Amy and the Ologists

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is part 5 in a series of blog updates on my health status.

During a spirited conversation with a long-time friend recently, she said, “I’m so glad all you’re dealing with now is the Bell’s Palsy.” I laughed, sighed, and then explained that I am dealing with many other issues related to the viral attack in April. And by “dealing with issues” I mean seeing specialists and spending my healthcare savings account at a startling pace. In the past 10 days, I’ve seen three specialists.

The Rheumatologist

While it was particularly challenging to get in to see the rheumatologist, my time with her was uplifting and encouraging. She’s a younger physician in a practice with two other women. As she explained, “I know scheduling with us is rather difficult. We’ve all spent twelve years studying and now we’re having babies in a rotating fashion.” I appreciated her honesty and openness. I also appreciated it when she said, “If you have trouble getting an appointment in the future, contact me directly.”

I needed the consult with her because of pain and swelling in my hands. The swelling was so bad in April when I had high fevers that I couldn’t use my hands. My fingers looked like giant, shiny sausages for a few days. While the swelling had greatly diminished, the pain persisted. Upon hearing about other joint pain I’d been experiencing for a few years like a sore shoulder and aching hip, she determined I may have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network, “Seronegative rheumatoid arthritis is the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis without the presence of certain antibodies in the patient’s blood. It is one of two main types of rheumatoid arthritis diagnoses.”

She ordered initial and repeat lab tests for two inflammatory markers, gave me a prescription for a low dose of prednisone, and a follow up appointment in eight weeks. I’m thankful to report that all my joints feel better at this point.

The Neurologist

I asked my primary care physician for the consult with the neurologist to see if there is something I should or should not be doing to improve chances of healing my cranial nerve and regaining muscle function on the left side of my face.  After getting pre-approval from my insurance company, it was relatively quick and easy to get a video appointment with this specialist.

After a quick review of the onset and symptoms I’d been experiencing (e.g., challenges with speaking, chewing, drinking without a straw, super sensitivity to sound in my left ear, and loss of visual acuity due to the drooping eye lid) the neurologist, another compassionate female physician, I was given two pieces of advice. “Relax. Be patient.” She went on to explain the it takes at least 8-12 weeks for the nerve to heal from the inflammation and for muscle movement to resume. When I saw her, it had only been 3 ½ weeks since the onset. So, I wait, rather impatiently.

The Dermatologist

This is the specialist no one predicts. More than two years ago I started to develop dermatitis on my lower legs. I’ve tried steroid cream, steroid injections, and UV light therapy. Nothing has cured or significantly lessened this condition. When I mentioned this to the rheumatologist she asked if I’d had the lesions biopsied. I said no, and she insisted I get this done before seeing her again.

So, I made an appointment with my dermatologist for the biopsy. I don’t mean to be dramatic but having a pencil eraser size piece of skin removed from both legs hurts like hell. And yes, he gave me lidocaine before doing the cutting. My mom would be proud of me though; I didn’t utter a single f-bomb during or after the quick procedure. (I may have said it few times at the home the past few days.)

I’m now awaiting results of the biopsy. And waiting for the Bell’s Palsy to resolve. And waiting to see if my immune system will stop attacking my joints.