We can be our own best doctor.


Sharing Stories
July 18, 2023 at 2:23 p.m.
Pills and Emergency Rooms are sometimes good, and sometimes not so much.
Pills and Emergency Rooms are sometimes good, and sometimes not so much.

...by Janice Van Cleve


The antibiotics were high strength and did a number on my metabolism, but they did eliminate the infection. Thursday was my last day on them, and Friday I felt a sense of relief and freedom. I could not have wine during the antibiotics, and I had to wait 72 hours afterwards for them to clear my system. I was counting the days. Friday, Saturday, Sunday--then Wineday! It’s not like a chemical addiction. It’s just that without wine, eating loses its appeal for me. Wine is the difference between stuffing my face and dining.

So I was upbeat and looking forward to the next week. A friend offered to take me out to an Italian restaurant on Monday. Another friend invited me over to her house on Tuesday. Thursday was the BBQ at my senior center. It was to be a week of return to normalcy. Then came Saturday.

I awoke to a crushing headache, a painfully stiff neck and really sore back. Blisters appeared on my fingers and rashes showed up on my hands and breasts. What was going on? None of this made sense. I called the consulting nurse, but neither she nor the doctor could make any diagnosis. They said I should go to Urgent Care.

I was understandably apprehensive after the last three visits but this time I dressed warmly and brought a book. After an hour in the waiting room, I was taken to an exam room. The nurse had me undress, put on a hospital gown, and get on the exam table. She gave me a warm blanket and there I lay, alone, abandoned, with no pain relief or any information for three hours. Finally, a doctor showed up, looked at the symptoms, could not figure it out, and ordered a blood draw. An hour later a nurse drew the blood and left.

I’d had it! I wasn't going down that medical rabbit hole any farther! 

I got up, dressed, and walked out. No more aimless, disempowering, endless going around in medical circles!

I was in no condition to enjoy an Italian dinner or the BBQ. I had to cancel them, and I even considered canceling my Viking river cruise for August. What a frustrating summer this was turning out to be.

On Monday, I got the blood results. I saw I was way low on sodium and potassium, and my liver enzymes were “elevated.” 

A friend came over and brought some chips and salsa and a pizza. That would take care of the sodium. I zipped out to the store and picked up some potassium supplements and some natural probiotics. I was going to do what I could on my own to fix the problems. 

That night I enjoyed a fine dinner of Mediterranean Sea Bass with green peas and rice and a very welcome South African white wine. I have no idea how my liver enzymes felt, but I am sure they enjoyed the wine. 

I wrote to the CEO of Kaiser Permanente what I thought about her Urgent Care where nothing is “urgent” and care is minimal.

The salt, potassium, and probiotics appeared to be working. By Thursday the headache and back ache were gone, and the stiff neck was loosening up. The blisters disappeared and so did the rash. The cruise in August was looking good again.

This whole episode reinforced for me the fact that although we do need the medical profession and their medicines, we are capable of acting on our own as well. 

We cannot allow ourselves to become nothing more than patients. We are individuals and when given good, actionable information and the right medicines and therapies, we can heal ourselves.

The perfect case in point was the difference between the Urgent Care doctors and my own Family Medicine doctor. 

The former said I must elevate my hurt leg above my heart to get the swelling down, but they gave me no specifics. I tried all sorts of things but without a clear target, I got discouraged. 

My own doctor knows me well and gave me a clear objective: 4 times a day, 30 minutes each. That, I could do with confidence, and I set up a routine. It is working.

I am very grateful for all my friends whose support and good wishes have been the best medicine of all. 

Thank you!!

Janice Van Cleve is a writer in Seattle, Washington, rich in friends from many diverse communities.

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