MY DAY or It’s About the Immune System, Stupid


So I dragged myself out of bed after a disrupted night’s sleep and—tired all to pieces—I got a glass of orange juice, which sent me into a sneezing fit, which—along with the extreme fatigue, not to mention the shortness of breath—I didn’t mention the shortness of breath, did I?—all added up to a very, very unhappy immune system.  Fatigue + S.O.B + weird shit always = immune distress, if you are talking about Annie.

Then I called Dr. Tucker’s nurse Jill and spent fifteen minutes on hold because when he’s out of town then she becomes the triage nurse and he was out of town testifying to save an intern from being thrown under the bus by an obstetrician (we suppose there was a problem with a delivery and the obstetrician decided to blame the intern) and Dr. Tucker did his bring-me-my-white-steed-and-sword thing and took off to rescue the intern-kid.

. . . After having emailed Jill the lab tests she should order, so she and I got them faxed to the lab with copies to me and Dr. Edwards, who is, like, only the second physician in the entire world whom I can stand, and then I took myself off to the lab, wherein is lodged Toby-the-lab-guy who is finishing his nursing degree in December and then probably going on to work at Upstate Medical Center so he can continue and get his nurse practitioner degree.  Upstate sucks and if anybody at St. Joe’s has any brains they will go grab up Toby because he’s righteous.

Then I went to the bagel-coffee place for breakfast, which turned out to be a western egg sandwich, and coffee, and while I was waiting for that I read the menu—reading menus being one of my all-time favorite activities—and discovered they had peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches, so I got one to go for lunch, and then went.

. . . To see Dr. Lewis, to whom I honestly tell all my woes, and I sat in the waiting room canceling Call-a-Bus because Call-a-Bus is totally substandard and makes me crazy.  I would rather die in traffic than ride Call-a-Bus, however, the problem is that I don’t die—I just get really, really cold and frequently very wet, which is worse than dying, so I have to ride the friggin’ bus, except Spring is pending, and while I was waiting it occurred to me that chocolate milk was necessary.  I think there’s a federal law or FDA regulation or something that makes chocolate milk mandatory with a Fluffernutter.

So then I told Dr. Lewis all about the heart palpitations, the emotional meltdown, Call-a-Bus, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Upstate Medical investigating itself, the SUNY auditor being a moron, and assorted other things, including the extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and episodes of being extremely terribly seriously suicidal.  And I may have told her about the time the psychiatrist sent me to the pulmonary specialist before I figured out that I had pulmonary fibrosis, an autoimmune disease.  The pulmonary asshole told me my problem was depression.  I told Dr. Ghaly.  His eyes rolled back in his head, steam issued from his ears, and he hissed “Depression does not cause shortness of breath.” 

I don’t hate all doctors—just all physicians, except Drs. Tucker and Edwards, and aren’t they lucky?  And Dr. Lewis is a doctor but not a physician so I don’t have to hate her.  So we decided to let the physicians do their thing first before we worried about the suicidal thing and so forth.

PNIE:  psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology:  the mind is connected to the nervous system is connected to the immune system is connected to the hormones.  My immune system is dysfunctional.  When it is challenged and can’t fix the problem then I get extremely tired, short of breath and suicidal, plus having other random signs and symptoms, all depending on the nature of the immune challenge.

So yesterday I called Dr. Wechsler, who also is not a physician and therefore is a very close friend.  Then I called Dr. Tucker and Dr. Edwards and decided to let them do the heavy lifting; I was too tired to cope anymore.  Then Melia came, bringing Thai for supper.  She also brings hugs.  So do Dr. Wechsler and Dr. Edwards, and Dr. Tucker needs to kick it up a notch if he’s seriously into healing.

So I left Dr. Lewis, went back to the deli and got chocolate milk, then entered a medical transportation van and got driven to Cazenovia.  The van was dispatched half an hour late; the trip is 18 miles and 34 minutes; by the driver’s GPS it was 30 miles and 45 minutes, and we were late.

And when I arrived all the nurse wanted to know about were the chest pains.  And when Dr. Edwards arrived, all he wanted to know about were the chest pains.  I was trying to tell him what was wrong but he said, “No, tell me about the chest pains.”

Will you guys please get with the program?  When Annie has chest pains they are no more and no less significant than when orange juice makes her sneeze:  it’s about the immune system, stupid!  Honest to God, you medical people hear “chest pain” and your brains utterly cease to take in any further information.  You point like dogs and freeze; you cannot see, hear or understand anything other than cardiaccardiaccardiac.  There is more to life than the heart!  There is also the brain and mine fills with suicidal thoughts when my immune system gets messed up.  Suicide will kill me a lot deader than a heart attack if you don’t pay attention to the immune system.  I know there are 4,728 cardiologists in Syracuse and only one immunologist, and he’s a complete idiot, but try to get a grip.

The blood work and the EKG agreed that my heart is its usual half-assed self.  My kidneys are doing well (GFR 45).  My blood sugar is running its more-or-less normal 250.  And my urinalysis is, in Dr. Edwards’s word, “dirty.”

Here’s what I think: I’ve got a UTI that’s getting steadily worse.  My immune system can’t cope with it so it’s been pitching a fit.  First, I stopped the exercise class to relieve the load on the nervous system.  Then I stopped the activism to relieve the psycho.  Then I spent two days in bed to take the load off the immune system, and none of it has provided relief because this infection is growing.

So Dr. Edward proposed various medications and I said, “No, no, no.  Only Dr. Tucker is allowed to prescribe.”  He has been listening to me for nearly two years and I’m fairly confident that he’s learned enough to not kill me; Dr. Edwards hasn’t had the opportunity.  So we texted Dr. Tucker in the courtroom and await his august reply.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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