I’ve had chronic health conditions for just under ten years now and as time has went by, I’ve been able to sit and reflect on my experiences and journey as a patient with complex health.
My journey started in 2012 when I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. When getting a diagnosis for a chronic illness, you will have different tests done to determine the outcome of diagnosis and the usual standard practice tests will be blood tests and typically a scan of some sort. So what is the issue?
You’ve gotten the tests done so surely this good, right? Wrong. Many patients who are complex first find out this issue when they are really, really unwell and somehow bloods come back within normal ranges and tests such as an ultrasound imaging comes back clear. They have all the symptoms of something being wrong but cannot seem to get the right answers. This was very much the case for me until I had my first Colonoscopy and was diagnosed with Crohns Disease and Ulcerative colitis as well as biopsies being taken during the colonscopy and sent away to the lab for analysis. I also have had numerous MRI scans and CAT scans and they can be a hit or a miss with accurate results. This leads to extreme frustration as you know you are getting worse by the day but health professionals say “your bloods are looking good so thats very reassuring!” When in reality it isn’t!
So, where do you go or what do you do? That’s the next part of your journey and certainly what I have had with mine. You go back to basics by writing down your symptoms, some doctors may trial you on medications to see if your symptoms lessen, worse or stay the same or organise a scope to look inside your bowel. Of course it isn’t always so simple with many complex patients getting doctors who plain blank refuse to take any illnesses into consideration and send you on your way. I havent had that often but I have had some doctors be this way with me, especially old GP’s in the past.
The only advice I can give is to request to see another GP or consultant – as a patient you are entitled and within your rights to do so! Dont give up trying for help for a diagnosis or help with your disease after a diagnosis because of normal results. My other advice would be that when you are an in patient or seeing someone at an appointment, to make them aware that you are complex and that you are unfortunately, not easy to care for.
Today I seen a consultant I have not seen in years since he had discharged me with good bloods 8 years ago. Its important that when health professionals say your bloods don’t show anything that you let them know that this is actually very normal for you due to being a complex patient and you must advocate for yourself. This helps them, help you. That’s exactly what happened today and he was so lovely and understanding. As I have dealt with normal test results for years, I have always made it my priority to try and remember my own health in ways that many of us would not. This means trying to remember what tests show best results, what medications I respond well to, what tests I have had done and the results of them and in what year they took place. Trying to remember what my levels of blood tests usually come back with and also to remember the cut off number for my iron to hit to be able to have an iron infusion. This is particularly handy when you are in A&E or with out of hours services.
I also have problems with my veins and so have fought plenty with people in hospitals who try to take my bloods in places I know will not give them blood due to scar tissue from a condition that I suffer from known as Bechets Disease. This means I also need particular colours of butterflies (the colours reflect what size they are) and cannula’s due to how small my veins are. Many health professionals become very cocky thinking I am giving them a challenge that they will take on and win when in reality it is to actually make it easier for them and also less painful and traumatising for me!
There are many people out there just like me who go through this, some even worse and don’t have any care at all. Support groups has been the number 1 place for me to connect with others just like me who go through this! Over the years I’ve been able to chat and relate to them but also pick up great advice and know I am not alone. It also helps when I do get difficult doctors from time to time, letting them know that this does happen to many people.
I would love to hear more from people with this same issue and so please feel free to get in touch if this has affected you!