(real names have been omitted or changed)
I waited for my Internist to come in the exam room… why did you always seemingly have to wait so long once you were back in those tiny examining rooms? As usual I had forgotten to bring a magazine with me and was forced to wait without anything to look at. Sitting perched on the end of the exam table my eyes glazed over from boredom. Yawn… I could seriously fall asleep right now… and I felt bad enough to. I was about ready for a hospital bed.
Soon he entered the room and after discussing what was going on with my health he spoke, "I will be straightforward with you." he said, his facial expression serious on his older, wiser face. He ran his hand through his white hair and spoke with a frustrated sigh… "I really don't know what is going on. I have no idea what you have. I fail to understand how a thirty something female who is otherwise healthy could suddenly be diagnosed with not just severe acid reflux but now asthma. It doesn't add up."
My shoulders slumped and I watched him as he seemed to be thinking about what to do next. "The first course of business is to get you a chest x-ray. Immediately. That will hopefully rule out anything going on with your lungs." He told me, now pacing the small room in thought. "I want to get you an appointment with a specialist for testing… and get you in to see someone I know at Southwestern Medical in Dallas. If after all that we still don't know what is going on… the next place will be Mayo Clinic." He paused and turned to me… "I don't know what's wrong." he admitted, "But I will find out." He promised me with conviction. I believed him. I thought he was precious to admit he didn't know what was going on - what a humble man.... yet promised he'd find out - I would never ever forget his kindness and care. Years from now I would always remember his care for me - good doctors really stand out and make us have hope in humanity again - especially when we aren't in a place to help ourselves.
Hope began to well within me and my eyes sparkled with half tears, half hope "Thank you." I told him softly with infinite gratitude. He was literally my last hope. I was so worried… I was losing weight faster than you could boil water on the stove… I was having more and more difficulty breathing as each day passed. Meanwhile I could barely eat anything because it was comparable to having a really stuffed up nose during a cold… that symptom makes it nearly impossible to eat and breathe at the same time. You can usually do either or…. but not both. I couldn't eat much not just due to the acid reflux but because for whatever reason I couldn't breath when I ate… and really not much easier the rest of the time. It was beyond puzzling and had come out of nowhere…. progressively getting worse as the weeks then few months passed.
Initially I had gone to see my allergy doctor since I was having difficulty breathing and he also treated asthma. His natural course of action had been to prescribe me an inhaler and load me up on prednisone… which left me with potentially ugly side effects and I was worried as the meds seemed to be merely masking the issue temporarily due to the moment the medication wore off... I was gasping for air again. This clearly wasn't the solution, I was realizing… as my breathing issue appeared to be coming from my throat… not my chest as with asthma.
I was at the end of my rope. I had dropped more than twenty pounds in just a few short months, was too weak to cross a parking lot or work any longer… I was basically bedridden and my friends had no idea how truly ill I was. The computer screen behind my doctor flashed the words "underweight" in red and I barely recognized myself any longer. At Christmas in photos I had looked so emaciated it was frightening. I knew I was getting worse... everyone was commenting on how bad I looked. My doctor told me if I didn't begin gaining weight immediately he was admitting me to the hospital. This appointment with him had occurred after a hard realization I was on my own. Just the day before I had sat in my kitchen begging my husband to take me to the doctor. He merely yelled for me to take more medication… more prednisone and do what my doctor had told me to do.
"But I'm not getting better!" I cried to him "It's not helping! I don't even think this is asthma! My gut instinct tells me it's not! If it's not treating the right thing I'm just getting pumped up with lots of steroids and albuterol I don't even need!" I exclaimed. "I need you to take me to the doctor!" I told him, practically begging, each word costing me precious amounts of energy.
"No! I'm not taking you! Just do what he says!" He yelled at me grouchily.
I literally felt like I was dying… I had lost so much weight and was so weak I truly was. And he was useless. I had no idea how much worse I would get before I ever got better. I would reach a point where I'd tell my mother: "I just want to die. I can't do this anymore."
"Take me to the hospital..." I told him pleadingly. "Right now. Please... take me to the hospital." I repeated looking up at him.
He stared down at me "Do you know how much that will cost??!!!" He yelled at me with fury and disgust.
I stared at him with empty hollowed eyes too exhausted to reply. I had never felt this weak in my life… I'd felt slightly stronger with the flu or a severe stomach bug.
"That will cost me two thousand dollars!!! That's how much it will cost!!!!" He screamed at me.
I closed my eyes. And I wept. He stormed off slamming the door behind him.
It would be later the chest x-ray showed my lungs were thankfully clear. After a battery of tests called the Methacholine Challenge showed definite breathing issues but ruled out asthma… I was referred to a Specialist who listened carefully to my symptoms and upon hearing the restrictive breathing was coming from my throat… not chest he nodded… "You have something called Vocal Chord Dysfunction. It's when we see severe acid reflux washing up over the vocal chords and damaging them. They become inflamed and won't open properly like they should upon inhalation and speaking. So you feel out of breath. " He affirmed with a nod and looked at me understandingly "This is why you're having so many problems… but this is nothing that can't be helped. We need to do several things… first, treat your acid reflux with a proton pump inhibitor. The over-the-counter stuff doesn't do enough in these severe cases. The other thing we need to do is get you on some Singulair… that will help. I want you to do voice therapy… I'll give you a referral. This will help you in getting your breathing and voice back on track… the acid is causing your voice to become strained and raspy as well." He added. He told me it would take time and for now I needed to focus on rest and eating to gain my weight and strength back… but that with time… likely two to three months I should begin to get back to a normal functioning life. He also gave me one other suggestion… to lose any stress in my life. I nodded… he had no idea that would require removing a near six foot person.
It would take about three months to get back to almost normal… more small improvements were made each day… I began a regime of eating very bland foods that didn't trigger my reflux, taking my medications dutifully and it would take going to voice therapy each week for a whole year… but it was worth it… I truly felt my voice therapist was my angel in disguise… and both my doctors as well… I believe God places certain people in our lives for a reason.
"I was furious with him… " My mother told me… "I was worried sick."
"He was seemingly more worried about what it would cost." I observed. "I just know I can't do that again. I won't do that again. When you love somebody you jump through hoops, you run through fire, you do anything you have to… to help them. The thing is… I would have done it for him. If he'd been that weak and begging to go to the hospital I would have bundled him up and gotten him there. Heck, he'd have been there way before it got that bad. I would have demanded answers. That's the vow you take… in sickness and in health… when you make it you stand by it. You can't sway on it when someone gets sick… if things fall apart… in health and sickness you have to be there for the other person. They are truly counting on their spouse to step up for them when they can't. Then doing just that. That to me is true love."
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker, coach on NPD abuse and recovery. She helps guide men and women exit a NPD relationship, gives emotional support, and gives guidance through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex.