Posts Tagged ‘Diagnosis’

For Those Who Are Not Heard, Part 2


Doctors often do not listen to patients who have FTD, and will tell them that they do not have FTD.  They know so little about the wide variety of symptoms associated with FTD disorders, and how these symptoms and underlying diseases overlap.  This same phenomenon extends to the rest of the medical community:  those of us with illnesses, and even our caregivers, are not heard.

There is still much unknown about FTD and related disorders.  It is only this year that the leading researchers are starting to agree on which signs to look at and the basic measurements that they need to take, to enable them to start sharing and comparing the knowledge and data that they have each been collecting separately.

Further down the research food chain, doctors grab the more common stereotypes, and apply those typical symptoms as inflexible requirements for a diagnosis.  Many people who have FTD do not show “typical symptoms”, and so these doctors refuse to order MRI’s and PET scans, or the neuropsychological testing, that could confirm these presenile neurodegenative diseases in the early stages.  I was told by one self-proclaimed expert that if you don’t have emotional blunting, you can’t have FTD, despite physical evidence on an MRI of unilateral frontotemporal atrophy.

There is no cure for FTD and related disorders but neuroprotective medications do help to slow the damage from these diseases.  There are certain medications that people with these disorders that should not be on, certain medications that make their symptoms worse.

I understand that doctors are taught to sound confident and authoritative in talking to patients.  The idea is that the patient will be comforted to feel that the doctor knows his stuff.  The problem is that a doctor’s confidence in his knowledge needs to be based on fact, not fancy.  Missing a diagnosis of FTD adds years of uncertainty and unnecessary misery to patients and their families, over and above the depredations of the diseases.  And there are few things as disheartening to me as the aggressive ignorance of a doctor confidently and authoritatively asserting falsehoods.

Would it really be so hard just to listen?  To preserve some modicum of scientific humility?

Or maybe this humility is the means by which we can distinguish between the truly knowledgeable researchers and the lesser lights.

My words about this disease that is taking my life — robbing me of my grandchildren, and the world of the art that I want to create — come straight from my heart.  But there are so few who have the heart to listen.

A long time ago in December, I went to a bar, to listen to the words of a poet who was blind and hard of hearing.  He had another poet recite his poems.  All of his friends had promised to be there to listen to him.  This was a major event in his life.  He had never before revealed his poetry, what was in his heart, to anyone.

So the lights were dimmed and a blue light enveloped an attractive woman who sat next to the poet.  Her voice was like velvet and his simple poems about love flowed out of her mouth.   I was drawn into the poetry, my heart beating with the rhythm of his verse.

Then I felt a cold breeze periodically slip past my shoulders.  I looked around the room.  People were quietly getting up from their seats, stealing out like thieves into the night, slowing robbing the room of its humanity.  Then I remembered that another friend of ours, a poet who read his poetry every week at this time was reading his work  just down the street.  This section of town was known for the bars where poets read and people listened to live music.

After fifteen minutes, there were only five people there, the audience was the manager of the bar, a new female friend of the poet’s and me.  The female poet kept reading his poems and occasionally, she would address “the crowd.”  My poet friend continued to grin from ear to ear.  I wondered if he had known that anyone had left.  Then I thought perhaps he was better off not knowing.

I knew that if I walked down the street, most of the missing audience would be there.  I imagined myself chiding them for their transgression.  But, I decided, why waste my time in a verbal attack on fools, when a man was sharing his soul with us here.

About ten minutes before the session ended, his “friends” began to file back in as quietly as they had left.  Then she of the velvet voice said, “Before I read a final poem, I want to thank all of Bill’s friends for coming here tonight to listen to Bill’s poetry.  She rattled off their names one by one and they each squirmed a little in their seats or made some facial gesture, to acknowledged in a social way that they had been caught.

Then the poem was over and they all gathered around him to tell him how his poetry had touched their hearts.  I parted quickly not wanting to hear their gushing lies.

