The International Writers Magazine
Lifestyles in Amsterdam

What’s up Doc?
Trista Mrema consults with her Doctor

or over a week now, my body has been covered in damnable hives and rashes due to an allergic reaction to je ne sais pas. My skin crawls every minute of the day; I have not slept through the whole night in a week and a half. My body is such a horror movie; it freaks me out to look at it. I pray daily for the power to rip the outer layer of my skin off without repercussion. I am slowly loosing my mind…I am tired.

It wasn’t this dire to start with. When I first saw signs, I went to the doctor the next day. In the Netherlands, you’re doctor is picked based on your neighborhood…I don’t have a neighborhood so I used my boyfriend’s. First, you have a ‘consultation’ with the doctor. I never really paid attention to that choice of word, CONSULTation; consultants do a lot of talking. I went to see Dr. Mulder in De Pijp. I’ve been in three different doctor’s offices already and the set-up is similar; a big office/desk area, something an executive would kick back in and then, off to a corner, dimly lit, neglected, unused, an examining table and some other doctor-y stuff.

Dr. Mulder opened the door and guided me past the examining table to his desk. Dr. Mulder, like the rest, was missing his white coat, his stethoscope, his tongue depressor thingy and his ear-checker with the light doodad. I guess, here, in Amsterdam, the doctors don’t accessorize. We sat down and we talked, well I talked mostly. I gave him a quick rundown; I awoke in the middle of the night, hot and scratchy and covered in hives. This is where I expected him to ask me to disrobe or maybe take my temperature … nothing. He asked a couple of questions and concluded, ‘you’re having an allergic reaction to something.’

Nooo, you don’t say! For every one word he said, I said 50 million. ‘What do you think it could be, what should I stay away from, what can I use to help the itching, how long will this last, where did you get your medical degree from?’ To be fair, he was having trouble with the translation thing (but that made me less confident). I felt like I was consulting him. If he wasn’t good at the talking bit, then I wanted him to touch me damn it! Put an instrument on me, take a reading, write some notes down! I damn near stripped for him after mentioning the hives on my legs and getting no response. Nope, Dr. Mulder did what they all do; he turned to his drug book and looked for a medicine to prescribe me. Fine, doctor, if you won’t help me, let the drugs sort me out. Before leaving, I had to pay a 26 euro ‘consult’ fee…I really think we should’ve split that.

He prescribed me Telfast, non-drowsy anti-histamine at 20 euros for 30 pills. Let me tell you, the only ‘fast’ thing Telfast did was waste my money…I double-dosed, triple-dosed to no affect. I was still waking up in the middle of the night and taking showers to quiet my prickly body…that’s the only time I found a little peace, in the shower. This past Tuesday, I called Dr. Mulder absolutely desperate; I told him that I could not go on like this, I was miserable, he had to do something more, something else. He huffed and puffed a bit, like I was being a pansy, but agreed to see me later that day.

He was more attentive the second time around, even though he didn’t ask me to get naked or touch me (I’ve never been so rejected!). He offered me another drug, ‘an old fashion one that makes you sleepy.’ Bring it on, I’m not sleeping anyway. He also suggested we get an allergy test done (that’s more like it) and some other blood work. I was to go to this center and get my blood taken in two days. What!?! What’s wrong with right here right now doctor? The center would call him in a week (murder) with the results and then he’d call me.

Why do I get the debilitating, cause unknown, illnesses? I’ve got that Labrynthitis thing that makes me dizzy and nauseated but still functional. I’d LOVE to get a broken arm or gunshot wound, that’s more concrete and puts you out of commission, none of this shit that weighs on me psychologically without reprieve of daily life. IT IS MADDENING. My last resort is to take my ‘don’t handle heavy machinery’ drug and knock back a couple Bacardi-cokes (very popular drink here) and have a ball!

While I may admit the US is a ‘slightly’ over-medicated society I may also understand why; the medication is soooo good, it works, ‘it will make you feel good.’ I think they give us good drugs so we can feel better, so we don’t call off work sick, so we work work work and fuel the machine. We’re also a country of candy-asses that don’t like pain and inconvenience too much, but Dutchies take it a bit too far in the other extreme. These folks came from the strict Calvinist religion (think Amish) that believe suffering is a healthy component of living a just life. Can I get some middle ground here (preferably somewhere warm)? I want to live a just and itch-free life.

