What’s Up, Doc…Doc…Doc…Doc…?

Last week, I saw a cardiologist. This week, I will see a pulmonologist. I already have a family practice doctor, an ophthalmologist, an endocrinologist, a podiatrist (who does ankles, too), a dentist, an orthopedist, and a rehabilitation doctor. In my time, I’ve also had an infectious diseases doc. Oh, and there’s the OB/GYN doc, which I try not to think about.


At the rate I’m going, I soon will have a doctor for each part of my body.

Most are self-explanatory — like the family practice doc, endocrinologist, ophthalmologist, and dentist. And that one I don’t like to think about.

My family practice doc will tell you he doesn’t “do” diabetes. Besides, I had the endocrinologist before I hired my family practice doc. At least he admitted he wasn’t up to my level on diabetes: The others I’d seen not only didn’t admit it, but one yelled at me when I corrected him on something. I have heard my family practice doc speak on diabetes and he’s not bad at all. It’s mainly the insulin pump that throws him.

Why do I see an ophthalmologist instead of an optometrist for my eyes? I already knew him, he’s good — and he has diabetes, so he stays pretty current on the relationship between diabetes and eye problems. I like doctors with diabetes.

A good dentist is also important, given the connection between diabetes and gum disease. My dentist’s office also tends to nag me when it’s time for me to visit the hygienist. I do need that nagging: I’d rather get a root canal than have my teeth cleaned. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a definite “yuck!” factor to having my teeth cleaned.

My podiatrist saved my foot. Literally. I had complained of foot pain to a former (let me emphasize the word “former”) podiatrist who brushed it off as “you’re a diabetic.” I had broken bones in my foot from a fall down some steps. I had to have two surgeries to have some nerves removed. Then I had a bunion and hammer toe taken care of…which led to a bone infection, a podiatrist who took care of the problem without whacking my foot off, and an infectious control doc who whomped up the right mixture of antibiotics.

The rehab doc? He’s from two shoulder impingements. Both shoulders. At the same time. The symptoms include pain — severe pain if you reach too far — and loss of motion. Not fun. Rehab wasn’t, either, but the problem is (mostly) gone after however many years. I still have some issues doing things like scratching my back or reaching around to unhook my bra. Back-scratchers and husbands do come in handy.

The orthopedist is because one of these days I’m going to have my knee(s) replaced. At the moment, I don’t think I’m in any kind of shape for rehab, so he’s on hold for now.

So why the cardiologist and pulmonologist? I went to my family practice doc complaining of edema in my legs and some difficulty breathing when I did something really physical — like walking from one room to the next. I’d blamed the shortness of breath on my bad knees and the resultant pain and difficulty in walking. But it could be something else, right?

The family practice doc sent me for an echocardiogram and stress test. The next day, I got a call saying the cardiologist wanted to see me. On the plus side, the cardiologist did not want me to check into the hospital. Also, the appointment was for more than a week out.

On the minus side, the cardiologist thinks I may have some reduced blood flow in a small portion of my heart. It was a bit inconclusive in the pictures. (I really do need to lose weight.) He’d like to do a heart catheterization…but I’m too ticklish. Really. I was about to laugh myself off the table as he was trying to find the artery. He was laughing. The nurse was laughing. We were all having a grand ol’ time — except that only one of us was being tickled to death. The other people in the clinic were probably dying to hear the joke that made everybody laugh so hard. But, hey, I’m always happy to bring joy to others’ lives. (I am also happy I’d gone to the bathroom right before that.)

Anyway, he decided I should see a pulmonologist to rule out lung problems, and we would go from there.

In the end, I may still be laughing myself off a table in the cath lab, but not yet.

To add to all of that, I write about health issues for the local newspaper and have interviewed most of these doctors. As I told the cardiologist the other day, “I liked it better when I was the one in charge.”

I appreciate all of my doctors. They’ve helped keep me kicking with all of my senses intact. I just hope I don’t have to add any more to my growing list.

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  • Peter Mead

    Although the idea of specialization seems to make sense, I’m thinking that medicine may evolve to be much more holistic. I had a cardio that admitted not knowing ANYTHING about Diabetes. When I had fasting BG of 120, he said, “don’t eat sugar”. From a leading hospital too. I have lots of examples of other doctors ignorant of other fields, though they are directly related. An endo and a cardio should be well coordinated with the diabetic patients they have in common. The body is a complex and interrelated system and when therapies take that into account, less specialization is needed and more importantly, the effects on the body from one specialization therapy doesn’t create a problem in another area.


  • Florian

    Good article and I’m glad I read it because I recently made up my own Health Care Team list and I left off my Dentist Doc.

  • David Spero RN

    Dear Jan and Ephrenia,
    Sorry to hear you are having these problems. I hope everything works out benignly.

  • Ephrenia

    Oh, Jan, I hear you! I also have multiple specialists. And now I’m adding yet another.

    My last visit to my Internist, we did the whole blood work routine that she orders every 3-6 months… HbA1c, CBC, Lipid panel, TSH. Normally, I get a letter with the lab results and her handwritten comments on those results. This time, I got a call “Come in for another CBC”. I figure, okay, something happened to the blood… they dropped it, it got warm, whatever… Three days after that test, I received another phone call to repeat the blood draw AGAIN. THIS time, I was concerned. All the nurse would say was that my white cell count was “remaining elevated” and they were going to do a “smear” this time.

    The next contact, 3 days later, was notification of an appointment with a specialist in blood disorders. I still do not know what my Dr is thinking it might be. I go back and forth between “its just some minor infection” to “Lupus? Leukemia?” because those two are associated with elevated white cells… I looked it up on the internet. I prefer to be FULLY informed because I’m intelligent enough to do my own research and I have a VERY active imagination and can easily picture those “worst case scenarios”.

  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Jan.

    Napoleon said from the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step.

    Your army of Doctors would be great if you were the sum of your parts.