Alas for us who suffer these deadly diseases, there is no narrator in this life to name the names of those who will not hear.

Promising treatment for CRPS/RSD


I just read a post on Chronic Pain Connection about Promising treatment for CRPS/RSD.

I have suspected for a long time that my CRPS and other illnesses might be linked to an immune disorder.  Another interesting thing for me is that I was treated with IVIG which is discussed in the study during my childhood because I had severe asthma and recurrent pneumonia.  Another layer of the onion is peeling.

Also see Researchers Discover new treatment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

American Values and Health Care Reform


I just read an article about American Values and Health Care Reform and it inspired me to express my views about topics mentioned in this article.

The article is written by Thomas H. Murray, Ph.D.

He says “Most thoughtful Americans would have something meaningful to say about the values we should choose for the foundation of our system of health care. And by focusing on these fundamental considerations, perhaps we can deepen and broaden the discussion of values and public policy.”

First he discusses “liberty,” which I agree should be a value and a right we have regarding health care reform.  He mentions that this  includes” the freedom to choose a physician and the freedom for physicians to choose their practice setting and patients.”  I would go further to say that physicians should have the freedom to practice medicine in the best way possible to assure quality of care.  So many physicians are constrained now by insurance companies and governmental regulations that affect the way they practice medicine.

Examples of this are physicians who feel  like they have to practice defensive medicine because they are worried about liability.  This has lead to some group physicians practices looking at each patient as whether they might be a liability to their practice.  I experienced the outcome of this practice myself.  I found a young female physician who promised she would stick by me as long as it took to find out what was wrong with me.

I came to a follow-up appointment to find that she had already discharged me from her care.  She told me that she did not know what I was doing there because she had made it clear to me on the last visit that I should go to Johns Hopkins and she was discharging me from care.  I was very ill and I burst into tears and told her I knew that had not happened.  She confided in me that she had presented my case in a weekly case discussion, hoping to get feedback from other more experienced doctors.  She was told to “get rid of me,” and that I was too much of a liability to the practice.

Others such as doctors who treat people with chronic pain are wrapped in bureaucratic tape due to previous actions by the DEA and REM’s instituted by the FDA for narcotics that take away the freedom to prescribe medications for the maximum benefit of the patient.  Any chronic pain patient can tell you about the infamous “pain contract” with doctors and the hoops we are forced to jump through to obtain our medicine.

Dr. Murray discusses, ” Under our current system, a young entrepreneur with a brilliant idea for a new business, a creative vision that can create jobs and wealth, can’t necessarily follow that vision: if this person has a job at a large firm that provides good health insurance and has a child or a spouse with a chronic illness, the aspiring entrepreneur’s freedom to pursue his or her dream is severely limited by the “job lock” imposed by our current patchwork of health insurance.”

I’ve had personal experience regarding this situation when I was younger.  My former husband was self-employed.  I  had a few opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a start up coding consultant companies that began to flourish in the late 80’s, but I couldn’t even consider it because I had pre-existing health conditions that would have made it impossible for us to buy individual health insurance at a reasonable price.

Mycurrent  husband and I have constantly had to worry about insurance coverage since I have become ill. Due to the contract nature of his work at times, the actual company he has worked for sometimes hasn’t provided insurance. There was a stretch of time in which we were paying over $2000 dollars a month just for prescriptions.

Despite the fact that I have a terminal illness, I still haven’t been able to qualify for disability.  I’m about to talk to another attorney  about the possibility but due to SSI’s policy of giving strong consideration for disability regarding evidence of disability in my medical records for the first three years after I became unemployed, I have not been able to qualify because  I was first disabled due to a complex regional pain syndrome and we saw many physicians until 2003 when it was fianlly diagnosed.  This is an example of governmental involvement in health care benefits.

