Some of you may remember that in late April of this past spring, I came down with a really monstrous case of tonsillitis. You may remember that, for awhile, I didn’t know what it was and had to simply while away my days until it became bad enough where I was forced to go to the emergency room. That all started with the doctors at the Mount Royal Medical Clinic telling me that I had a virus and that there was nothing they could do. I waited for a couple of hours in their offices just to get a blithe dismissal and a note to miss class that day. When I did get around to dragging myself to the emergency room (in the pouring rain, no less), the doctors at the Maryland General Hospital were bewildered that I had waited as long as I did before getting checked out again.
This is a necessary preface to my most recent medical adventure, as both of these stories begin in essentially the same way: misdiagnosis.
An escalating sore throat is always a troubling sign for me. Like most people, I have gotten to the point where I can generally tell when I’m getting sick, and recently I’ve been able to tell fairly correctly how sick I am going to get. Last Wednesday, the seventeenth of September, I realized that a sore throat I was nursing was slowly getting worse. More troubling still, my tonsils were swelling. Remembering what happened last April, I decided to catch this illness early. Despite my previous run-in with incompetence at the Mount Royal Clinic, I was sure that with my previous illness documented, I would be taken a bit more seriously.
So, on Thursday morning, I endeavored to see a doctor at the clinic. Things started off well enough: they already had my insurance in order, I’d remembered to bring my DS to play, and I got in pretty quickly. Things seemed pretty shiny. I met the first doctor, who seemed receptive enough to my symptoms. He sympathized well enough and took note of the distinctive yellow-white spots on my left tonsil, in addition to their ponderous size. A rapid Strep test yielded the first bit of bad news: negative. A proper diagnosis of the streptococcal bacteria would mean I’d be on antibiotics within the hour and feeling better by the weekend. Both the doctor and I expressed out skepticism at the diagnosis and our confusion towards my tonsillar markings. Another doctor was called in for a second opinion.
This doctor stood very close to me and never once dropped the condescending smile plastered across her face. The “second opinion” I was hoping for had no medical foundation attached to it. She simply entered the room to make sure I knew that they weren’t going to help me. In addition to assuring me that my illness was due to a virus they could or would not treat, she made sure to tell me that, yeah, that last time I had tonsillitis and took antibiotics to get better? That wasn’t right. Despite the fact that I was diagnosed with tonsillitis and then took antibiotics to treat tonsillitis, which went ahead and cured my tonsillitis, the nurse was adamant to make sure I knew that I actually didn’t have tonsillitis. I had a virus, which could not or should not have been treated with antibiotics. According to her, the curative aspect of the antibiotics was entirely in my head. This is not an exaggeration in any sense.
I left the clinic blind with fury. I was already determined that I was going to head to the hospital the next day and get a real second opinion if it killed me.