It is a well known joke within the adrenal insufficiency community that when endocrinologists annoy us enough, perhaps we should just seek medical treatment from a veterinarian. The joke stems from two separate notes of frustration which shall be explained in greater detail below.
Note One: Addison’s Disease is more common in dogs than in humans.
Our disease is relatively rare in humans, but rather common in dogs. Endocrinologists see a significantly larger amount of diabetics and thyroid issues than adrenal issues. You ask a vet about Addison’s disease though? Oh, they know about it.
In fact, I was enjoying a meal solo one evening when the conversation of two ladies caught my attention. I recognized the words they were saying, and how their patient perked immediately back up once treatment was started. I was intrigued. The dog would live! Their dog would no longer be lethargic or losing weight! The dog simply had Addison’s Disease! I politely inserted myself into the conversation and told them I was actually a human living with Addison’s Disease and that I was on the Cortisol Pump. They were amazed at the technology and even more amazed when I told them that the first Cortisol Pump was actually proven feasible on a dog in 1984!
Note Two: A veterinarian often appears kinder than a doctor.
The second note of frustration originates from the fact that medical specialists (especially endocrinologists) can tend to develop a god complex. When faced with a challenge outside of their comfort zone instead of humbling admitting their limitations, they insult the patient. Please note that not all doctors are like this. I have had some absolutely amazing endocrinologists as part of critical members of my medical team. But I am also on Endo #11. Of my eleven endocrinologists, I will classify three of them as absolutely horrible.
But a veterinarian? They are so calm and reassuring! They understand that this is a scary and stressful time for you and your well loved fur-baby, and they want to help as much as possible. I understand that with any field, there are not good people within it. But in my experience, the likelihood of running into an awful doctor is WAY higher than running into an awful vet. We know this. And thus, the joke in our community remains.
When you’re tired of doctors, go to the vet for your treatment.
… But it is supposed to just be a joke…
I do not openly advocate for seeking medical treatment from a veterinarian. You should have a well rounded medical team that you partner with. You should also feel heard and respected. My personal medical team consists of a primary care physician, a nurse practitioner, a trauma informed therapist, a well qualified dental team, an optometrist, a specialist endocrinologist that loves the “weird” cases like me, and a local endocrinologist that is part of my local research hospital. I will openly admit that I am currently lacking an OBGYN. But there is only so much adulting I can do at one time. While that specialist is needed, I am also procrastinating. I’ll figure that one out later.
A veterinarian is not on my short list of “Amber’s Medical Team.” Yet on December 9th of 2020, I found myself receiving emergency medical treatment from the local veterinarian hospital.
I received emergency medical treatment from a local veterinarian.
We are six months past this particular adventure, and I still chuckle at the absurdity of it. But let us try to explain what happened. It all starts with hovering in a “danger zone” for a little bit of time.
Earlier on that day, it looked like my cat Glitch had been vomiting blood. At 3:30pm, I called my vet asking her for her advice. She informed me that her office closed at five and she would be unable to see him given her case load and the current time. However, she did validate my concerns and requested that I take him into the emergency vet for further evaluation.
I took her recommendation for the local emergency vet, and arrived around 4:30pm. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I was required to wait in the car with him. At around 5:00pm, they retrieve him from my car in the parking lot. They tell me that I am unable to leave until they do the initial evaluation of him and are able to provide me with a cost estimate.
At 6:15pm, I go into the office and request an update. I knew I wasn’t feeling well, and was wondering if I could sneak away to go pick up dinner. The front desk lady informed me that Glitch was stable. But because he was stable, he had been bumped down in priority due to two other animals arriving in more critical condition. However, she will prioritize getting his estimate so that I can put a hold on my credit card and then leave to get food.
The Cost Estimate
After a few minutes, she returns with an estimate of $1000. This sends me into a full blown panic attack, as it was completely unexpected and I do not have pet health insurance. We discuss back and forth, through my tears, and were able to come up with an estimate of under $500. At this point, I bump up my cortisol pump rates significantly. I was not doing well.
I leave to go grab food very close to the vet. However, I realized if I drove home I would not have the strength to drive myself back to the office. My disease was incredibly unstable, and I was scared. It would be dangerous for me to remain by myself, given how weak I was. I returned to the emergency vet and requested to sit in the large empty lobby.
The lady at the front desk firmly told me no, due to COVID-19 protocol. No one was allowed inside. At this point, I feel myself rapidly crashing and I knew the situation was about to get even uglier. I called my mom and put her on speaker phone because I knew I was moments away from losing my ability to advocate for myself. The last thing I remember saying coherently was “Well I am going to place my mom on speaker phone so that we can work out some sort of compromise.”
At this point, I needed my emergency injection of 100 mg of solu-cortef. But I was too weak to mix it up myself. I was shaking on the floor, barely able to move. At that point, the front desk lady called all personnel up front for a medical emergency STAT. The veterinarian was able to quickly administer my injection into my arm, through my shirt. They call an ambulance, which arrived quickly and immediately started IV fluids.
I was released from the ER several hours later after 2L of saline, 200 mg of solu-cortef, and a round of zofran. Also, I was the very first human Addison’s patient this vet office has ever treated.
As for my Glitch? Oh, that cat was completely fine. He had perfect blood work. There was nothing wrong. We are pretty positive he just ate a bug that caused his stomach to be upset.
I am still incredibly thankful for that vet office. Below is the letter that I mailed them.
It is important to acknowledge that it takes a community to remain Clearly Alive. Sometimes that community comes from the most unexpected places. On December 9th of 2020, I found myself receiving emergency medical treatment from the local veterinarian hospital. They helped me remain Clearly Alive.