Thursday, October 07, 2004

CBC, TSH, ESR, RBG, WTF?

Dr. Useless strikes again.

When I went to Dr. Useless a few weeks ago for my infertility referral, she figured she might as well send me over to the lab for my regular thyroid test. I have Hashimoto's Thytoiritis and take a low dose of thyroid hormone to keep everything in balance. The testing process is simple and involves nothing more than a standard blood draw. (I hate these, to be honest, but only because I am a needlephobe. They do not hurt, I do not pass out, but something about the needle slipping effortlessly into my flesh just creeps me out. On the positive side, this has been a big deterrent to my mainlining heroin.)

After each lab visit--which occur every six months to a year, depending on how recently my dosage has been adjusted--I have received a copy of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test results from the lab, which I dutifully file away for future (obsessive) reference, as there are myriad theories on which level is best for conceiving. This year, however, I got a photocopied generic fill-in-the-blank form directly from my doctor's office, not the lab, with checkboxes. This indicated that my TSH was "within normal parameters." No number, not even anything to indicate what those parameters might be. Nada.

More peculiarly, however, there was also a "normal" checkmark beside something called "RBG". And another beside "ESR". And another beside "CBC".

What the fuck does this mean? She has never tested me for anything other than TSH during these annual draws. If she wants to test for something else, we talk about it during an office visit and it is done separately. Such as when she tested my cholesterol and iron last year.

So, I call her office and get the nicest of the receptionists, which isn't really saying a hell of a lot. When I say that I'd like my TSH number, she tells me it's "normal" and didn't I get the results in the mail? I say, no, I only got something saying it was "normal" but no actual number. She says, well, why do you need to know the number? Though it's not really her business to ask, I go ahead and explain. She protests again, saying the doctor would be aware if there were anything wrong with my level. I persist. Eventually she caves: 3.88. Normal, yes, maybe a little higher than I'd like, but probably OK. Such a little piece of information, though; why on earth would this unsympathetic receptionist feel the need to keep it from me?

Anyway, glad to have gotten that hurdle out of the way, I ask about the rest of the "results" from the photocopy. What does ESR mean? RBG? And why was I tested for these things without my knowledge?

Ah, she says, perhaps you'd better leave a message for Dr. Useless.

So I do. "Dr. Useless," I say, "I'm just wondering about my test results. I got something in the mail saying I was tested for things called CBC, ESR and RBG. I'm hoping you can clarify why I got these tests and what they mean."

Later, on my answering machine, a curt message saying that "all of my tests were normal. Don't worry about it."

I pull out a few of my hairs and decide to start Googling.

Turns out CBC is (duh, should've known) Complete Blood Count. RBG is Random Blood Glucose, to help detect diabetes. ESR has something to do with the sed rate, which apparently helps to determine if you are suffering from various illnesses including pneumonia, a pernicious terminal cancer called multiple myeloma and--surprise, surprise--pelvic inflammatory disease. Is it possible that she intended to conduct these tests surreptitiously? Or perhaps just a mistake on the form; a pencil smudge near the checkbox?

I don't think I will ever know. Because I don't think I will ever go back to Dr. Useless. I've had it. I don't care how nice she can be, how quickly she sees me when I have tonsillitis and need Amoxicillin, how convenient her office is, what with all of that nice parking. This is just unacceptable; totally unacceptable.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dee said...

Yep, I hear ya. I don't want 'normal' checked off on a results sheet. Gimme real numbers, actual levels, actual test names. I want to know just.what.the.hell.my.body.is.doing (or not doing). Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is.

Maybe the majority of the general population prefers to be kept in the dark about what their tests and results are/mean, but don't lump me in with that dumb lot. I don't just take it on blind faith that all is right in my effed up bod. I mean, don't they know folks like us got our MDs from the Google medical school?

Hope you find a new doc who views you as a partner in your healthcare needs, not an impediment to them.

4:52 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Bug,

Sorry the dr. is so weird and secretive. It could be worse, though--I noticed at my first RE blood draw that in addition to testing the things they told me they were doing, they also surreptitiously checked off the "chlamydia" and "syphilis" boxes as well. I guess they figured there was no point having the "well, how slutty were you?" conversation if they had their secret tests to run! Better luck with the next dr.!

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not uncommon for docs to run other blood tests after they have drawn your blood. I'm hypothyroid & my doc has done this several times. However, they should tell you the numbers. It's your medical information. In fact, when you switch dr.'s, request a copy of *your* file.

Also, when you start treatment with an RE, they will typically do a full panel of labwork for STD's and AIDS. I think, dunno for sure, it's required by law.

Marla
the middle way

3:41 PM  
Blogger Chaugall said...

Hi, I don't know you from a bar of soap, but thankyou. My mum asked me to look up the things she didn't understand on the blood chemistry form and RBG was on there. So thankyou for having this entry which cut my search down...go figure, its the simple ones that trip me.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same here... I was looking for the meaning of CBC & ESR - Look no further, thanks for being so informative :) Like yourself I had these tests done and was told they were 'normal' however, unlike yourself that was good enough for me - even if i had solid numbers in my hand i wouldn't know what they mean so a diagnosis of 'normal' is good enough for me... i just wanted to know 'normal' in what?!

12:13 AM  

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