VOICES: It’s OK to get more than one opinion

VOICES: It’s OK to get more than one opinion

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    It’s been five years since I noticed my health taking a different turn. I went from a healthy lifestyle to one full of stress eating, event planning and no running while taking care of three growing kids.

    When I turned 33-years-old, I noticed my metabolism slowing down, and I had to really watch what I ate. And I started getting back spasms when I was washing the dishes or even if I was just sweeping the floor.

    On a stressful day at my last job, my health took a scary turn. Suddenly my skin leaked out clear fluid all over my body and my liver count was recorded higher than normal. My father told my job that I wouldn’t be coming in to work the next day, and he took me straight to O‘ahu to get it checked out by a dermatologist at Straub Medical Center. Proteins were leaking out of my system, causing chaos, and I needed to be stabilized.

    It was then I started taking Dupixent self-shots every two weeks, and was going to my old physician for wellness checkups. She couldn’t figure it out, and just told me I had to lose weight. I knew something was wrong with me, and no matter how hard I tried I kept gaining weight. It scared me when one day at a parade when I started walking, my legs started to cramp up.

    Following that incident, fatigue hit, enough where a simple chore at home got me sweating and my face would start to turn red. I thought I had some kind of autoimmune disease but I could not pinpoint it. People thought I just had a mental issue and needed to toughen up. But that was far from the truth. I was a runner, and not being able to run felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body.

    My closest friends who knew me knew this wasn’t me. It had to be something else going on with my body.

    While chatting with my friend, a nurse, on Facebook Messenger, she said “Your doctor is like your hairdresser. You need to have faith, trust and be able to communicate well with them. If you don’t feel you and your current doctor are a good fit, I think you should look for another doctor.”

    After realizing I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my long-time physician, I decided to keep my ears open for a new doctor’s recommendation.

    Last year, during the pandemic, my food allergies were getting worse, where I became a weekly regular patient at the Kaua‘i Urgent Care in Lihu‘e and had to get shot of allergies or steroids to calm my skin flareups on a regular basis.

    The nurses and doctors at Urgent Care really are the best, and very understanding. I always crack a joke with them, wishing for a doctor to create a bubble for me. But one day, after reviewing my chart, the Urgent Care doctor told me about Dr. Rachel Ackerman from Kaua‘i Medical Clinic.

    I quickly called and made an appointment. At my first check-up with Dr. Ackerman, I got the impression she knew what she was doing. She got all my referrals out with my rheumatologist Dr. Sian Yik Lim from Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center and Wilcox Medical Center. And she made sure to connect me back to my dermatologist, Dr. Mika Yamazaki from Straub Medical Center at Diamond Head.

    On a more resourceful note, the best part of the pandemic was the telehealth appointments I used through “MyChart.” Once I made an appointment, the doctor would send me an invitation to do a virtual call via a text message or on “MyChart.” Compared to the many years of flying to O‘ahu to see a specialist, this was very convenient for me during COVID-19.

    As a result, last month, after my first consultation, Dr. Lim ordered my blood work to be done, and the test came back with a new finding. It was there I tested positive for an autoimmune disease called Sjogren Syndrome-where salivary and tear glands are affected.

    That made a lot of sense to me because my eyes were always dry and I felt dehydrated or thirsty all the time even when I drank a lot of water.

    I also had been getting heart palpitations more often, which concerned me because, on my mom’s side, only a handful of her siblings live to see past the age of 60 because of their heart disease. So Dr. Ackerman ordered a heart sonogram, which I am so grateful for.

    Dr. Ackerman read my test results, and she said my heart was firming a little bit, and one of my walls was increased where blood could not fill in normally in one of my chambers.

    I did my own research and it made sense. No wonder I felt tired or felt like I was living in an older body. When blood can’t reach other body parts, it becomes a problem, and I was retaining water. It was probably why I had cramping in my legs and could not have the energy to run like I used to.

    Currently, my dermatologist is working on getting me back on my Dupixent self-shots to suppress my proteins, but first I need to get a biopsy of my skin. And Dr. Ackerman has been very helpful in connecting the dots for me. She calls to explain what each doctor needs to do and gets my referral orders out quickly. In return, the other doctor’s office call me the next day for an appointment.

    In good hands now

    After five long, uncertain years, I am finally getting the right diagnosis, medication, support and care I need. I’m 38-years-old and feeling hopeful. As a working single parent, I am truly grateful. My 2021 new-year resolution and forever resolution is to take care of my health so I can watch my kids grow and have a family of their own. That is all I want besides their happiness.

    Now besides keeping a positive attitude, and staying away from stressful situations, I am drinking water with slices of lemon around the clock, eating cleaner, including vinegar in my diet, or eating sinigang (a Filipino tamarind soup) to help activate my salivary glands. I am also drinking turmeric tea first thing in the morning and before bed to help with inflammation and, of course, adding more daily walking, daily meditation (control my emotions so I don’t stress eat) while taking medication on time, and praying.

    The next health adventure for me at my age would be dental care. You would be surprised how important dental care is to your health, and how it’s all tied together.

    Lesson learned

    It’s OK to get more than one opinion. I know I sound redundant, but I appreciate what my friend told me, and shortened it. She said: “You should have a hairdresser relationship with your doctor — if not, it’s time to find a new doctor.”


    Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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