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When a Doctor Dismissed My Crohn's Diagnosis Because I 'Looked Nervous'

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I went from the best care…to being discounted.

I finally got insurance after my college graduation and I think my body decided for itself “now you shall discover what has always been wrong.” I have suffered from “stomach issues” (digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, etc.) my entire life. Thankfully, I found a wonderful gastrointestinal specialist who listened to me. He prescribed tests… Endoscopy, colonoscopy, barium x-rays, CT-scan (which I found out the hard way I was allergic to the contrast), sonograms…to no avail. He could not figure out what was wrong. He suggested a small bowel enteroclysis.


Dr. M. prepped me by saying it’s not the “nicest” of exams but he thinks it may lead to answers. He was right, on both accounts. The exam was awful. The scope hurt. It burned my nose…it was painful. Due to my digestive problems, the barium did not fully digest. To assist the barium’s movement, the doctor, the assistants and nurses shifted the table, scope in place, positioning me upright. I felt like Frankenstein. And rather than the estimated two to three hours given to me pre-exam, the enteroclysis in all, took eight hours.

It was worth it! Dr. M. discovered Crohn’s in my ileum. Finally I had an answer. I had a chronic autoimmune disease with a name. And I finally had treatment options. Dr. M. listened to me, had great bedside manner and helped me – the definition of a great doctor. I stayed with him for years.

Unfortunately, the time came when Dr. M. decided to give up private practice and go back to hospital work.  This meant I had to find a new GI doctor. And at this same time, my insurance changed and I was right in the middle of a Crohn’s flare and needed a GI specialist, ASAP. A nightmare for a person with Crohn’s disease. I found out soon enough it was just the beginning of the awful dream.

My PC recommended a new GI within the practice, Dr. G. This new gastroenterologist was perfect…on paper. Problem was from the start he did not believe me. The moment he set eyes on me he pre-determined everything. Even with my records, he did not believe me. Dr. G. said I was so visibly nervous, I must have a delicate system. He diagnosed, without examining me, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as opposed to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I was terrified by this easy dismissal of my pain, which in turn, made me more nervous. Dr. G. even dismissed the enteroclysis test results from Dr. M., my former doctor, because, he said, “That exam is archaic.” Dr. G. scheduled a capsule endoscopy so he could examine my ileum.

For the results, I brought my husband into the office with me. I felt the doctor treated me differently with my husband present. Never in my life had I been made to feel so defenseless with a doctor. And then things changed. When the outcome of the capsule endoscopy backed the original diagnosis, Dr. G. apologized to me. I was actually crying with relief. But I also felt empowered again.

I took my newly re-diagnosed self and found a newly competent on all levels doctor… Dr. K.

I wish I had been healthy enough to put Dr. G in his incredibly insensitive place but fact was I needed him. At one point, when he said to me, “Are
you always this nervous?” I said to him, very pointedly… “You know, I had a baby by C-section and this pain from the Crohn’s is much worse than that.” Dr. G. had no answer. He had no reference. I wonder if in his mind he thought childbirth was archaic too. It is one of the worst feelings when the person who is supposed to help you makes you feel worse.

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Thinkstock photo via HASLOO.

Originally published: July 12, 2017
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