Thursday, January 05, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Medical Discernment & Healing

I am not a doctor.  Sometimes I think I should have been (I also think I should have been an attorney).  Then I realize I would have to have to deal with dead bodies and see other things I’d prefer not to and realize I’m glad I didn’t go in that direction.  Nevertheless, I am almost a doctor as in the Ph.D. kind.  (Every single one of you need to hunt mie down if I don’t finish this year.  Better yet encouragement along the way to freakin’ do it would be wonderful!).  This scholarly endeavor has only fed into my natural investigative spirit and reasoning power, which comes in handy at times when faced with a variety of strange illnesses that hit our family from time to time.

Strange illnesses you ask?  Why yes – here are a few:
  • Narcolepsy
  • Dupuytrene’s Contracture – despite the fact that this primarily runs in middle-aged males, when I as about 17 my right ring finger began contracting.  I had the tumor-ish thing removed when I was 20 and now I have a zig-zag scar on my right ring finger and hand that is only irritated every so often, like when my kids try and pull back on my fingers or when painting a particular daughter’s room pink recently. 
  • Recurrent sinus infection caused, at least in part, by nostril openings that were too small.
 …and many more, especially when you start thinking of the things my kids have brought home.  I swear I couldn’t make up some of these weird things but thankfully they don’t happen often enough to suspect hypochondria. 

With these crazy diagnoses, it’s been really helpful to have a discerning mind when working with doctors, and I’m grateful for that.  Though the internet may very well be a way for folks to get overworked about the possible diagnosis and self-diagnose far too often, it is a helpful resource to get an idea of what symptoms might be related so you can tell the doctor the whole story and, when you get a diagnosis, be able to look it up and increase your knowledge of the condition.  This has come in very handy with two fairly-recent illnesses/conditions in my home.

1 – Recurrent ringworm
All of a sudden one month there appeared to be a very rampant, quickly-spreading version of skin fungus in our home.  Within a couple days my son (who was just shy of 2 at the time), my husband and I all ended up with a version of what appeared to be ringworm.  My son had it all over his elbows and knees and my husband and I had it in additional locations.  Mine spread quickly and turned into a full-body rash that needed a long dose of steroids to control.  When I went to the first doctor for the rash I explained that my whole family had it but mine was worse and I thought maybe it was a virus of some sort we were dealing with.  Her response?  She’s never heard of a virus causing a rash.  I immediately dismissed her expert advice, aside from taking the steroids, because she clearly forgot about things like oh, Chicken Pox, Measles, and all those other viruses we’re vaccinated against that often express themselves with none other than rashes. 

Instead I took my son to his doctor, who happens to be fan-freakin-tastic.  He did swabs and diagnosed my son (and me) with a condition called Nummular Eczema.  It isn’t contagious but in our case probably something triggered by an allergy to something we both had and therefore why we broke out about the same time.  Google it – you’ll find out frustratingly similar it is to Ringworm in appearance.  They look nearly identical.

It’s frustrating because you all might remember #4’s case of ringworm.  For 16 months we battled it and that did spread to everyone who came in contact with us.  It was a constant battle with multiple people having multiple lesions at any given time.  Thankfully, I knew it couldn’t be THAT difficult to treat, seeing as how we’d done everything to try to treat it, so when #4 switched to Logan’s doctor after adoption we asked him to look into it.  Turns out the “atopic dermatitis”/sensitive skin on her head (which was constantly flaking and peeling) was ringworm of the scalp.  16 months later after an oral medication that we have to use for 6-8 weeks, the scalp looks beautiful and none of us have had a single case of ringworm since.  So grateful!

Nevertheless before her correct diagnosis and treatment Logan and I had this constant battle between the eczema and ringworm.  The problem is that you can’t tell the difference between the two until they get to be about the size of a dime.  If you don’t treat ringworm it grows and spreads to others.  If you treat ringworm with the eczema medicine it feeds the ringworm.  If you treat eczema with the ringworm medication it further irritates the skin and makes the size of the eczema grow, just like ringworm would.  So we ended up having to treat every lesion that started like ringworm – when it grew rapidly on my son and I to the point of being pussy and scabby we knew it was eczema and began treating it with the topical steroids.  One time I misdiagnosed one on Logan’s back hip – it grew to the size of a lemon before I realized it wasn’t eczema but instead was a ringworm – the size of a lemon.  Oy!

I’m so glad we’re mostly over that though the eczema is probably a lifelong deal.

2 – Mouth Blisters
This past summer my son came down with a 24-hour fever and then bad mouthblisters.  At the same time, I came down with swelling in my mouth and horrible blisters all over my tongue, gums, and lips.  In addition, he had a bit of a lattice rash on his body.  I did not but had a bad breakout of the eczema. I got so bad I couldn’t get out of bed and slept for nearly 24 hours but I never had a fever like my son did.  We went to the doctor together and they thought my son had hand foot and mouth but didn’t understand why my symptoms were so similar to my sons and yet not characteristic of hand foot and mouth.  They tested us both for strep and we were both negative.  Then they sent me to my doctor to follow-up.  He thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, maybe, or some other strange infection yet it wasn’t consistent with my son’s still very similar symptoms. 

Then my mom came in town.  She came down with the exact same symptoms as my son – mouth blisters, high fever, sick.

When I saw the doctor he gave me a shot of some antibiotic.  By the end of the day I was nearly back to normal.  The next day I was sick again.

It wasn’t for a while before I figured out what was going on.

My mom and my son had hand, foot, and mouth.

I was highly allergic to my narcolepsy medication, which I had just started that week.  Therefore, we all had mouth blisters and swelling and my mom and son had the fever but I did not.  I was getting worse while they were getting better.  It all made perfect sense, except for understanding why the antibiotic worked for me if it was not strep or some other infection like that.  Turns out that morning and the one before I was so sick that I didn’t take my narcolepsy medicine.  I started to get better quickly after that with the blisters clearing up almost overnight.  How did I know it was the narcolepsy medicine?  The next day after feeling so much better I began to take the medication again as usual and immediately started getting blisters.  Then I heard a radio commercial on the way home from work advertising the medication I was on and it ended with a warning to see a doctor right away if you start having blisters and swelling on your mouth and tongue.

I still haven’t returned to my neurologist.  I just stopped taking the medication.  It would be nice to have a new prescription for another, non-allergy producing medication though!

And there you have the reason I’m thankful for medical discernment and healing.  No more ringworm, no more swollen tongue, faster healing of skin lesions due to eczema, and no death from the allergic reaction!  Score.

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