Tuesday 18 October 2011

Diagnosis Challenge

My poor hubby Dave has been feeling very unwell.

Last January, he got swine flu, which turned into some kind of chest infection. Since then, every now and then he gets the following symptoms :

-Chills that make the bed shake
-Breathlessness/Difficulty breathing
-Chest Pains - across whole chest, worse on breathing in
-He is grey with huge black circles under his eyes
-Sweats so bad, the bed is drenched and has to be changed
-Exhaustion - like when you've just had surgery. He's been asleep for the best part of this week

His father had triple bypass surgery at 50, his cousin had his first heart attack at 32, he's had peri-carditis 7 times and when he was thirty, they discovered one of his aortic walls was missing entirely, resulting in major open heart surgery to repair it. He has high cholesterol and his heart rate keeps dropping from 80 to 55.

What do you think it could be?

Go on have a guess......


Yep, depression (?!?!?!?!??!)

Because he has a history of depression, he can't possibly be physically unwell too. The first GP didn't even listen to his chest (during either appointment)

I've seen my husband severely depressed. He can't answer me or relate to our children. He can't answer the phone or think properly. He's like a lost little boy stuck behind glass. At the moment, thankfully, that is NOT how he is.

I've known GPs fob people off many, many times, with many, many conditions, but I honestly thought the list at the top of this article were worth investigating. Silly me eh?


  1. It makes me rage that so much gets written off as depression - I did have depression for many years, and during that time every physical issue I had problems with were attributed to it. I recovered a couple of years ago, and have finally been diagnosed with asthma, and a herniated disc with spinal compression. The causes of my tight chest, breathlessness, dizziness, and pain in my back, hips, and legs.

  2. It's a common story among people with a background of mental health issues, doctors just won't take them seriously when they have a physical issue. Ultimately it's a form of disablist abuse which should have no place in modern medicine.

  3. Oh love, what a nightmare! It took me 3 years to get my MS diagnosed DESPITE it presenting in a textbook manner. I was told it was carpal tunnel (what? In BOTH legs?!), depression, a psychological desire not to be fat and, my all time favourite, syphillis. One neurologist told me categoricaly it wasn't MS simply by looking AT (not IN) my eyes.
    Sometimes we have to spend quite a bit of time in the company of a moron with a medical degree before we get anywhere. Be tenacious, make noise about it & keep going back, even when you feel you can't keep slamming your face into a brick wall any more. I wish you luck & I hope the answer comes quickly x

  4. WTF!! before I saw the D word, I thought I was reading about a
    man in urgent need of a heart consultation. Given the previous, can you not bypass the GP and self refer to the right doctor via A&E if necessary?

  5. Don't worry. Your next door neighbour or a kindly internet commenter will come along and diagnose Dave correctly with their magical all seeing all knowing X ray powers.

    We simply don't need doctors anymore when so many people can see sickness at a hundred paces with just a glance. Your doctor isn't an insensitive idiot with no skills, he's just practising for when he starts work with Atos...

    (But in all seriousness, that's extremely worrying. I really hope he gets a better response very soon. Fingers crossed for both of you!)

  6. Always call an Ambulance if it gets worse.

  7. I ran his symptoms though my comprehensive French IT program most of which are not even listed therefore they don’t exist! I have very good news for you there’s nothing wrong with him! il peut commencer un travail au salaire minimum l'emploi de demain!

  8. Ah yes. I spent the first 15 years of what turned out to be MS being told I had depression. Like you and Dave, I *know* what depression is like (unfortunately) and I know that wasn't it.

    You need to keep pushing and pushing for a proper diagnosis. The problem is, we have to do this pushing at a time when pushing is the last thing we feel able to do.

    Maybe next time he's unwell, go to hospital?

  9. I had similar symptoms. But I have a very very good GP. What he has done is prescribe medication that deals with the symptoms and that has 99% cured the problem

  10. Oh Sue, I so feel for you and your dear husband! I have ME/CFS, and I hear a lot of tales of people with same diagnosis being fobbed off in the way your husband has been. Am very fortunate that my GPs have been wonderful, always check out if I have new symptoms, as have done recently (new set of blood tests as GP thinks I may be Vit D deficient due to not being able to get out much). I feel sad that so many people have their symptoms dismissed in the way you're husband's have. Can't help thinking things will get worse still as the cuts bite. :-( Sending you both my best wishes and hopes that Dave will either feel better or get a decent doctor who actually listens soon. Preferably both!

