On mom’s old computer I found a file dated May 15th, 2006 named Dr. Akey 5-25-06.doc.1 It’s clearly a letter to her doctor. We always joked that mom was a hypochondriac, primarily because she spent so much of her youth living upstairs from a funeral home and surrounded by death and stories of it. The letter is painful to read; it’s clear that she was desperate for some sort of help.

I know that she had health insurance when she wrote this, which makes it even more frustrating.


May 15, 2006

Dear Dr. Akey,

I’m writing this so that you can understand how I feel about my health right now.
I’m doing it in the form of a timeline because I hope that you will be able to tell my when I might start to feel better.

October 2, 2005
I went to Orlando for training in Conflict Resolution. The weather was cold and wet the whole first day. People in the training had colds. My daughter came with me, and we stayed in a hotel that was being renovated. Lots of dust and noise.

On the 3rd, we went to Downtown Disney and had a great time. By the time I got home, I had the broncho-spasms you diagnosed early on.

I think you gave me a Z-Pak which I took, but I kept getting worse. I was missing work (6 days) because I was so exhausted and having trouble breathing. I felt a little better for a few days with the antibiotic, but I got worse again within a couple of weeks.

I worked really hard in December to develop a grant proposal for the program I run, but I was totally exhausted and still having breathing problems. At some point in December, I think, you gave me a nebulizer, and prescribed Xopenex, and one other one to use with it. You also gave me Advair. . You said I had atypical pneumonia.

I don’t know if you can understand how awful I felt for those first couple of months. I had no energy, barely made it to work, and I couldn’t think because I was so uncomfortable. I believe it was in January that you said the Advair had damaged the lining of my esophagus and sent me to Dr. Punja. He said my lungs were fine but agreed about the esophagus. One of you gave me Aciphex, but it didn’t help with the burning in my throat or my stomach.

I had never had acid reflux of any kind. Prior to that time, I had probably purchased no more than 3 or 4 small packages of TUMS in 20 years, and I rarely has more than one or two out of the packet.

You gave me Nexium, which I took, and told me to use Maalox as needed which I did. Neither gave me any relief. I couldn’t eat the foods that are good for my weight because they are more difficult to digest, so I continued to gain weight. I had no energy to walk or exercise.

I had Spring Break and did virtually nothing. I felt awful. I felt, in fact, as if my throat was getting worse. At the end of April, I went on my long-anticipated trip to Los Angeles. I went with some trepidation because I didn’t feel very well. When I got off the first plane, I could hardly walk and was shaking from going up the ramp to the terminal.

I managed to have fun with my kids and my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, but I had the burning sensation all the time, my left ankle was swollen a significant part of the time, and I couldn’t really enjoy my food.

By the time I got home, my throat was both burning and aching. My head was stuffed, and I knew it was from more than just the plane. I missed my first day back at work, and worked only part of the day on the Friday.

I spent the next week going in late and leaving early and feeling sicker and sicker.

I really need to know what can be done about the damage to my esophagus. That’s a huge problem, especially combined with the cold I’m dealing with. This has been going on for seven months.

When I came in last week, you listened to my chest and said I had broncho-spasms again, but you didn’t realize that I had a raging head cold until I pointed it out to you. Then you gave me the Ketek and told me that I should come back in two weeks if I wasn’t 100%.

I have one more day of the Ketek, and I feel only marginally better. My ears are no longer plugged all the time, and I am not sneezing or coughing as much.


If you have some thoughts about this, please let me know. I can’t tell you how awful I feel. I was even wondering if I had something like thrush in my throat. I’m functioning at about 30% right now. I’m missing work. And, beginning May 16, this will be the busiest time of the year for me.

What can I do?

Kathie Gagne


1 I don’t know if it is a typo in the filename or if she waited ten days to send it, or what the story is there with that discrepancy.