I returned to the United States from Southeast Asia in mid-May. I came back to visit my family, and I had another intention in mind. As much as I dislike the U.S. healthcare system, I am a veteran, and I am entitled to certain benefits. As some of those benefits require me to be active in the Veterans Affairs Administration (VMA) healthcare system, upon arrival in the U.S., I scheduled appointments with my local hospital.
I had hoped to see a primary care physician and move on. However, as new symptoms presented themselves (seems to be the story of my life), I saw all kinds of specialists. The more doctors I saw, the more anxiety I experienced. Potential diagnoses such as vasculitis and various lung diseases were tossed around based on my symptoms. Well, the tests came back negative for the vasculitis, and positive for a lung disease. I had requested to see a therapist while I was here. I had thought that talking with someone would help me. However, the help offered, for the most part, was prescription medication.
As I went through the process of seeing various doctors, extending my trip from one month to three, I remembered why I’d left. I will say that this time, the doctors were a bit more attentive, but I also felt that they didn’t have as much work to do because I’d showed up with a diagnosis. Almost every doctor I saw prescribed me a pharmaceutical grade solution. And waiting for more than a month to see specialists to confirm my lung disease diagnosis was a special brand of torture. Having spent time in a country where the care is completely different, I began looking forward to returning there soon.
My new rheumatologist told me the name of the lung disease that I have. I was offered a harsh medication (I would have to get blood work every two weeks) to “help” with my lung disease. When I asked about the frequent checkups, I found out that the medication would impact my immune system and leave me open to all sorts of infections and viruses. I said “no, thank you” and opted to wait to hear what the lung specialist had to say.
The lung specialist was quite thorough and told me I didn’t need that medication, or any medication for my lung disease, and there is nothing that can resolve the damage to my lungs. He was the only doctor who didn’t offer me prescription medication. Sadly, I did not trust his opinion either, because of a past experience.
Years ago, I was given a diagnosis from the VA and told that I didn’t need any medication. I subsequently found myself in the hospital while on a business trip.
Returning to the present day, I found out from my research that this type of lung disease is incurable (I was told that), symptoms can’t be improved (I was told that), and that we just need to monitor to make sure it doesn’t get worse.
The idea that doctors would prescribe instead of trying to find realistic solutions has me longing for care in places outside the U.S. I sometimes feel that I am always bashing the U.S. healthcare system, but I do acknowledge that some people are receiving great care. However, it seems that the universe is telling me, “You will not get satisfactory care here in the States, so keep your passport handy.”
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