The Price of Misdiagnosis-Part I

The Price of Misdiagnosis-Part I
| by Sylvia Reisman

Lauren is a healthy, athletic woman (age 33) and a business professional. She is a top sales executive and well respected in her field. Her annual salary, commission and bonuses amount to $120,000 per year. This does not include her employer based health insurance, health savings account and 401K plan (matching 50%). After experiencing stomach pain and bloating when traveling at a recent business convention, she found herself very ill when she returned home.

She had severe stomach pain, rectal bleeding and diarrhea. She is evaluated and tested via flex sigmoidoscopy by a gastroenterologist in her health insurance «network.» The practitioner diagnosed Lauren with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The formal diagnosis was ulcerative proctitis. Her GI specialist prescribed Asacol (oral medication) and Rowasa suppositories for permanent, long term treatment of her diagnosed condition.

Lauren always questioned whether she had inflammatory bowel disease. She consulted with a Celiac disease specialist two years after her original diagnosis and had an upper endoscopy which revealed that she was negative for Celiac disease (stomach biopsies were negative).

Lauren would experience flare-ups on and off for over TEN years. The flare-ups could be so severe (excruciating stomach pain, cramping, bleeding and diarrhea) that it would take weeks to obtain remission.

Lauren found herself unable to call on her client offices and attend meetings. Her condition and the associated physical suffering was severely impacting her quality of life. It was also creating anxiety about the possibility she could lose her job. It also put a severe strain on her personal relationships. Lauren was forced to leave her sales position after two years of suffering with colitis/proctitis. She could only work part time now and lost her health benefits, HSA and 401K plan.

During the next several years, Lauren had three colonoscopies from three different gastroenterologists, in two states. The test results would always reveal similar pathology results with a diagnosis of patchy proctitis and inflammation. Lauren always had doubts in her mind but had never considered retaining a Professional Health Advocate to help her pursue a second opinion.

Approximately 12 years after Lauren’s initial diagnosis, she began to seriously question her diagnosis as she became extremely ill. She noticed her symptoms were worsening when taking the medications that she had been taking for years. She saw a new gastroenterologist specialist to express her concerns. Dr. H told her: 

I highly doubt you’re allergic to your medication. We don’t like our Inflammatory  Bowel Disease patients to stop taking their medication.

He offered Lauren no alternative treatment or solution at this critical appointment. Lauren left his office with no direction or solutions. She ended up having the worst IBD flare-up she had ever experienced a few days later and almost had a colostomy.

Think about Lauren's suffering and being forced to leave her sales executive position. Can you place a price on Lauren's long term physical, emotional and financial suffering? Can you place a dollar figure on your quality of life? Stay tuned for part two of this series based on a true story.