A Doctorate in Life Lessons

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A revitalized strength energized my body in early 2017. Inctuitively, I felt it needed to be challenged with new exercises, beyond my usual training and swimming routine. A doctor suggested a referral to a physiatrist.  “Psychiatrist?”, I thought to myself. No, not a psychiatrist. Although, some people might argue otherwise. A physiatrist is a doctor of physical therapy. I was floored. Not only had this option never been presented to me, but I had never even heard of the word. 


I always emphatically trusted that my medical doctors had my highest interest at heart. Lately, I’ve learned to be leary. As I mature in life’s experiences, my eyes have been opened when it comes to the medical community. In my interactions, sadly, most doctors were and still are like horses with blinders. They excel in what they specialize in because they are trained in linear thinking, yet most refuse to step out of the box and open their minds to gain a new perspective when necessary. For example, most MDs would refuse to consider that a bad back may be the cause of a bum knee. They tend to look at the symptomatical part instead of the whole entire body, not how they all work collaboratively. When it comes to the body, even if issues seem unrelated, there is a high probability they are!


Looking back, I’ve had several personal experiences over many years when doctors’ shallow thinking has left me more than a little disappointed after a visit. Here are just a few examples:


  • My raspy voice led me to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. He told me that I would need a tracheotomy in the near future. Just hearing this news created brief, emotional trauma by a doctor who didn’t even know me! Educating myself, I now know my weak voice is due ro a tight diaphragm after sitting for almost 40 years. Hence, eliminating the need to cut out my voice box!


  • A pulmonologist diagnosed me with asthma. As a teacher, I’d taught for ten years without ever getting sick. In 2001, a case of bronchitis hit me like bricks, which preceded to turn into a mild case of pneumonia. Up until now, I’d never experienced any breathing problems. Adamant that my underlying condition was asthma, my doctor prescribed daily doses of  Singulair and Advair, and Prednisone when needed. The eight years following brought on horrible bouts of bronchitis and countless trips back to this doctor since I couldn’t breathe. One day, I got fed up and quit ALL meds, cold turkey, without consulting my doctor. Suffice to say, I haven’t been sick since!


  • After completely slicing through the tendon in my left palm of my hand, while on vacation, I needed emergency surgery. Upon my return to Dallas, I consulted with a band specialist. He literally looked at my hand and smugly replied, ”So???…you can’t use it anyway”. Absolutely stunned, I had no response. Once I reached the car, a small meltdown coincided with a few choice words running through my head. You may fill in the blank as to what I was thinking!


  • An orthopedic surgeon beautifully repaired my broken hip, yet instead of prescribing physical therapy, he told my parents that I would give myself my own therapy just by being an active 12 year old. This would be unimaginable these days for an able bodied person, nevertheless, someone with physical challenges.


  • Just a couple years ago, I asked my MD doctor of 20 years, why she had never recommended, or even mentioned, the importance of a healthy diet, especially for a person with a compromised nervous system, like myself. She gave me two inexplicable answers; The first being that there have been no clinical trials proving that a healthy diet would be beneficial for people with Muscular Dystrophy. Secondly, she said that she wouldn’t know what to tell me since she doesn’t eat a healthy diet herself.


  • And then, there were pediatric neurologists whose unjustified, suggestive diagnoses were more like shorts in the dark, confirming nothing. The only thing solidified was my parent’s terror when these same doctors informed them that I would not live past 3 years of age. Oops, wrong again!


Always the optimist, I decided to meet with the physiatrist in March 2017, at U. T. Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Shah was very sweet, knowledgeable, and old enough to have been one of my fourth grade students. After spending over an hour with me, she recommended that I see her colleague, Dt. Scott, who specialized in pelvic floor/SI joint issues. Dr. Shah told me that Dt. Scott would need to examine me on my side. Although I have gained strength, rolling on my side would still be difficult, and any attempt would not be in my best interest.

Dr. Shah, also, wanted me to get X-rays, to rule out any fractures. I assured her that nothing was broken. I tried to convince her that if something was broken, I’d be unable to function, but she still preferred X-rays. Unprepared to do so, I refused since I knew getting me on the table would be more harmful than helpful.


Towards the end of my evaluation , Dr. Shah stated that in her notes it showed that I used to drive. I told her I did, but couldn’t pass the latest vision test due to my optic nerve. She looked puzzled. I clarified by adding that it was all part of my neuromuscular disease. She made a comment that my eyes should have nothing to do with my condition. This turned me off. Once again, it proved another doctor looking at the part and not the whole. To me, the better question is, “Why wouldn’t it be part of my neuromuscular disease?”


As we were venturing to our car, after the appointment, my mom looked at me and remarked,”I feel she really didn’t quite know what to do with you.” My feelings in a nutshell. Typical. I feel this appointment wasn’t much different from past doctor exploits. Yet, I am still trying to keep an open mind. learning to never say never, until I try.


To most, these visits would seem like a colossal waste of time. Instead, God has led me to these experiences as a teaching tool, helping me see what I don’t want. The discovery of knowing what I don’t want is just as consequential as knowing what I do. A meaningful lesson in my continued strides of faith.


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