Week 1 Blog Post

The first-hand medical event I have chosen to discuss and point out positive and several negative aspects about has been underway for about 5 years.  To give some background information, being active and staying in shape has been a huge part of my life and is my way of destressing after a long day of classes. In particular, soccer has done this job for me. I recently stopped playing because of multiple head injuries over the years, but during my heaviest times of traveling the U.S. and playing soccer, it seemed like I was constantly unable to breathe and perform to my best abilities.

Almost every game while playing, I would experience symptoms of coughing, a tight chest, seemingly shrunken airways,  difficulty breathing, and sometimes blacking out. I went to my family doctor and described these symptoms. As most doctors visits usually are, this one lasted about 10 minutes (after 40 minutes of waiting to get in) and wasn’t very conclusive. I was sent home with a pill to take every night to help my coughing. In my opinion, this didn’t seem very applied to what I was describing, but I tried it anyways.

About 6 months later, my symptoms persisted and worsened. I scheduled another doctors appointment and told my doctor the same things that were happening. This time I was referred to the pulmonologist to see if I had asthma, which I was happy about because actual testing was going to be done. The ruling was that I had mild asthma, but not bad enough to cause these symptoms. That was the conclusion though, so they gave me an inhaler and some medicine. I used the inhaler for about another 6 months when I noticed it wasn’t woking. I returned to the doctor’s over and over for the next year and continued to take 3 more of the exact same pulmonary test. This was so ridiculous and made no progress at all in my diagnosis and just made me feel like they wanted to get my complaints out of the way.

After repeating the same test 4 times, my dad had had enough and got serious with my doctor. He demanded she actually listened to my symptoms and didn’t impose them on me just to get a diagnosis. After this, I went through invasive testing while running on a treadmill with a camera up my nose and down my throat. It recorded my vocal chord activity while running. The doctors looked at the recording and confirmed that my vocal chords opened and closed in reverse while breathing. I underwent therapies and learned breathing techniques to fix this, only to find out that this wasn’t actually helping/it wasn’t the problem.

The next thing that was done was allergy testing, except no testing was actually done and I just took a questionnaire. My answers weren’t indicative of allergies so the doctors just didn’t have any more answers for me. At this point, we stopped all testing and I just learned to get used to not being able to perform to my fullest at soccer because my doctors couldn’t give me the time of day to actually figure out what was wrong. I went through chest x-rays, allergy questionnaires, pulmonary tests, running tests, asthma medication and I still felt lousy.

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to make another allergy appointment and demanded a skin test, which I didn’t have before. The doctors were surprised at how severe and how many allergies I had to grasses, trees, several animals (which I had), and more. Playing soccer, I was in grass all the time and caused my airways to close. Finally after 5 years, and unfortunately at the end of my soccer career, I found the problem. The different fields of medicine that I went through clearly didn’t communicate with each other to share results and opinions and I was left to figure out my problem for myself. I just felt like they didn’t actually care about my problem and wanted to get me out of the way.

4 thoughts on “Week 1 Blog Post

  1. Hi Sophia,

    Your first-hand medical experience is frustrating to me, I cannot begin to understand how you must feel. The length of your symptom onset to your diagnosis is crazy to me. I feel as if your symptoms that you described were pretty worrisome and that time frame is not adequate. I’m not too sure what could have been done to decrease that time period. Maybe a referral to a specialist sooner in the process? Or possibly another opinion from a different primary care physician? I assume this not only happened to you but may have happen to others as well. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this, as in an institutionalized system or more guidelines/pathways for illnesses? I am glad that you were able to find a cause for your symptoms after you advocated for your health. Although you may have been sad that it led to an end in your soccer career. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Hello Sophia! I found your story really interesting and I’m sorry that you had to go through all of that but at least you finally were able to get answers. If you and your father had not taken matters into your own hands, there is no telling how long they would continue to give you invasive tests that gave you no concrete or helpful answers. I think it’s sad that sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands when doctors fail us and don’t fight for us in one way or another. When you go to the doctor you don’t think about doctors throwing in the towel so easily, you expect (or at least hope) them to do all they can. In this situation there are so many factors to think about to figure out why it took so long to find out the actual problem. Did your gender or other societal factors play a part in the process? If you went somewhere else instead would you have gone though the same things? If you fought back and demanded more sooner would that help or hurt the situation?

  3. Hi Sophia,

    I can imagine the frustation you were feeling because I went though a similar situation. I am also allergic to grasses, pollen, and a lot of other things. When I went into the doctors office with similar symptoms, the first thing they did was ask if I had allergies and did the skin testing on my back. I wonder why didn’t they initially do the skin testing for you instead of just a questionnaire? Out of curiosity, how do your vocal cords open and close in reverse? Why did you have to take 3 of the same pulmonary tests? The lack of communication between different medical fields you went through is definitely an issue the system needs to fix. It’s good to hear that you finally came to a conclusion about your health, even though it could have taken place earlier had the doctors been more serious about your symptoms instead of trying to get you out the way.

    • Hello Ashley, I’m happy someone can relate to my story. To answer your questions, I think they did the same test so many times because they weren’t confident in their previous analyzations. Also, to answer the second question, when someone inhales, their vocal chords are supposed to open up a little to allow air in, and when they exhale, they tense back up a little. Mine reacted backwards, so my vocal chords were closing when I inhaled, which limited the amount of oxygen I got.

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