Dr. Murray also discusses values such as  justice and fairness, responsibility, medical progress, privacy, and physician integrity.    Should every American be required to participate in health insurance?  I have a problem when lower middle class and middle class people are going to be forced to buy health care insurance when they are already being taxed for Medicare and Medicaid.  Where is the extra money for premiums supposed to come from?  Many families have at least one spouse who is out of work.  The poverty line is around $11,000.  There is no significant special funded provided in this bill for middle class families.

Dr. Murray writes, “What are our obligations to ensure that the resources devoted to health care will be used wisely? Will a universal health care system provide for appropriate utilization of services while ensuring quality of care of all patients.?”  If you look at most universal health care plans adopted by other countries, quality of care has suffered dramatically.  Patients have to wait months to see specialists or to have surgery.

Two years ago, I had a large deep venous thrombosis and was in the hospital for a month.  I read posts by people in the U.K.  and other countries that were still having complications from their DVT after two years.  Some of them were still waiting to have surgery.

Dr. Murray discusses The Emergency Medical Treatment Act  which requires that emergency rooms provide treatment without regard to ability to pay. Have we done enough with our health care system to provide for human decency when as Dr. Murray states, ” According to the Institute of Medicine,20,000 people a year die for want of health insurance. Thus, one of the key challenges of health care reform is to make certain that appropriate care is available to every member of our community when needed.”

What is the definition of appropriate care?  With the current health care system many people do not receive appropriate care.  The problem with Universal Health Care is that “appropriate care” only means that everyone has access to care.  This country already has a shortage of doctors and with the initiation of Universal Health Care many doctors will abandon ship.  This will leave physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide for much of primary health care given to patients.  They will be overworked  and underpaid.  There will also be a shortage of people who want to work in a system where there are long lines of sick patients to take care of and low wages for their efforts.

Also, specialists will be more scarce and to try to save money, the healthcare system will prevent patients from seeing specialists as much as possible.

If you don’t believe me, read stories of chronically ill patients who have tried to receive good health care through HMO’s.  If you are a healthy person, HMO’s work wonderfully.  You only need to see a primary care physician and there is little out of cost expense for preventative medicine.  Chronically ill patients and patients who are seriously ill cost the system more money.

I use to review records for quality of care in HMO’s and I saw many cases of primary care physicians or usually a physician assistant or nurse practitioner putting off appointments for patients to get in to see a specialist.  Also, abnormal test results were often overlooked and not discovered until two or three visits later.  You will see with any program of universal health care that health care must be rationed so expense procedures and tests will often be delayed.

Dr Murray states, “But if everyone is to receive care when it is needed, fairness and responsibility also require that everyone participate in financing it. In its 1993 report, “Genetic Information and Health Insurance,”4 a task force of the Human Genome Project’s Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues Working Group proposed the concept of universal participation. Insurers who recoiled at the idea of universal access accepted universal participation as a legitimate goal. To them, universal access meant that healthy people could skate along without paying any premiums — until they got sick, at which point insurers would have a legal obligation to enroll them and pay their medical bills.”

Everyone can see the obvious problems that arise with that system.  Dr. Murray continues, ” Only people who expect to file insurance claims would voluntarily buy policies. A policy of universal participation eliminates adverse selection. And “universal participation” is a more accurate and inclusive term than “universal mandate,” which addresses only the individual’s obligation, not the national commitment to assuring that care will be available when and where it is needed.”

Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, recently invoked the Old Testament in discussing stewardship. ” When food is more than sufficient to feed all, allowing some people to starve is indecent and represents a failure to live up to universal moral duties.Dr. Murray writes “To Nichols, the principle concerning the availability of food in Leviticus should be applied to health care today: just as the gleaners of Leviticus should not starve, so people in need of basic, effective health care should not be allowed to suffer and die. Stewardship requires us to be mindful of the basic needs of others and of the power and responsibility we have to use the resources in our control to meet those needs.”

