I’m Not A Doctor, I Just Play One On TV

The more bullshit I go through, and the longer I’m an impatient patient with multiple chronic illnesses, the more inclined I am to take matters into my own hands.  I do hours of research about everything related to auto-immune disease and genetic abnormalities.  Over time, I have slowly morphed into a person who barely speaks English.  I took anatomy/physiology in high school, but have learned far more about the human body while sick than I ever did from text books and rat dissections.  Every time I read medical journals, if there’s a word I’m unfamiliar with, I look it up.  There is just as much research into the terminology as there is with the actual topic I’m researching.  Medicine is like a huge matryoshka doll, or like an onion if you prefer Donkey’s take on things that have many layers.


If I talk to my Mom about medical stuff, she tells me I should be a doctor.  My husband says I should be a doctor.  My sister says I should be a doctor.  My in-law grandparents say the same.  I say, fuck that.  I do what I do out of necessity and curiosity.  I like to know how things work, and how to fix broken things.  With chronic illness, fixing is equivalent to managing, unless there’s an actual cure on deck, in which case, I’d probably already be better by now.

As much as I would love to believe I could actually make it through pre-med, medical school, internship and residency, and a fellowship if I decide to specialize, I’d be at least 50 by the time I could be a practicing physician.  I want to make a difference in people’s lives, mainly people like me who suffer while being ignored by the system because most doctors have far too many patients to do the research necessary to fully understand a single patient’s condition(s).  Thinking I could make a difference, given the current state of healthcare, is completely unrealistic.

I can’t say I haven’t thought about it, though I seriously doubt my intelligence and potential commitment to academia.  I don’t learn that way.  I’d do much better with an apprenticeship.  Applicable and practical knowledge is what my brain likes, so if I could skip straight through to internship without all of the abstract science, no problem.  That’s not the reality of it.  There’s a reason not everyone is a doctor, though I’d argue that some of them I’ve encountered never should have graduated high school.  Just because I’m a whiz with google search, it doesn’t make me doctor material.

There really is a point to this, and I’m just now getting around to it.  There is one thing that has been vexing me for years, even before Crohn’s became a major problem.  I have constant pain in my right kidney area, and especially while I’m laying on my right side or slouching to save my lower back.  The pain has gotten worse over the years, and I attributed it to kidney disease after I was diagnosed, or the passing of invisible stones (my urine is a cornucopia of crystals).  When they pound me in the back to check for CVA tenderness, it always results in me hanging from the ceiling, but I don’t always have kidney stones.  I’ve only had two so far, yet it hurts during every single exam and only on the right side.  When I asked my nephrologist if my pain is related to the kidney disease, she said, no, it’s more likely the IBD.


I call this one the “spiderman maneuver”, or the best way to make Kara fly.

After popping a rib, I flipped through my old CT, MRI, and x-ray reports.  I had a CT done while inpatient last spring, and it said I have a vestigial rib on the right side of L1, though it hasn’t been noted in any other reports.  Does it exist, or doesn’t it?  Or is it just an incidental finding that most radiologists don’t take the time to dictate?

I did a little research, and vestigial ribs are relatively rare, occurring in less than 1% of the population (conversely, my hemangioma and partially lumbralized spine are fairly common).  Vestigial ribs on the cervical vertebrae are more likely to cause serious side effects, whereas lumbar ribs are generally written off as inconsequential.  I did stumble across a case study of a woman who had been complaining of renal pain, but all tests came back normal with the exception of a vestigial rib that showed up on a normal x-ray, which was initially thought to be incidental.  Upon further investigation and more imaging studies, it was found that due to a slight variant of the position of her kidney, this extra rib was actually pressing into her kidney while she was in certain positions, thus causing mechanical irritation of the kidney and her subsequent renal pain.

I haven’t been told that my kidneys are in weird places, just that my right kidney is quite a bit larger than my left, and the right lobe of my liver hangs down to my iliac crest (the top of my hip bone), also known as a Riedel’s lobe.  Additionally, I was told that my 12th rib on the right side is longer than it should be, and the distance between the 11th and 12th is greater than it should be.  All of that, plus an extra rib, leads me to believe I’ve got some major gut congestion on the right side that could be contributing to my pain.  I mean, I’m a tiny person with gorilla guts.  It’s amazing I don’t have intestines popping out of my belly button.  Like I’ve said before, I’m a mutant.



What does all of this mean?  It means I’ve formulated yet another theory that I’ll never be able to prove because I’m a dumb patient, not a giant-brained doctor.  It’s pretty cool to go on the hunt for all of this stuff though.  It keeps my detective skills limber.

12 thoughts on “I’m Not A Doctor, I Just Play One On TV

    • Haha, awesome.

