Down The Rabbit Hole

In the previous blog, I mentioned I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and my intuition told me from the start that the doctors had missed the mark. I’m going to take you back to the beginning now, when the relationship with my medical intuition was akin to a buzzing fly – it was there, audible, but largely ignored. That’s when I fell down The Rabbit Hole.

It was 1995, I was living in New York City and this was my second emergency room visit at Beth Israel Hospital. The first time, I was admitted with a 104 temperature. They gave me Tylenol, watched me for a few days and sent me home. The fever came back just as fierce, along with raging intestinal pain, debilitating exhaustion, and flu-like symptoms I had for a few months prior. This time, I had lost 30 pounds and looked severely anorexic, there was no denying this was more than a passing bug.

They ruled out a gynecological problem in a traumatic way. Five male doctors in the ER surrounded me (it must have been an intern opportunity), my legs spread, examining my cooch. They didn’t bother to ask my 21-year old self if I had ever been sexually assaulted. I had. I felt violated again, and deeply humiliated. They tested me for parasites, negative. Weak, feverish and feeling food poisoned, I was confined to a hospital bed for nearly a week. My intuition felt the doctors were pressured to make a decision about me. I was an uninsured, broke college student lying in an overcrowded city hospital without a concerned parent asking questions, without an advocate. Just a bunch of flowers, gifts and cards from friends and co-workers. Diagnose her and get that bed free is what I heard.

When the doctor declared I had Crohn’s disease, he said it with little confidence, as if it were the closest diagnosis he could make. And it was good enough for him because his patient would get discharged and he didn’t have to take sixteen pills a day for the next decade. He never had to see me again.

I researched Crohn’s disease and I didn’t have many of the determining factors. Logically, my mind said, this doesn’t explain my symptoms. Intuitively, my soul was yelling, “Um, yeah, no! This is not the right diagnosis! It’s something you’re eating!”

A few years later, none of the medications prescribed were working. One of the prescriptions created ulcers in my esophagus, and a bunch of other nasty side effects. Increasingly frustrated, I made an appointment with my Crohn’s doctor, considered “the best” expert in New York City. I sat across from his expensive wood desk and said, “I’m pretty sure something I’m eating is causing my symptoms.”

He smiled at me with a look that said, “Aww, isn’t that cute!”

“Every time I eat certain foods, I get sick,” I patiently continued, ignoring his pitying eyes. “When I don’t eat them, I feel better.”

His hands clasped together in a power meditation pose. He dropped his chin and slowly explained, as if in addition to Crohn’s I had a learning disability, “What you eat has nothing to do with your condition.” He smiled like the Cheshire cat, tail flicking.

The good patient that I was, I nodded and dutifully took the medication prescribed. Even though it wasn’t working. Even though it was making me worse. Because what did I know? I was just a lowly, ignorant patient. He was the expert. He should know best.

Medical Intuition Tip: Do not assume because someone is hailed an expert that they will be the right guru for you. Always trust your intuition.

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