Friday, May 18, 2007

Serving Up Adrenal Insufficiency, "ER" Style

By now you know I am a collector of rare conditions--sure, people have heard of celiac disease or thyroid disease or various other members of my medical repertoire, but in all my faithful years of watching medical drama--ER, Grey's Anatomy, etc--I've yet to see anyone with PCD or bronchiectasis stroll through the swinging doors of the set. True, I don't catch each and every show, but I still feel pretty confident that for however varied and creative the ailments shown are, none of them belong to me.

Enter last night's season finale of "ER." After steadily declining for several hours in the ER, a hypertensive woman was on the verge of dying when the new chief of staff sauntered into the room and, while the other docs scrambled around, calmly plunged a nameless clear liquid into her IV line. Within seconds, the heart rate monitors stopped their urgent beeping and the woman opened her eyes. Crisis averted.

The doctor refuses to tell the others what the mystery medicine was until the end of the show. As he berates them about their shoddy job taking the woman's medical history, he mentions the woman had been on steroids to treat a bronchospasm two weeks earlier.

I knew right where he was going with this one.

The hormones suppressed her system, and her adrenals crashed. The character of Dr. Abby Lockhart responded by saying adrenal insuffiency was so rare, as if since it was something they never see they weren't accountable for not connecting the dots.

Welcome to my world. I was a little bit excited to see my adrenal issues get some TV time--the only other mention I've seen of adrenal problems was that awful Honda truck commercial where the guy suffers from adrenalitis, only to be cured by a brand new red truck, obviously.

But I also had a tiny bit of sympathy for the doctors who scrambled to figure out what was wrong with me three long years ago when I showed up unable to walk or even move my lips to speak...and a whole lot of gratitude for my rheumatologist, who figured it out as soon as she saw me.
 
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