      I gotta figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Being a squatter is great and all, but I want to be like the other miserable people who are defined by their careers (even if I’m not at all confident I’d be able to hold down a job because of stuff and things). How do you feel about veterinarians? I could neuter squirrels for a living.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love researching myself. Gallbladder pain in some people like me can go under the right ribs. Also right rib pain is associated with pancreas problems. The E.R. I went to the other night that said my bloodwork was fine, was wrong. My General Practitioner called to tell me she had received the results and my Creatinine had increased and there was a problem with my BUN. Where I only the one functioning kidney now they don’t like your Creatinine to go above 1.2 and right now I’m at 1.6. Idiots. It’s why we have to advocate for ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pancreatic pain can be felt on the right side too? I guess I hadn’t thought of that, since the bulk of the organ is in the left quadrant. Gut nerves are terrible at localizing pain, so it makes sense now.

      Do you have any pain associated with your kidney issues? What do they do when your BUN/Cr spikes? Monitor you more closely, or tell you to limit protein/salt?

      They used to pump me full of saline, and then give me lasix so I’d flush it all out. I rarely experience edema when I’m in acute renal failure, but I definitely don’t feel right. I get extra fuzzy in my head and more nauseated than normal. As my function has gotten worse in the recent past, before dialysis, my skin was so itchy, I wanted to tear it all off. Apparently uremia does that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know you will believe me when I say that not one person has mentioned what I should or shouldn’t eat. I follow a Gluten Free Diet and have little to no appetite as it is. My father is on dialysis so I try to follow what’s recommended for him. When I went into Kidney Failure the edema was outrageous! My feet looked like a Hobbit’s! They looked like they were made of wax. I wouldn’t have gone to the Hospital at all if they hadn’t looked so scary. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. When my Cr level came back as an 11 and the Dr. said you need to call your family and get them here ASAP I freaked out. Then when they asked about a priest and a DNR I didn’t know what to do. I just said “Seriously? You’re asking a Bipolar Atheist about a DNR and last rites??!!” Now I think it’s kind of funny. I do have extreme back pain on both sides but it’s hard to tell because I have arthritis and other back problems. My pelvis is also painful but I have arthritis in my pelvis. When they ask me about pain it’s hard to tell them when you’ve lived with it for so long. You don’t know what’s new or old. My dad was very itchy before dialysis. He mostly suffers from hand cramps but I convinced him to drink tonic water and it works. His dialysis place is a disgrace. Sorry for going on!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, I definitely believe it. I requested a consult with a dietitian, but it wasn’t all that helpful because I already knew everything she went over with me. I was hoping for a shopping list and a sample menu to help me since my brain is on vacation most of the time. I think what we both need is a personal chef. 😉

          11!? Holy hell, that is outrageously high. The highest mine has been was 7.6. That must have been a scary experience.

          If I’m not suffering from super crohn’s butt, I do get flipper feet. And bags of water around my eyes, and cartoon hands. It’s usually when the vomiting/D are extra bad that it precipitates to an AKI, but I’m so volume depleted, there’s nothing left to retain. It’s probably a very good thing you’re on point with staying gluten free. I’m trying, but I’m not quite there yet.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It isn’t easy being Gluten Free. Everything is expensive. I go on Pinterest a lot for recipes. They have tons of recipes for people on dialysis or with kidney disease, actually for any ailment. The only problem was I found myself making GF cakes and eating the entire cake. I was losing weight too and couldn’t understand why. I was eating at least 2 sheet cakes a week. Then I went into kidney failure so that’s probably why I was losing weight. I made some pretty awesome cakes though! My nephews would get so excited when I would visit because they knew I would have a treat. I did all kinds of different flavors a Dulce de Leche, Coffee Cake, Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter Mousse, etc. all from Pinterest. Now it’s Cocoa Pebbles and Rice Cakes. It’s all my stomach can handle. lol

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Wowzer’s that’s a whole lot of crammage going on on the right side there. It’s funny (not really…) how with many chronic illnesses patients end up knowing far more about their conditions than they could ever hope for their doctors to half understand. You could always look into being a patient advocate, I don’t know if they have them there though. A lot of people get overlooked, under treated or simply belittled just because they don’t understand what’s going on in their bodies or because they don’t have big enough guts (obviously you do… literally) to stand up for themselves. Helping people, less big book learning 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have thought about that! I think bio/healthcare management degrees are what’s recommended, at least for working in a hospital. The problem with that, is I wouldn’t be an advocate so much as a conflict resolution specialist. The person who kisses ass to keep pissed off people like me from suing the hospital for being stupid. Private sector is actual advocacy work, but it requires tons of self-promotion. I had a Crohn’s advocate through Abbvie, a pharmaceutical company and that was a complete waste. The need for REAL advocates is definitely great.

      If I’m ever in the position to take a break from self-advocacy for a while (which hinges on my crammed guts improving and behaving themselves), I’d do it as a volunteer if I could get commander approval (the military equivalent to a chief executive). With as much as I’d enjoy telling people to get their heads out of their asses, I probably wouldn’t be in that position for very long – but that’s what it takes!

      Liked by 2 people

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