  11. Sorry to hear that Sue, Hope he gets well soon.

  12. Oh dear god...I am so sorry about that, playing post-code lottery is always fun. I found I didn't start getting serious investigations into my own problems until I changed GPs, so maybe it's worth a go.

    Good luck!

  13. Ironically, use the out of hours service. NHS 24 here in Scotland ( have the tories abolished it down south yet. They don't have his notes so will look at symptoms, probably asking loads of questions first but could be a first step.

  14. Just a thought (as a totally non-medical person) but a friend of mine had almost the exact same symptoms and was diagnosed with pleurisy, she is on the mend now but was really poorly for quite a while. Worth going to a different GP I'd say, sorry you and your husband have had such a rubbish time with your current GP.

  15. That's pleurisy or pneumonia - your partner requires hospitalisation immediately.

    I'd also phone NHS 24 in Scotland: I think you'll be told to dial 999 immediately.

    Hopefully rapid intervention will have him back on his feet soon.

    On another point, so many carers also suffer from illness, incapacity or are simply run down juggling full-time work and having to do so much for the folk they care for.

    What support have those carers got? My full-time carer doesn't qualify for Carer's Allowance as his income is too high. He himself has type I diabetes and sometimes I have to care for him as certain types of insulin stop working thus leading to severe hypos along with hyperglycaemia.

    Hope all goes okay,
    Kind regards to you and yours'

  16. I'm utterly convinced it's pleurisy too.

    JohnB - That's exactly the point, nail on the head. Dave works so hard caring for everyone else, that he daren't be ill. In the end he gets so exhausted and run down, something knocks him sideways

  17. I am so sorry about this misdiagnosis, I was sure GP's were made aware that people with mental health problems can also have physical problems, especially after some one who had cancer and her GP misdiagnosed her with mental health problems. We are not immune from physical illnesses, can you change your GP?
    Wishing you well

  18. My husband was once told that his hernia was related to his depression. They left him on the waiting list for THREE years before finally fixing it, by which time it was huge. And painful. And it took a long long time to get over the op. In one of his follow up appointments he was told that 'it wasn't really painful. Patients with depression have a very low pain threshhold.'
    I sincerely hope those who made his life so miserable in that time get the mother of all hernias.....

  19. My long term lung disease does manifest itself in low blood pressure severe pain and hot and cold sweats but none the less i still get treated for depression as long term ill people acourding to most doctors are depressed so for a quite life you have to go with the flow especially if you are forever having to deal with the DWP

    So yes i am depressed some people may notice it and some may not i think it's quite normal for anyone who has led my sort of life i mean The DWP staff are the very worst bunches of human scum that have ever lived the life they have given me has been a living hell and I'm still living it and i may have to live it till my death how tragic would that be

    Hope Dave feels better soon sue :)

  20. Yell in the Dark - I think Dave has a remarkable pain threshold (don't tell him though, or I'll never hear the end of it ;)

  21. Sorry to hear of your husbands troubles sue. I would as the others say go to A&E and see what happens...you have nothing to lose after a doctors diagnosise like that.Depression well it may well be one part of it but if so why aint they looking at the cause and besides giving the symptoms the attention they so deserve.Go to a&e and demand some answers and then change doctors.

  22. We have used my wealth of medical experience to solve the problem ourselves. He's MUCH better already. Almost pink again in fact.

    Remind me why I don't get paid actual money for anything again?

  23. I hope he continues to make progress, Sue. *Sigh* you two have enough to deal with already.

    Yell in the Dark - what twazzock told him that?! Depression gives you an artificially HIGH pain threshold, due to *not being able to feel a goddamn thing*. I'm sure you know that, but I'm just stunned; did that person even know what depression is?

  24. It sounds like CFS/ME to me. When my husband first became ill he had similar symptoms, especially the sweats. He was told he needed a psychiatrist by one doctor. Flu can be a trigger for CFS.

