What’s wrong with me?


Ten years ago I went to see my doctor complaining of a persistent cough and mild chest pains. And was sent off immediately to get an x-ray. Which showed nothing.

Yet I still had a persistent cough and mild chest pains.

So the doctor gave me lots of other tests and did find some impairment to lung function. Somehow they decided this meant I had asthma (never mind that this didn’t explain the persistent cough or the chest pains). And I was given an inhaler, which proved useless.

This whole process took months, and I still had a persistent cough and mild chest pains.

Finally I went to a new doctor who sent me to a pulmonologist who took one look at the old x-ray and announced that I had had pnuemonia. Then he sent me off for a new x-ray and announced that I no longer did (and, indeed, a few weeks later, the symptoms disappeared). Then he sent me off for an expensive CT scan just to make sure.

He then gave me steroids. Looking back I wonder: If the problem were gone, why the steroids? According to the web, steroids are rarely useful in treating pnuemonia.

He did mention that, having had it once, I was more likely than normal to get another case of pnuemonia.

Now it is possible that he lied to me. Maybe he just told the hypochondriac what he wanted to hear and gave him a relatively harmless placebo. Or maybe he was just wrong; after all a hammer sees everything as a nail, so a pulmonologist sees everything as pnuemonia.

About Christmas I got a cough. It’s still with me. About three weeks ago I started having mild chest pains.

I went in to see my current doctor yesterday (with, I admit, low expectations), complaining of a persistent cough and mild chest pains and trundled off to get an x-ray. Which showed nothing.

Of course.

My doctor thinks I should come in again for more tests.

I think: a) The pulmonologist was right and I did have pnuemonia. b) I have it again, in a mild form so that it is hard to see. c) Everybody but me is incompetent.

I don’t feel I have the energy to fight them. I have no desire to go though another few months of pointless tests. It will go away on its own given time.

A week later and it is, perhaps, time to climb off my high horse.

My doctor suggests (very obliquely) that the pulmonologist was wrong ten years ago. So obliquely in fact that it takes me several hours to work out what she meant. I think. She hints obliquely that I have a post-nasal drip which is irritating my nasal passages and lungs. I think.

How can I make decisions if I’m not told the issues? Or if people lie to me?  I have a new high horse to climb onto!

5 Responses to “What’s wrong with me?”

  1. Joe Says:

    I started looking at doctors (and other “professionals”) in a different light after I received my CPA license. I guess having conscious incompetence (I know what I don’t know about accounting and taxes) is a good thing – but it’s scary what other people think I’m supposed to know just from those initials. Realizing doctors and lawyers and vets potentially have the same conscious incompetence dropped them a few pegs on the god-like platform they’d been on before. Admittedly, there are a few areas of accounting where I am unconsciously competent – I’m just really, really good at them – and others I only have a basic understanding. I think doctors, lawyers (and for my family – vets) have the same differentiation. Maybe you just need to keep an eye out for the one extraordinay pulmonologist and just go see them to confirm what you suspect when symptoms act up. Otherwise, yeah, (c) everyone but you is incompetent.

  2. Jon Says:

    Having had bacterial “walking” pnuemonia twice, I’m pretty frightened of it. and find it very easy to understand how elderly people die of it – when every breath requires a conscious effort and causes a lot of pain, it’s hard to keep it up. Hopefully if you have a mild form, it will not get any worse. Both times they put me on antibiotics for quite a long time (6-8 weeks IIRC), apparently to insure that the infection was completely eradicated.

    IMO “pneumonia” is more of a set of symptoms than a specific diagnosis, as there are so many things that can cause the symptoms.

  3. Carl Rosenberg Says:

    Well, may be the least helpful advice, but: think like a pilot. Nothing good can ever come from seeing a doctor.

    (If you walked into any doctor’s office with a job, and could either walk out with the same job, or unemployable, this might make more sense).

    In the current situation I would just get plenty of rest and try to forget it.

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