He says “Stewardship therefore requires that we pay scrupulous attention to quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness — or value, to use the market’s sense of the term. The evidence that we do not get good value for our money — that our health outcomes fall far short of those in many other countries, that regional variations in expenses do not track variations in quality, that our hospitals too often fail to ensure consistent adherence to practices known to enhance quality (such as hand washing) — is overwhelming. Everyone entrusted with the leadership of our health care institutions and with the allocation of our health care dollars has an obligation to be a thoughtful steward of those scarce resources.”

Will the government be able to initiate such programs to ensure quality of care? As I have stated before, there was  a program the government initiated through the Health Care Financing Administration that contracted a company that I worked for to do “peer review” screening of Medicare, Medicaid patients  by reviewing their medical records for proper utilization of services, proper coding of diagnoses to insure accurate billing and most importantly screening for quality of care issues.

I pre-screened these records for physicians and then the physician would review the records with potential problems.  In many ways the program fell short. Within the 10 year period that records were reviewed, fewer and fewer records were selected due to budget constraints and pressure from lobbyists.  I believe the fact that the program  existed did improve over all utilization of services and quality of care in hospitals.  Unfortunately, the government abandoned the program.

Also, very few physicians or hospitals were actual sanctioned at the state level even though some major patterns of poor quality of care were found.  Also, results of these studies as well as any quality review that hospitals and physicians do within their hospitals and practices are “protected” from public viewing.

The rationale behind this practice is that physicians or hospitals would unfairly be targeted due to unavoidable mistakes and that if results were given to the public, doctors and allied health care personnel would be less likely to participate in quality review.

First of all, I think participation in quality review should be mandatory.  The patient is being provided a service.  Therefore they are the true customer and deserve to receive information regarding performance standards.  Too many doctors and hospitals mistakenly think that the insurance company is their customer because that is who pays them.

Physicians say that practicing medicine is different from any other service such as providing tax information, car repair, etc. but the fact that they do provide a service to their customer, the patient, should allow for patients to be given information about quality of services so they know who may be able to best serve them.

I don’t think physicians should be penalized for every mistake they make but as baby boomers are getting older, I believe they would demand the same kind of service that they have come to expect in other areas.

I think that it will take a long time to  enact universal health care.  The government is trying to plan it so the entire universal health care program is not actually enacted until after the election of 2012.  But, I think people are already being fed up  by governmenal interferance and will not welcome even by preliminary actions because the country is in such a difficult mess as it is.

Dr. Murray states, “The bill likely to emerge from Congress will probably do a better job of moving us toward universal participation than of ensuring proper stewardship of our health care resources.”    Perhaps, repitition of services can be eliminated.  That contributes in a major way to cost of health care.  “Proper stewradship of health care resources?  I seriously doubt that will happen with a federally governmentally run health care system for reasons I have explained above.  Also, consider all the bureaucracy that comes with governemental intervention, constitutional issues and the program being able to work with state laws regarding health care.

It will be a very interesting endevor.

Visit with FTD Research Specialist


Monday, at 8 a.m. sharp I arrived at the office of a physician who does research in FTD.  Selchietracker as always my faithful companion accompanied me.  The physician’s office is affiliated with a local medical school.  I had been to other clinics in this medical school for various reasons and not been satisfied with the physician’s diagnosis and/or treatment.

I was willing to give this physician a chance.  He had been recommended by a person at National Conference for FTD which Selchietracker attended a few months ago.

After we were escorted to his office and we met the doctor, the first thing I realized was that I had met him before.  I had worked in the local medical community for several years dealing with many physicians so I assume that I have met him somehow in that capacity.

Unfortunately, because we are in transition and about to move again, Selchietracker could not locate the disc which contained my MRI film at the last-minute when we were walking out the door.  He did bring documentation from a doctor who diagnosed me at Johns Hopkins as well as the results of the MRI and other tests as well as her conclusion and findings.

He asked us what we wanted from him, confirmation of diagnosis? Did we seek  treatment options-he quickly answered there was no treatment, or  he asked, did we need further information?

