Jennifer's Story - A Primary Care Doctor Saved Her Life
She nearly lost it all. But she gained a partner in health.
Jennifer Merrell lost her health, her relationship and her career — all because of a disease she didn’t even know she had. With dwindling health and no one to believe her, this mother of two felt like she had lost control of her life. That all changed when a Community caregiver simply gave her a listening ear.
The transformation was shocking. Once an avid athlete and Pilates instructor, Jennifer was now living a life she didn’t recognize. What started as numbness in her fingers soon progressed to fatigue, difficulty breathing and debilitating joint pain. Even standing up in the shower and washing her hair became too painful for the woman who used to work out six times a week.
After months of suffering, Jennifer brought her fears to a doctor at another local practice. Even with photographic evidence of her symptoms, her doctor didn’t believe her. Rather than running tests, the doctor prescribed a series of antidepressants and sent Jennifer back to her daily struggle. The pills only made her feel worse, and she began having thoughts of suicide.
No matter how bad she felt, Jennifer still pushed herself to live a normal life. Nothing could stop her from a long-planned trip to France to celebrate her son’s senior year spring break. But in Paris, her health took a turn for the worse.
Simply walking the streets became a challenge, and her sons had to help her stay upright. Jennifer was now severely underweight and vomiting regularly. Strangers on the metro worried for her safety, and the conductor stopped the train to ask if she needed a medic.
Jennifer had planned this trip for 6 years, but missed most of the sights so she could rest at their rented apartment. By day three of the vacation, she was completely wheelchair bound, unable to stand on her own.
At age 45 Jennifer thought her life was over. She didn’t think she would make it back home alive, and asked her family to prepare for the worst. Thankfully, the course of Jennifer’s life changed when she spoke with Dr. Tara Land, a family medicine doctor at Community.
Find a Listening Ear
“I needed to know what somebody was going to save me from dying,” says Jennifer. “I told Dr. Land that something was killing me from the inside, and it was the first time that somebody believed me.”
<>Jennifer’s fall from health was frightening. But what’s even more frightening is that the first doctor she saw simply ignored her cries for help. It’s an all-too-common story, and one that can have dire consequences for people like Jennifer.
When you see a primary care provider at Community, your words never fall on deaf ears. “Physical exams can tell us a lot,” says Dr. Land, “but listening to the patient is just as important.”
Find an Advocate
After seeing her symptoms in person, Dr. Land insisted that Jennifer go to the ER at Community Hospital North. There she was put in touch with specialists who could make an informed diagnosis.
“Dr. Land advocated for my health every step of the way,” says Jennifer. “At the ER they rallied forces from all different specialties to work together to figure out what was happening. That’s important, to have the top people at your fingertips.”
When the diagnosis of Addison’s disease came, Jennifer finally had a name for the symptoms that threatened her life. And more importantly, she had a plan to face it. What began with a simple conversation with a primary care physician became a path to reclaim her quality of life.
Find a Path Forward
Addison’s disease is a life-threatening hormonal imbalance. With a steroid treatment plan in place, Jennifer’s health didn’t just return to normal — her life did, too.
“I got lucky,” says Jennifer. “Dr. Land believed me. Dr. Baroudi had a hunch and called in the next set of forces. And Dr. Perry helped me stay alive.”
Whether you’re facing a serious disease or just going about your daily life, a primary care physician is the partner you want at your side. They can help create a personalized plan of care unique to your life, so you can keep doing the things you love.
You’ve seen what primary care services did for Jennifer. Now see what they can do for you. Find a partner for your health at Community.