThank you for playing Why Am I So Sick All The Time? It’s been an exciting several months, but we’re finally ready to announce the outcome. Remember, all of these conditions and more were in the mix:
Ross river fever
An allergy to cockroaches
Maybe some kind of cancer?
Multiple sclerosis

After much consideration and approximately 8500 blood tests, we’re delighted to announce that you have chronic fatigue syndrome! But wait, there’s more! Medically unexplained fatigue comes in a variety of colours and styles:
Standard chronic fatigue
Post-cancer fatigue
Post-concussion fatigue
Post-infective fatigue

Since you’re lucky enough to have post-infective fatigue syndrome (or PIFS, for fun), you’re probably wondering what ‘infection’ you had that kicked this all off, right? Well, it could have been anything. A cold, a flu, that one time you sneezed so loud your husband dropped his iPhone in the sink. In fact, the infection could have been subclinical, meaning you never had any symptoms! Imagine that!

Curious how post-infective fatigue differs from standard chronic fatigue? No-one will adequately explain that to you, ever.

With PIFS, you can enjoy a wide range of new and unpredictable symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

Fatigue, obviously
You’re so tired, it feels like you’ve been awake for a week straight. It feels like you just ran an ultra marathon. You’re so tired, the physical act of holding yourself upright in a chair is unbearable.

Combing nicely with your overwhelming tiredness is a complete inability to fall asleep or even catch a short nap. Ideally, you should be awake as much as possible to contemplate all the things you could be doing if you weren’t so horrifically exhausted. This also gives you ample time to catch up on social media, so you can see how everyone else’s lives have gone on without you. Look at all your friends and family, achieving their goals and living life to the fullest!

Impaired concentration & short-term memory
You know that thing when someone introduces themselves and you forget their name within 8.29 seconds? Now imagine that for every third thing said to you. And you know how sometimes, you walk in a room and you can’t remember what you wanted there? Well, replace sometimes with always. And replace walk in a room with open a cupboard or click on a desktop file. Then you’ll get it. Except you won’t, because by the time you’ve reached the end of a sentence, you’ve forgotten how it started. Something about mangoes?

Are you nauseous? Or are you just so tired you’re starting to mistake that for nausea? It’s hard to tell!

‘Unrefreshing sleep’
This is the technical term specialists use to describe how even when you do get a decent night’s sleep, you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a lawn aerator.

Shortness of breath
Sometimes your lungs feel constricted and you can’t get a full breath. Maybe you’ve got asthma. You never had asthma before, but maybe you’ve coincidentally developed asthma at the exact same time as this other mystery condition. No, seriously, pay $25 to blow into this tube. Blow! Blow! Blow! Well, there’s definitely something wrong with your lungs, and it’s definitely not asthma. That’s all we know.

Thank you for playing Why Am I So Sick All The Time? We hope you enjoy your new life with PIFS!