How and when were you first diagnosed with allergies?
They came out of the blue in my early thirties. It began with a sneezing fit and escalated rapidly from there to asthma. Initially my cat was the cat-alyst (!) but within a year I had developed allergies to almost everything. On the standard prick test, I’m proud to say, I scored nearly 100%.
What has surprised you the most about your experience with allergies?
Most surprising is that you can suddenly develop (debilitating) allergies as an adult. It is an extraordinary concept to think that a chronic disease can be triggered arbitrarily.
What’s the craziest treatment you’ve ever tried?
Acupuncture is helpful in the moment but not long term. Chinese herbs did very little, unfortunately. Least effective of all was the arduous business of self-immunization. Three years of dosing oneself with an allergen led to exactly ZERO relief for me. Ultimately maintaining a very clean, dust-free environment at home is helpful, as are hypoallergenic mattresses, pillows and sheets. Finally, reducing time spent with animals appears to be a mandatory sacrifice.
If there’s been a silver lining to having to deal with a chronic condition, what would you say it is?
I think the silver lining is self-awareness. You have no option but to listen to your body. I have never had a true health scare, so this forces me to pay attention to the way I treat myself, what environments I subject myself to, and how quickly the allergies can run you down and expose you to more serious illnesses, like pneumonia or asthma.
What’s the worst medical horror story you can share with us?
I’ve found the American healthcare system to be frustratingly opaque. Pricing isn’t standardized, specialists are always out of network, doctors are incentivized to upsell you, and the proclivity to treat symptoms with heavy medication (rather than addressing the root cause) can overcomplicate things. Case in point: some years ago, I had extreme nerve pain in my back and decided it couldn’t be anything but shingles. I went to a doctor, who told me it was even worse—a pulmonary embolism—and sent me to the ER for a CAT scan. After waiting for five hours, an ER doc finally came to see me. He asked whether I had done any strenuous activity recently. I told him I’d just driven seven hours without taking a break. He nixed the CAT scan, gave me 800 mg of ibuprofen and sent me on my way. The bill? $10,000. The most expensive ibuprofen I’ve ever had.
You’ve been a Sollis member for a few years—how has the membership had an impact on your life?
Sollis has been a godsend, as it does away with all of the above. Pricing is clear, attention is immediate, availability is 24/7, care is world-class. But, where it really distinguishes itself from all other healthcare providers is in its meticulous follow-up. Because allergists tend to get more run down than the average patient, all of these factors have come into regular play during and immediately after the pandemic period and I’ve never felt more looked after and healthy as a result.
What have you learned about yourself along the way—and/or the human spirit in general?
Human beings are truly resilient!!!