In late March 2015, I caught a nasty case of bronchitis. It was a doozy, and just seemed to linger. In fact, I seemed to be getting only worse even after three rounds of antibiotics, days spent drinking hot water and honey, and sleeping constantly. My lungs felt as if they were closing off. It felt as if my heart was making my chest too full. I was gasping for breath with every step. I kept going back to my doctor, who kept telling me the same thing; “You’re fine. It’s just a case of bronchitis we can’t seem to kick. Let’s try stronger antibiotics.”
But the days came where I would walk from my couch to the bathroom, and feel my heart pounding as if I had just ran miles and miles. I started passing out after walking across my small yard, and after attempting to walk up the 11 stair steps from my basement to the main floor. I was beyond exhausted, and failing miserably at my job as a nanny. I could barely take care of myself, so to try to take care of two small children was proving to be impossible.
I started going to the ER, to cardiologists. and to pulmonologists. I went to any doctor who would take the time to listen and try to help me. None of them succeeded. They would run all the tests — ECHOs, halter monitors, EKGs, blood work, a tilt-table test, CT scans, MRIs. Whatever was available, they would do, and the answer was always the same, doctor after doctor: “Your results are normal. You’re perfectly fine. It’s anxiety.”
They all said it.
But I wasn’t fine. How could they say I was fine?! It didn’t make sense to me. I started to doubt myself. Is this just how people felt? Was I going crazy? Was I making this more dramatic than it needed to be?
It wasn’t until I saw my final cardiologist, and she once again told me my results were fine. Then she said the following, and it changed me. She said “This clearly isn’t a physical issue. This is a mental issue. You need to see a psychiatrist, and start working on your mental abnormalities. Because I can’t help you.”
I lost it. I started crying tears of frustration. I was yelling at her, telling her I KNEW something was very, very wrong. I knew it in my bones. I was NOT crazy. This was NOT a mental issue. I was yelling so much, that I got physically escorted from the building. I promptly fired that doctor, and vowed to keep going.
Finally, I asked my original doctor for a stress ECHO test. I had been thinking that most of the tests they had been doing were with me lying down, being still. He readily agreed. When I hopped on the treadmill to start walking I made it until six minutes before I passed out. After the ECHO was done and reviewed, I got a phone call. A nurse told me they found something. She said I needed to look up “Pulmonary Hypertension,” and come to my next doctor’s appointment with my questions. There it was. A sliver of an answer. It was right there at my fingertips.
Now, I had to realize what it all meant.
Next week: Part two of my diagnosis story.
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