A maze of cubicle offices.


The disaster of my first alterna-doc experience

con men, crazy lunatic freak, hucksters, jerks, shysters

When I first realized that nutritional deficiencies cause health problems, I had a brilliant idea: I should get tested for nutritional deficiencies! The problem was that in 1999 none of the traditional doctors I had seen believed in deficiencies or that gluten played any part in health problems for people who tested negative for celiac, as I had.

My mother, ahead of her time as usual, had been visiting a local alternative medicine practice for a few years, and mentioned that they gave a huge panel of blood and other tests to all new patients. The founders of this practice, three M.D.s, had impressive credentials and had all worked for decades at high-profile medical institutions. Sadly, the doctor I saw was not one of them.

Because of my experience with this jackass, I was thereafter reluctant to trust anything any other alternative medicine practitioner (AMP) ever said. Although I continued to see other AMPs, it was almost always for a treatment I had already investigated on my own, or to have them order a test I knew my traditional doctor would fight me on. Only very rarely, when I was utterly desperate, did I ask an AMP for treatment suggestions. I haven’t decided yet if this was a good thing or not.

My first impression of Dr. Jackass was very promising. He listened to everything I had gone through and was encouraging and commiserating. “Sounds like you’ve made amazing progress!” he said. This was new to me — a doctor who didn’t criticize my experimentation or contradict my observations.

I made it clear that I had no insurance, which back then in the AM-phobic days wouldn’t have covered much of the tests or the appointment anyway, and a limited budget. He was sympathetic. I already knew that the tests and appointment were going to run about $800.

He recommended allergy testing, using that contraption with a brass rod you hold in your hand. I did that right after the appointment. I saw no correlation between the machine’s results and my own experience with food, including wheat or gluten, which the gadget said I had no problem with. But since this was all new to me I decided to suspend judgement for the time being.

After that, a staff member and I went over the ingredients labels of the supplements the doctor had recommended, about seven bottles of private label vitamin and mineral combos. If I recall correctly, they were nothing untoward — just basics like Bs, calcium, etc. and maybe some of the more common adrenal herbs. Mme. Staff Lady and I found that the majority of the seven or so bottles contained gluten. Of the three or so that were safe, I chose two.

Mme. Staff Lady left to ask the doctor if alternatives were available for the others. From across the hall I heard him have a TEMPER TANTRUM. He slammed files down and shouted that the whatchamacallit machine said I wasn’t allergic to wheat so the ingredients didn’t matter. Anyone in the waiting room or the large therapy room or even out by the elevators could have heard him.

Mme. Staff Lady returned, obviously used to all this, and proceeded as if he hadn’t said anything. Later my mother said she had witnessed the same thing and that the doctor seemed to have a 30-minute limit on pleasantness. “I think he might have a personality disorder,” she said. I neglected to ask why she hadn’t brought this up before.

At the follow-up appointment he was charming again. No mention was made of his crazy time. I don’t remember exactly what he told me about the blood test results — it was probably adrenal-related — but he definitely did NOT point out the non-existent iron, abysmal vitamin D, or shameful thyroid levels. I puzzled all that out several years later.

He had a few more supplements to recommend and left me in the exam room while I perused the labels. Then he popped in the door again and said something like, “This is just an idea, but a lot of people are getting great results with this.” He handed me a bottle of human growth hormone. The price on the lid was $120.00. Back then I didn’t know nothin’ from nothin’ about supplements but even I knew that you did not mess with human growth hormone unless you were a body builder or Sylvester Stallone.

At that point I decided to have nothing further to do with this outfit. I said, “No.” He shrugged sort of sheepishly and left again.

Once more to Mme. Staff Lady to check out. Once more a temper tantrum across the hall, but this time it was about some administrative task another staff person had asked of him.

Over the next several years, I visited a lot of AMPs in the area — basically anyone who didn’t list voodoo as a treatment offering — and I made sure they all heard this story. None of them were surprised, and several of them offered the same opinion: that the original three founders had a great idea back in the 90s, but something went amiss once they retired or semi-retired. In any case, someone at that practice was supremely inept at judging character, because when I heard that Dr. D—head had left, I returned for another visit, and the new doctor was worse. But that’s a story for another post.

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