GI Sue: Part Six in a Chronic Health Crisis

Sue Kerr Cats
Photo at the colony

G.I. are initials used to describe the soldiers of the United States Army and airmen of the United States Air Forces and general items of their equipment.[1] The term G.I. has been used as an initialism of “Government Issue,” “General Issue,” or “Ground Infantry,” but it originally referred to “galvanized iron,” as used by the logistics services of the United States Armed Forces.[2][3]

During World War I, American soldiers sardonically referred to incoming German artillery shells as “G.I. cans.” Also during that war, “G.I.” started being interpreted as “Government Issue” or “General Issue” for the general items of equipment of soldiers and airmen. The term “G.I.” came into widespread use in the United States with the start of the Selective Service System (“the draft”) in 1940, extending into 1941. It gradually replaced the term “Doughboy” that was used in World War I. Next, the use of “G.I.” expanded from 1942 through 1945. American five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1945 that “the truly heroic figure of this war [is] G.I. Joe and his counterpart in the air, the navy, and the Merchant Marine of every one of the United Nations.”[4]


I’ve been writing this series on my health under the heading “Autoimmune Dysmotility and Me” but that doesn’t seem like the best descriptor any longer. So I went for the pun of GI Sue with GI representing my gastrointestinal system and the feeling of being a general soldier. That’s when I looked up the term GI in the military and pasted above.

In December 2021, I had a horrific medical trauma experience under the care of Dr. Blair Jobe, Director of the Esophageal Institute at Allegheny Health Network. You can read all about it. Since that day, no one from his office has ever called to check on my welfare. They implanted a chip in my esophagus and never followed up. That’s #LivingProof of how you might experience healthcare at AHN.

It took me awhile to recover enough to figure out a next step. My PCP, psychiatrist, therapist, and my wife all met as a team to discuss – it felt good that they did that because trying to get two practitioners to even make a phone call is really hard. It also shows how worried they were about me. Collectively, we decided that seeing yet another gastroenterologist was probably necessary but this time, I would go to see my wife’s existing doctor whom I had met several times and knew to be a really kind man.

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Kind. After a medical trauma, people often drop out of healthcare because of the unprocessed trauma and the almost impossible task of finding a “trauma informed” practitioner. So I’m using kind as my baseline when asking for referrals.

Dr. Ayasso’s team was great. I called in early January and got an appointment in early March while being added to the “cancellation call” list. Then I received a call back from them – the intake person who called me went to the office manager because of how severe my symptoms were and they fit me in the following Tuesday. When I arrived, they had multiple cancellations due to COVID-19 so the doctor was able to spend over an hour with me doing an intake and assessment.

He read my test results and agreed with the second of four gastroenterologists that I do not have GERD and it wouldn’t explain my symptoms if I did. Whew. He was puzzled that all of my tests showed nothing abnormal. So he decided to treat my symptoms with simple options – a different kind of fiber pill, probiotics, etc. And he sent me for a ton of bloodwork. He wanted me to see five different specialists and said the bloodwork is what they would want so might as well do it at one time.

Five specialists sounded relieving and overwhelming. But it was a plan. And he was really nice to me. He said that he did not know what was going on, but that we could start by “calming my angry colon” and that should at least bring me some symptom relief.

I cried.

So that was mid-January. I came home with a fistful of bloodwork orders and the need to find five new doctors, well four because I already had an ENT. Find them and vet them to be kind if not trauma informed. Also find them to be taking new patient, accept my insurance (usually not an issue), and get myself to the appointments.

By early February, I had not been able to do any of this. OK, so I did post on my social media channels several times asking for suggestions. I called a few but they weren’t taking new patients, probably because that kind factor had made them popular.

I was more sluggish, not eating, and having problems with my sleep. So I asked my therapist to help me get a plan together to get this moving. The bloodwork was the first step so the doctors would have data. She pointed out that I had recently experienced medical trauma that was unresolved and likely one reason I wasn’t able to move forward. There was zero chance that AHN or Dr. Blair Jobe would ever institutionally resolve it, no matter the toll on my life. So it up to me.

Then my mother died on February 10, 2022.

I’ve been sort of spiraling ever since between the two issues. I kept wondering where the casseroles and comforting was and Laura pointed out that I wouldn’t eat the casseroles anyway. Point well made.

So I am now pretty sick. I thought I was maintaining my weight, but the big kittens had messed up the scale and I was still losing, another 10 lbs since the holidays. I am rarely hungry. I had part of a burrito Saturday night, a muffin Sunday morning and it is now 12 pm Monday and I’m not the slightest bit hungry. And I don’t feel hungry – you know that feeling when you have to skip lunch and you are just ravenous for anything. Nope. I’m not hungry and I have almost no energy to prepare food anyway. I know there are eggs in the fridge and I could eat scrambled eggs even without being hungry, but I don’t have the strength to prepare them.

My world is getting smaller every day between this, COVID-19, my grief, my trauma, and my anxiety. I don’t want to go anywhere, even just to ride along with Laura. I don’t want to visit people because I will have to use their bathroom every 10 minutes and that’s awkward. Plus, I might fall asleep on them. I’m angry at most people who have normal families.

My gut hurts all of the time. I broke down and bought some new sweatpants and they already feel a little loose even fresh out of the dryer. The trail cam at the cat colony takes a lot of pics of my legs and I can see them shrinking. My legs, not the cats.

Why am I disappearing? I’m frustrated because I can’t do the level of trauma processing I was before and so that recovery is delayed. I’m frustrated because I’m lonely, but also probably a bitch to be around.

The cats are okay. I’m still managing to get there daily, although I often drive which feels crazy. I don’t stay long. I have no idea how I’m going to clean the colony for the spring. Or trap. But they get clean water and plenty of food.

I wish I could have a lunch prepared for me every day. Day one a pbj, Day two soup. Day three something that goes into the microwave. Portion controlled. Easy to store and clean up. Not more work for Laura. It is the effort to prepare the food that often dampens my hunger.

This really, really sucks. I see the nice GI doc on Friday at 4 PM. I have a real fear that he’s going to send me to the emergency room because of my nutrition. So I’m trying hard to eat this week. What’s the ER going to do? There’s not a GI autoimmune specialist there. Actually, my biggest fear is passing out in public and being transported to an ER. ER’s are not great places for fat women with psych diagnoses and taking certain kinds of medications. I can only imagine what that’s like under COVID-19. Add a possible autoimmune disorder and its guaranteed to be a nightmare.

So if you know a trauma informed or nice specialist in these areas, let me know: opthamology, allergy/asthma, hematology, and rheumatology. Rheumatology is the most important.


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