A new year, another new doctor. The first thing my new specialist said as soon as I sat down was: I know what your problem is. Pause. You have physician fatigue.
I don’t recall another doctor noticing that on their own or, if have, acknowledging it openly to me. I immediately paid more attention to this sleep specialist, this new one I had been referred to because my new neurodoc had found it unacceptable that my last sleep specialist had stated that there was nothing he could do for me then ushered me out the door sans support or options.
But what could a new sleep specialist do? I had not developed any new problems. My fibromyalgia was as it had been since being reawakened at the time of my closed head injury; my brain injury had healed some in the years since 2003 and had not created new sleep issues. When the new sleep specialist asked me what he could do, I replied that his mammoth sleep questionnaire gave me hope that if there’s that much progress in discerning the issue, then maybe in treatments too.
He told me a little story, the first of a few, to illustrate he understood my physician fatigue. He told me another little story to illustrate that he, regardless of outcome, would support me. He would not usher me out the door. He repeated that twice, thrice. Not even if there is no solution for me. As proof: he runs a weekly support group for people with chronic sleep problems and has done so for eighteen years.
He doesn’t give up on his patients.
The neurodoc told me the same thing a few weeks after I began to see him. They both needed me to hear that because they must’ve seen how I expect physicians to dump me, to discharge me, to not pursue options and work with me on solving my myriad health problems stemming from my brain injury (and my fibromyalgia too apparently) – for that’s pretty much what’s happened to me. The best ones take me so far and then discharge me and leave me to cope and solve on my own. The worst… Well, it’s why I searched and searched for treatments and found the ADD Centre; it’s why I created my hypothalamus fix. It’s also why I ended up in the ER back in 2007. A person who has health problems can only support themselves alone for so long before the body screams bloody murder, revolts, and flings you into the ER or psych ward.
The new sleep specialist asked me to stand up, stood up himself, edged round his table and stacks of papers and journals, bent my right arm, and pressed on the fibromyalgia tender point. I yelped. I jumped. But I somehow didn’t leave his grasp. I guess he’s used to that reaction. It had been so long since I’d had my fibromyalgia tender points tested, I didn’t clue in to what he was doing till too late. I steeled myself for the next point presses. He tested my other elbow, then two chest points, got the same response every time, stopped as he was only confirming what had been tested a bazillion times, and stated bluntly that though I had claimed to his Fellow* I didn’t have much pain, I had exquisite pain.
At that point, the ordinary appointment morphed into a wild ride. Before I knew it, he had called the researcher in charge of (or helping to run) a multi-centre Canada-US research study he’s conducting on a new formulation of a drug whose name I’d heard of but knew nothing about; determined they had just enough time to slot me in before the study closed; and sent me to her to answer questions, have blood drawn, have an ECG done, my BP taken, answer more questions, have a Philips Actiwatch Spectrum strapped to my right wrist, given phone-in diary instructions, and sent out the door to have a rather late lunch. Very late lunch. Almost like supper lunch.
I’m now someone else’s guinea pig. How unusual…and neat (says the person who designed and/or conducted her fair share of psychological and marketing studies in university and work). In the first week they’re measuring my baseline sleep and activity. Then I will receive the drug. Although I went along for the ride with hardly a murmur – mostly because of his first statement that told me this man knows his stuff and because of his logic (more in another post on that) – I did vet the drug as is my wont. Later, I also discussed it with my father. I have a healthy skepticism of medications; I know none is without risk. The question for me is: is the risk worth it? In this case, I’m trepidatious: Will it work? Worse, will it not work? Even worse, will I have to be on it for life and will my finances be able to handle it? Still, I think it’s worth the risk.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been booked for the usual night-time sleep study. Can’t wait. Ugh. Yet despite the unpleasantness of blood tests and sleep tests, for the first time in eons, I have hope that maybe, just maybe, my sleep problems will get better. And whatever happens, I am no longer alone in dealing with my insomnia.
*When you see a specialist in a teaching hospital, you usually see the medical resident first. But with an academic physician, you may see their Fellow instead of a resident. A Fellow is someone who studies under or works with an eminent physician as part of their academic training and research studies. My father has Fellows all over the globe, he’s taught so many. And because I’ve met several of them while they were here, I’m totally comfortable with them, probably moreso than with residents.