My Journey with Graves’ Disease: {Part 1} Diagnosis During Pregnancy



I wanted to share my journey with Graves' Disease.

This will be a several part series since my journey spans over 3 years.

Here is my story.

When I was in nursing school in 2005, I had become 108 lbs. & was very frail looking. My doctor thought she felt some thyroid enlargement, so she ordered a thyroid panel & an ultrasound. Everything came back within normal limits, so we just assumed the weight loss was from stress of nursing school & working a full-time job as a pharmacy technician in a crazy busy retail pharmacy.

Fast forward to my pregnancy confirmation appointment in May 2010. My OB thought she felt some thyroid enlargement & requested I make an appointment with a primary care physician to have labs ordered. Since I didn't have any health issues that required maintenance & was rarely sick, I did not have one. So I made an appointment with a local recommended physician for an exam. They drew a thyroid panel in the office & informed me that if the results came back abnormal, that they would start me on thyroid medication & I would need to see an endocrinologist since I was pregnant.

The results came back & they were not what anyone was expecting. My thyroid panel was 7 times higher than the normal range. This CHANGED EVERYTHING. I went in for a follow-up visit & my heart rate was elevated. She prescribed a beta-blocker, but all of a sudden, the primary care physician did not feel comfortable starting an 8 week pregnant woman on ANY thyroid medication until I was evaluated by an endocrinologist. As a medical professional, I understood & appreciated her wanting to rely on an expert for treatment, until she REFUSED to start me on the medication she promised. After we found out there was a TWO WEEK wait to see the endocrinologist who REFUSED to start me on any medication until I was seen, she still wasn't budging, so I went to the pharmacy to fill my prescription afraid & prepared myself for the longest 2 weeks of my life.

When I arrived home, I began taking the beta-blocker she prescribed for my rapid heart rate. Within the hour, I had broken out in a rash & my tongue began to swell. I knew to take a Benadryl but being pregnant I didn't want to chance anything, so I called my primary care physician. She wanted me to go the emergency room. GREAT. I had never been allergic to any medication in my life & now I was about to have to sit in an emergency room for hours.

While in the emergency room, my vitals were checked & they just monitored me for additional symptoms. It's amazing to me how people react once they find out you're pregnant. All of a sudden you are leper that no one feels comfortable treating. I get it. Trust me. In this sue happy world we live in, I don't blame them because they're automatically dealing with two cases instead of one, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating when you are on the patient side of it. Since I wasn't experiencing any additional symptoms, I was sent home & called my primary care physician.

She called in a different beta-blocker since my heart rate was still high. I waited until the next day to start that medication. Once again, I broke out in a rash, took a Benadryl & opted not to call the doctor because I was NOT sitting in the emergency room again. It was beyond clear that I was allergic to beta-blockers. Period. So it was back to waiting on the endocrinologist appointment.

That weekend, I began having tremors in my hands. A few days later, I woke up with bed shaking. It wasn't an earthquake, it was ME shaking the bed. At first I thought I was having a seizure, but since I was completely with it mentally, I knew my tremors had just gotten much, much worse. On top of the tremors, my heart rate was at 120 in a dead sleep. Try sleeping when you feel like you're running a marathon, not easy. I was exasperated at this point. I couldn't get into the endocrinologist, it was clear my primary wasn't going to do anything, the emergency room physicians were not going to do anything, so my husband & I made the decision to see a physician he had personal rapport with at the local urgent care. Since she just left her private practice of many years, he knew she would do what was right.


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