This week, I had an appointment with a rheumatologist. I had been waiting nearly SEVEN months for this appointment! I was not happy about having to wait so long. However, I was increasingly desperate and was hopeful this doctor could help me.
I’ve always had strong hands and have always been able to give long, strong massages my whole life. That stopped several years ago. I developed pain in my hands, particularly around my thumbs, that made it impossible for me to go on longer than just a few minutes. Furthermore, over the past two years, my hand/finger pain has gotten a lot worse. I can’t grip things. I can’t mow anymore. For one thing, I can’t grip the mower handle. For another, my orthopedist tells me I have arthritis in my hips and it hurts horribly to move more than 10 steps. So the past two years, I’ve hired a lawn care service to take care of our yard and our lawn mower has gone unattended. I feel guilty for this, but literally, the last many several times I attempted to mow our small yard, I had to stop many times to give my hands and hips a rest and it took quite awhile to get it done, and with quite some pain. I also have a hard time vacuuming. Not only does it hurt to grip the handle, but now it hurts my back too. Apparently, that’s because, as my orthopedist told me, I have arthritis is my spine too. I’m in physical therapy for it, but it’s not doing much good. My back hurts like crazy all the time. Additionally, I’m old fashioned. I like to write checks. I like a paper trail. So I pay a lot of bills the old fashioned way. I sit down to write seven or eight or nine checks for bills and after the first one or two, I have to stop for five minutes or so, because my hands and fingers hurt so much. And then after I write another check, I have to stop again, and so on. The point is, it’s pretty debilitating. So I wanted to go to a rheumatologist. A long time ago. And this is the earliest they could fit me in. I sure hoped they would be good.
My appointment was for 8 AM, but since they never mailed me my new patient paperwork to fill out, I had to show up early do fill it out there, so I got there at 7:15. My new doctor was named Dr. Braggs. I really didn’t know much about her. I was hoping she would be good. I haven’t always had the best luck with specialists here in Chattanooga. After I got the paperwork pretty much filled out, they called me back and put me in a room. They took down all my medications, which took a long time since I’m on so many, but eventually I was ready and then, to my surprise, I didn’t have to wait too long. Dr. Braggs came in my room quite soon and it was apparent she wasn’t a southerner just based on her accent alone. Also, she didn’t engage in idle chit chat, like all southerners do — which drives me nuts sometimes — and was very professional and businesslike. I appreciated that. And she was thorough! She asked me a number of questions, tons of them. All types of questions. She went over all my meds. She talked me to about pain meds and about my misuse of over the counter pain meds, including even Tylenol. She told me what I could and couldn’t take, how much, and why. She conducted a very comprehensive physical exam, including even taking my shoes and socks off and examining my feet, toes, and ankles. We were in the professional building of a huge hospital in town and she was able to call up all of the images the hospital system had of me dating back all the years I’ve been here. She looked them over and while admittedly, many of them weren’t recent, she was able to determine a number of things. She showed me what she was talking about on her computer while she talked about them, which was very helpful. Apparently, then, I have massive osteoarthritis spread throughout my entire body, mainly in my hands, entire spine, and hips. I knew the thoracic area of my spine had it, but I didn’t know my entire spine did. She also told me it’s likely I’ll need a couple of hip replacement surgeries in the not too distant future, which was quite depressing, although she encouraged me to do everything possible to hold that off for as long as possible. She sent me to have blood work done to see if I have gout or Lupus or anything like that and she sent me over to the hospital to have my hands x-rayed, since she actually didn’t have hand x-rays. She was pretty sure my hands were bad though, especially — and much to my surprise — virtually every knuckle she touched on both hands were very sensitive to her handling of them. It really was pretty uncomfortable.
Between the doctor’s office, the lab, and the radiology department, I was there for over three hours. She wrote me a prescription for a medication which hopefully will help with my back/joint pain, or something like it, and then told me to get three supplements I should start taking right away. She also told me I couldn’t take any more NSAIDs like Advil or Anaprox and had to limit my Tylenol intake to a maximum of six per day, but that for every Percocet I take for head and/or back pain, I had to subtract a Tylenol, so it’s tricky. She wants me to start swimming, although when I told her I can’t swim, she then said water aerobics. I’m to see her again in four months. That was Wednesday, I guess. On Friday, someone from her office called to let me know my blood work lab results came back showing I don’t have gout and most things looked fairly good and that my hand x-rays showed quite a bit of osteoarthritis, which didn’t really surprise me. So, I felt really good about her. I thought she was very competent and knowledgeable. I thought she was professional and appreciated the hours she spent with me. Even though the idea of a couple of hip replacements is depressing and scary, I was glad to come out of there with more knowledge and a better idea of what’s going on with me and what, if anything, can be done about it. And apparently, not too much can be done about osteoarthritis. It’s not curable, I learned. It’s somewhat manageable, and perhaps many of you already know that. I truthfully didn’t know much about this. In fact, until a couple of years ago, I thought arthritis was just an annoying little pain old people got in the fingers. Boy, was that stupid! Although the doctor did say I was awfully young to have so much osteoarthritis. Anyway, that’s my update. Glad I did it. This month, I have a lot of doctor’s appointments. The one I’m most excited about — and nervous about too — is at Vanderbuilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic in Nashville in a less than a couple of weeks. So far, my pain management specialist, neurologist, and neurosurgeon, among other doctors, have been unable to help me with my extreme head pain over the past year, so I’m going out of town to find help. I’m hoping a major research institution can do just that. I’m scared they won’t be able to identify the problem and fix it, though, and that’s a depressing thought. Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. Cheers!
One thought on “Rheumatologist Appointment”
Glad you’re glad you did it!
Hope the upcoming appointments go well!
Yes, don’t “borrow worry” and wait to cross the bridge if/when you come to it.
You are in my thoughts and prayers!
HUGS to you and SweetG.! 🙂
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