Selch explained that we would like to identify what strain of FTD I might have and find out further information about research trials, etc.

First the doctor bragged about  their extensive collection of autopsy slides for FTD patients.  Apparently they have the largest number of autopsy slides for FTD in the country.  Well that was okay but not very helpful to me since I am still the walking wounded.

Next, he put me through a battery of neuropsychiatric evaluations.  Any of you who have had to do these tests or watch your loved one with FTD complete these tests know that it is no fun to not remember simple words.  I especially fear the dreaded count back in 7’s from 100.  I can never get past the first few, major mental block.  Or the pictures you are required to draw of the connecting shapes and a three dimensional square.  My pathetic attempt looked like the work of a three-year old and to add insult to injury, he told me he was labeling my work with my name.  Come on, enough of kindergarten.

Then he did the usual neuro exam.  I know the drill well.  I could probably perform the exam blindfolded without the assistance of the doctor.  Of course, nothing wrong there except his breath.  I do wish doctors would check their breath before approaching a patient.  There is nothing like being poked and prodded and having to hold your nose.

After the exam, we discussed my history of symptoms.  He asked a few appropriate questions.  Then came the true test. What about my behavior?  Selch proudly proclaimed that despite my other symptoms commonly associated with FTD including apathy towards activities of daily living , that I was still a compassionate person who understood the affects of my illness.

Despite the fact that the physician had not reviewed my MRI and did have ample evidence from a doctor from Johns Hopkins who specializes in FTD that I did have FTD,  he proclaimed I did not have FTD because my behavior was not appropriate.

Because of my problems and reactions to nightmares, he conceded that I did probably have Lewy bodies.

For a brief description about Lewy bodies see:

For more information about Lewy bodies and FTD see:

Selch explained to the doctor that there is a variant of FTD that has Lewy bodies.

The doctor stubbornly remarked that he had seen thousands of FTD patients (FTD is supposed to be still considered rare and it isn’t as if he is attached to a major FTD clinic, so did he mean thousands of live people or thousands of autopsy slides that he mentioned previously) and every single one of them male and female had a history of acting out and not understanding anything about their illness.

I told him that I could produce six people diagnosed with FTD who are able to attend a weekly chat and discuss their disease process.

He gave no response.

So, he wished us luck and suggested we send  him a copy of my MRI.  I think we will be heading to greener pastures.  We are moving closer to a well-known clinic for FTD patients so I think we will continue down the yellow brick road to meet Oz.

Because, because of the wonderful things a good physician does, like PET scans, etc.

I realize the best way to get a functional MRI,more complex scans  or trial treatment is to be enrolled in a study.  Am I willing to be a guinea pig?  I’ve been poked, prodded, scanned, panned, scoped, doped and have never lost hope since I was a small child.

I still firmly believe that there are many others like me that are out there but they haven’t been diagnosed.  Most neurologists don’t know much about FTD.  If depression and anxiety are the first features, then the patient is likely to do a lot of couch time.  I went to many doctors for many years before a doctor discovered that I had a complex regional pain syndrome, with a domino effect other diagnoses fell into line .

I was diagnosed with FTD because of Selch’s practice of smoothly prodding doctors to order tests needed to evaluate my condition.  Also, we have learned when presented with an abnormal lab result or other abnormal finding that cannot quickly be explained away, we will seek multiple consultations until we are satisfied with a diagnosis or have reached a temporary point where we have to stop until other doors open up in the future.

I love when we go to Manhattan to see one of my doctors.  While we are on the streets and Selch is rolling my wheelchair down the uneven sidewalks ,I always see someone with a poster that proclaims one thing or another.  I also think of those comedians who say, “Here’s Your Sign” and “You might be a redneck if…”.  I imagine rolling around holding a poster that says IF YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT HAVE FTD SO GET HELP NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A LIFE TO LIVE.

Instead I remain in my “sick” recliner, preaching to the choir.  Maybe, someday, somewhere, someone will find me.