From procrastination to paralysis: How my fear of going to the doctor almost disabled me

By Kristin Troyer – Horizon Editor-in-Chief

Please learn from my mistakes.

I hate going to the doctor just like anyone else. And yes, it’s even worse in college when your mom isn’t there to make your appointment or go in the room with you to answer questions. So when I was plagued with “seasonal allergies” I bought my over-the-counter medicine and told myself to toughen up.

But, as hard as I tried, toughen up was not what I did. I got worse. I went from a slightly annoying cough and itchy eyes to sneezing ten times in a row to waking up for church with my limbs feeling numb and weak. “I’m just a little wobbly on my feet,” I told myself. “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a side effect from my allergy medicine.”

Forty-eight hours after taking my last allergy pill my symptoms weren’t getting better; if anything they were getting worse. My stiff and sore fingers struggled to type, hold a pencil, shampoo my hair, or brush my teeth. I accidentally poked a teammate in the eye trying to point at his nose. Going up the stairs almost drove me tears because I just couldn’t make my limbs work the way they were supposed to.

I finally decided to do the bravest thing I’d ever done – make my own doctor’s appointment.

Chillin' in the hospital.
Chillin’ in the hospital.

What I was hoping to be a quick in-and-out, here’s-your-prescription doctor’s visit ended up being two hours of sitting and waiting while one doctor came in and looked at me, got concerned, and left to consult someone else. I sat with nervously sweaty thighs sticking to the protective paper as the physician’s assistant beat on my knee and Achilles tendon with a stethoscope trying to get my reflexes to kick. They didn’t.

After leaving me to get sweatier and stickier, my toes frozen from the blowing air vent that was having no effect on my armpits, the PA and doctor came in to conclude my two hours at the clinic. To my irritation, they wanted to admit me to the hospital. They suspected I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (Green-Beret Syndrome I began referring to it). Turns out my “seasonal-allergies” probably were actually an upper respiratory infection, and since I had refused to go to the doctor, my immune system had gone into overdrive and started attacking my nervous system. This was causing the numbness and lack of control I was feeling in my limbs.

The next morning, my lovely and slightly panicked mother took me to check in at the Newton Hospital for a lumbar puncture. Curled into a fetal position, I had a very tight squeeze on the nurse’s hand as I tried to not think about what was going on on the other side of the bed. I was ready for pain, but was expecting a lot worse than it was.

Here are the best and worst parts of being in the hospital according to me.

Best:

  • Watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and House Hunters for hours
  • So much free time
  • When people tried to get me to do things I didn’t want to, I had a legitimate excuse
  • Chicken strips
  • Lots of attention from people
  • Breakfast burrito
  • Friendly nurses who laughed at my jokes
  • My swaglicious hospital robe

Worst:

  • Being horizontal for two hours after the lumbar puncture
  • Having to wait for the nurse to empty my “hat” (aka pee bowl) before I could pee again
  • Getting stabbed with needles a zillion times
  • Limited room service menu
  • The time they brought me cooked carrots when I wanted raw
  • TINY juice containers. Who only drinks 4 ounces of juice at a time?
  • Getting woken up at 4 am to have my vitals taken
  • Having to explain to a thousand people what was wrong with me through text message when my fingers were numb and couldn’t type

I really shouldn’t be telling you how to feel about the hospital, but, really, I would rather you didn’t have to find out for yourself. I can’t really tell you not to get sick because dorm living is a cesspool for germs and diseases, but I can recommend you do what I did not do.

If you feel sick:

  • Tell your RA so Student Life knows what is going around
  • Try not to infect other people
  • GO TO THE DOCTOR
  • Don’t come near me. I did my hospital time.

Luckily, I turned out fine. My case of Green-Beret syndrome was mild, caught early, and easily treatable with a pretty simple medication. I’ll be on an oral steroid in decreasing doses for the next 4-6 months, but my doctors and I are hopeful that I won’t have long-term effects that will interfere with living my life.  

It could have been much, much worse.

Learn from my mistakes. Toughen up. Call the doctor.

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