    I'm sorry he's ill. It took my husband two years to get diagnosed. He saw a different doctor every time and one finally took him seriously. Don't give up, keep going until they HAVE to listen to you.

  25. Is CFS/ME a genuine ailment though, no one seems to know the cause of it?
    Maybe some people are just lazy and always feeling sorry for themselves?

  26. Cornish Maid with CFS/ME21 October 2011 at 18:52

    Sue - your husband Dave may have CFS/ME, but to get a diagnosis he will need to have had symptoms for three months and a GP will need to eliminate other illnesses. Please get informed whoever 'Anonymous' is (i.e. the one who thinks that people with CFS/ME are lazy and feel sorry for themselves) CFS/ME is a genuine NEUROLOGICAL illness with no cure. It affects 250,000 people in the UK. It is such a serious illness that people cannot work, have a family or social life and the majority can only perform up to 20% of normal life. People with CFS/ME are not lazy they are extremely ill. CFS/ME is not a lifestyle choice it is a debilitating, confusing and complex disease. The only lazy person is you Anonymous for not bothering to educate yourself.

  27. I'm not lazy, I have worked for nearly 40 years without much time off,ME is a modern invention.
    We all get fatigue and tired some time, we have a rest and get on with it.

  28. Cornish Maid with CFS/ME21 October 2011 at 21:00

    To anonymous - who thinks that people with CFS/ME are lazy - I was not implying that you are too lazy to work but that you are badly informed. How fortunate you are that you able to work and for so long. You are obviously very fit. CFS/ME IS NOT a MODERN illness it has always existed. Florence Nightingale and Darwin had this condition. The disease is actually more prevalent in Brazil, Nigeria and India than it is in the UK. The fatigue that you have is normal tiredness. The chronic fatigue that people with CFS/ME have is like hitting a brick wall and is accompanied by numerous other symptoms including pain in every part of the body and brain fog which means that you cannot think straight or commnicate. Anyone can get CFS/ME, maybe even you, as common viruses such as flu and glandular fever cause the illness. Indeed, when you have CFS/ME it feels as though you have flu on a permanent basis and even if you rest it will not go away. I worked hard for fourteen years. I now do voluntary work helping people with CFS/ME and have done so for the last nine years I do not get paid but fit any work around my symptoms and very long-term illness. I will say no more but hope that you have a far better understanding now than you did before. Thank you.

  29. Anonymous 12.43 - This is my blog. Say what you like to me, I stick my head above the parapet and ask for it every day.

    But don't you dare come here and hurt the people who read my blog. You know nothing of their lives.

    Shame on you.

  30. Sue, I am not hurting anyone, just expressing an opinion.

  31. A the "Gervais" defence.

    You are hurting people so go express your opinion somewhere else. Opinion dressed as bullying ignorance is erm, bullying ignorance.

  32. To anonymous at12.43

    I am afraid it is you who are clearly the lazy one. To offer a comment on something you clearly have not bothered to spend even 5 minutes researching is lazy and arrogant.

    Perhaps the latest piece of a mountain of research will enlighten you. Two thirds of patients experienced a major improvement and some a full recovery after being given the anti cancer drug Rituximab. This targets B cells which produce antibodies in response to a viral or bacterial infection.

    Go look it up (if you are not too lazy)


  33. I wasn't even talking about Cancer, I was talking about ME, lazy sods disease.

  34. I cannot believe that people like Anonymous still exist......the Gervais defence indeed; based sadly on ignorance. Obviously Anon. you havent known anyone who has ME/CFS so dont tar us all with your brush. I have had this illness for 25 years....worked for the first 8 years with it, being told nothing wrong through the lack of knowledge in the medical community. Do you really think that people too sick to work because of this illness would choose to exist on benefits that amount to 50% (at best) and much less in many cases rather than the professional salaries that our employment rewarded us with? You would perhaps be amazed (possibly non believing) just how many 'professional' people have been struck down with ME/CFS. Do yourself a favour Anon. and get educated....after all it may one day affect YOU or someone close to you.

    SUE .....I SO hope that whatever it is that your hubby has wrong with him gets diagnosed properly very soon so that he can get a PROPER treatment plan.