I never thought I would say this, but I miss U.S health services; I never questioned their medical aptitude. Here, I read up on yahoo health before going for a consult. As the sun rotates and my curiosity grows bigger, life in Dutchland starts to loose its gloss, I’m starting to connect the dots (I’m not talking about the scabs on my back either). I’m starting to understand why expats complain about how hard it is to live in the Netherlands. Complain as they do, they still call this place home and so do I…until the doctors do me in.

Patience, patients.

So, you know about the itchy scratchy monster under my bed terrifying me nightly? Well, my bed is my boyfriend’s bed so the boogeyman is disrupting his sleep too. This damn rash is still with me but there are some new developments. I have had pain/stiffness/swelling in some of my joints: jaw, shoulder, wrists, knees and ankle. The pain plays musical chairs on my body, one day my ankle, another, my right knee. I am one broken down heifer. I called Doc Mulder to discuss further. He had the results back from my blood tests: every thing looked normal, so-and-so levels are normal and negative for any diseases. They did find I’m producing a high level of antibodies, which indicates I’m allergic to something. All they know is that I’m NOT allergic to house dust, pet hair, plants and other stuff like that. They canNOT determine what I’m allergic to. Dr. Mulder said I should pay close attention to what I’m eating, what I’m in contact with, to see if I can figure out what is attacking me. I broached the swelling issue; he does NOT think this is related to the rash but he said it was strange. He said that this can be a symptom of many different things but not alarming at this point; ‘see how you feel over the weekend, if the problem persists, call on Monday for an appointment.’

I’ve become obsessed with Yahoo Health. I’ve diagnosed myself with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis. My favorite right now is lupus, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks its own tissue as though it was a foreign substance. In North America, it’s more prevalent in Black and Asian women. I’m Black and a woman and while I’m currently not in north America, I was raised there. You do the math. Here’s why I think I have lupus; because it’s hard to diagnose, can take years to develop, has a wide array of symptoms, it’s cause is unknown as well as its cure. One difficult ass confused ‘don’t know where its coming from, where its going to’ disease…need I say more.

I scratched the weekend away; my condition has not gotten better, in fact, it has worsened. I now look like a comic book villain who accidentally fell into the wrong vat of primordial ooze and came out looking FUCKED UP!!!!! That’s me. My back looks like I was bought and sold; I came over on the Amistad with Kunta Kinte and kept Massuh’s bed warm but got fed up and tried to ‘gets me my freedom.’ I feel like I could be carbon dated, like, you know, you can tell how many years I’ll be crazy by the number of scars on my back…something like that.

I have to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks now; the rash has transformed and taken siege over more of my body. I’ve just got my period and I’ve got acne. I’m in a right shite state of affairs. Monday, I went back to Doc Mulder (do you have an XFiles moment when you see that name?) to discuss this new joint swelling of mine. He had nothing to say, he was admitting complete ignorance to the source of my condition. He finally decided to refer me to a dermatologist; I could go see them on Wednesday, when the hospital had its walk-in hours. Walk-in? Who’s ‘walk-in’ in? I ain’t ‘walk-in’ in. And, ‘Wednesday?’ Is he out of his mind? I actually said, ‘what am I going to do until then?’ He told me that appointments were booked up for months; he’d give me yet another prescription to hold me over. I kept saying, ‘ I don’t care about the itching anymore. I just want something to make me sleep (wink wink), to make me feel good (wink wink wink…WINK).’ I was hoping for something like valium, he gave me Promethazine…ooooweee! Promethazine is yet another antihistamine I’m taking for a spin; it works a bit better but still doesn’t knock me or the disease out. We’ve come to lower our expectations a bit, we don’t make a fuss when medicine doesn’t medicate. No matter, we’ll get better the old fashion way, drink and drug…that should hold me until Wednesday.

The Treatment continues here - read on and find a cure?

© Trista Mrema April 2006

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