Navigating Rheumatology

I should be asleep but I’m not. I’m usually not asleep when I should be. Tonight I’m not asleep because I have been stricken with terrible heartburn causing my esophagus to feel as though stomach acid will melt straight through my chest wall. I suspect I have gastritis again from taking pain meds.

Another day, another illness.

I was looking forward to visiting the rheumatologist next week. Cortisone shots relieve the back pain I’ve been plagued with for weeks now. The rheumatologist retired at the end of July, however. Surprise! His office contacted me today to let me know he retired last month and to cancel my appointment.

To get a new rheumatologist, I need to visit my PCP, get a referral, attempt to get in an “approved” rheumatology practice (which almost never happens), get a letter from the “approved” offices stating they’re not accepting new patients, submit the letter to the insurance, and find an “un-approved” rheumatologist accepting new patients. This process takes months. I don’t know how other people navigate the system. What if I were elderly, less tenacious, sicker, or less intelligent? Would I just go without treatment?

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