September 2017: How it began
My throat started hurting pretty innocuously in September 2017. I didn’t take my stock in it because I was busy. I was eyeball deep taking four graduate classes and doing my internship at Voices for a Second Chance working with recently released citizens who were either released from the DC Jail or federal prisons around the country. Anyways… I was also focusing on my bladder health. Remember that time I had interstitial cystitis..oh right… that was now.
I literally just ignored my throat… probably not the best thing to do but that’s what happened. It wasn’t strep. I thought something was stuck in my throat, that’s what it felt like. you know that feeling when you’re eating popcorn and one of the little pieces goes to the back of your throat, back by the tonsils and just gets lodged back there? It felt like that…at first. There was this sharp pain in this one specific part of my throat that did not feel like strep. I know what strep feels like because I had strep so often growing up that it was basically ingrained in me that when my throat hurt it was strep…but not this time.
This time I didn’t even mention it to anyone, because that’s how unimportant it was or how unimportant I thought it was at the time. And it went on like that for longer than I’d like to admit. When I went for a check-up with my GP, I mentioned my throat had been hurting. So she looked in there but saw nothing and did a throat culture, the first one came back negative but the 3-day culture came back as Strep Group B (make note of this because this is important) Normally, Strep Throat is Type A, that’s the contagious kind. But I had basically had this sore throat for months… and nobody else had it. So my doctor prescribed me a 10 day supply of antibiotics and I seemed to be getting better. Until I wasn’t.
When the 10-day supply was gone the sore throat came right back and unfortunately, it happened on a Friday night and that infection came back with the full force of a thousand burning suns. So I went to Patient First Urgent Care, took my empty antibiotics bottle with me and got a strep test there. Luckily they were nice enough to give me another 10-day supply of antibiotics. And thus began what is now known as Strep-gate 2018.
That time I saw the worse ENT that ever existed
After I went to get my second round of antibiotics at urgent care, my GP referred me to an Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor (ENT). I was glad to go, honestly, because I need to get this taken care of. Before I went I wrote down all the basics of what had happened and when I started taking antibiotics and which antibiotics, I do that sometimes for myself so I don’t forget…it ended up being for the doctor though…
When I walk shown into his room I felt like I was walking into a time warp. I had just walked into an ENT’s office from the 50’s. No joke the room, the chair, the tools were from the 1950s…I wish I had taken a picture. The chair was almost too small for me and I am not a big person…I’m 5’6” and I had to slouch down to put my head on the headrest. Wtf? People were shorter back then… I guess. All his tools were metal. Like the little scope the doctor uses to look in your ear how that’s usually like a hard black plastic… yea… his was metal.
He walks in old as the wind and he is deaf af. And I don’t say this lightly because I live in the Deaf community. My boyfriend, Aaron, is actually Deaf. Our mode of communication is signing. I go to Gallaudet University, where everyone uses sign language. But this guy walks in starts talking to me and I respond in English and he CAN NOT hear me…AT ALL. So I speak louder. I have a lot of experience with hard of hearing people too so I know sometimes speaking louder can help…NOPE.
Nothing…NOTHING I did could make this guy hear me. So I handed him my handwritten note to myself that said everything…. when I started antibiotics/what antibiotics. It was SO terrible. He barely looked in my throat. He said oh you look fine. I’M NOT FINE!!!! wow…so frustrating. He prescribed me some more antibiotics for another 10 days. This time he gave me some antibiotics I never heard of and they ended up being so strong, I took one pill…ONE PILL…and became violently ill. And if we had been able to have a conversation I could have told him that I am extremely sensitive to medications and I would not be able to tolerate that kind of antibiotic.
I will say this by saying this…this doctor might have been a great doctor at one point in his life. But at this point, he is at least 80 years old and should no longer be practicing. He was negligent and in my mind had no clue what he was doing. He barely looked at me. He didn’t have up to date equipment so there is no way he could have properly looked into my throat. Looking back it’s a humorous situation but at the same time, it’s worrisome that he is allowed to still practice.
And now…this awkward moment
So here’s where things get awkward. I hadn’t even mentioned my sore throat to anyone (except my friend Shelby but I didn’t even tell her until it was almost time for me to go to the doctor), not even my boyfriend, Aaron. So when I came home and told him that I had this strep throat situation going on and that my throat had actually been hurting for months… needless to say he was baffled and rightly so.
How many of us chronically ill people don’t mention a new symptom or ailment to close friends and family because we don’t want to worry them? Honestly, I thought it was nothing for quite some time, so I didn’t equate my throat hurting with my chronic illnesses and therefore, in my mind, there was nothing to tell. But I learned a valuable lesson in this situation… there’s always something to tell, even if it seems like nothing.
Strep-Gate 2018 Begins
So just to back up for a second here, unless you read my previous blog post like a minute ago, you might not remember this, but up until this point I had already been on antibiotics for about 7 months for various other reasons such as UTIs, bladder/kidney infections, and bronchitis. So yay being on even more antibiotics!
So by now, I was now on my second round of antibiotics for my Strep Throat Group B. And I was miffed. I realized my strep wasn’t contagious and I needed to slow down a minute and research this. Let’s look into this a bit deeper, shall we?
The Mayo Clinic says that “Group B strep is a common bacteria often carried in your intestines or lower genital tract and that it’s usually harmless in adults.” Oh okay, so that makes complete and utter nonsense!
What in the actual hell? Okay so Strep Group B is a type of strep that is noncontagious except between mother and newborn baby, but somehow it probably went from my lady parts to my throat. There are two possible ways that could have happened. 1. Through sexual intercourse. 2. My body’s immune system is so jacked that an infection such as that decided it wasn’t happy in just one place warm comfy place and wanted a new warm comfy hidey hole of a place to cozy up. Personally, I think it was the second one because of what happens soon after this with all my dear longtime friend, E Coli, that will soon be making a reappearance.
After I went to Patient First, I called up Ruth Kriz, my IC specialist extraordinaire. I have been working with Ruth for about a year now on my IC. She has a holistic and medical approach to the body which I appreciate greatly because I don’t believe my personal situation can improve with just medical interventions or just holistic interventions. I like Ruth’s approach. She is a nurse practitioner who does in-depth cultures that most doctors don’t do. So while my (hack of a) urologist does the most basic urine culture to test for a UTI, Ruth sends off my sample to a lab that does a urine broth culture that really looks at the sample deeply and does three different levels of testings, instead of just one. And normally throats are not exactly her forte but I called her up and told her what was happening.
She literally said to me, “I hear what you are saying but I don’t know how you think I can help you, darling, I don’t specialize in throats or strep throat.” I laughed and I said, Ruth, please hear me out, you are the only person who can help me. The strep test results that I got back said I have Strep Group B, which is usually only found in the vagina! Which is why I haven’t been spreading this strep around town. She immediately got what I was saying, how in the heck did this strep that belonged in my lady parts get into my throat?!
She put her thinking cap on. And let me tell you friends, there is nothing better than knowing you have a doctor or practitioner is on your side. Ruth is that person for me. She is always on my side right there believing me when I tell her my symptoms.
Chronically ill people so often get brushed off, not believed and not heard. I’ve had that happen to me with my urologist who (unfortunately) specializes in IC. My urologist was a woman as well…Women who are stereotypically more caring and empathetic…she …was not. In a profession that is still heavily dominated by men, it can be incredibly hard to find a urologist that really listens to you. So when you find a female urologist that specializes in your chronic illness you kind of think *jackpot*!!! Except, in this case, it was more like … jack..not…womp womp.
I’m going to end Strep Gate 2018 here. But have no fear there is a Part two! So be on the lookout for that next week.