Jeanne Droege, an Information Technology Auditor from Philadelphia, had always been a healthy person. In her early 40s, her physician noticed that her blood pressure was slightly high and prescribed a medication to help control it. Aside from that, Jeanne felt great – until one day in 2011.
“I was overcome with this feeling of general malaise,” Jeanne explained. “I had stomach pains and was extremely fatigued. It was definitely out of the ordinary for me.”
Jeanne thought she might have some type of virus, but after two weeks she still was not feeling better. So she made an appointment with her doctor. Though he was unable to come to a conclusion, he recommended Jeanne come back later in the week for a few tests.
Unfortunately, neither Jeanne nor her doctor knew that would be too late. Jeanne suffered a mild stroke while driving home from her doctor’s office that day.
“I was terrified,” Jeanne recalled. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. The feeling was indescribable. Luckily, I was near my house and I managed to get inside and call my sister. After she arrived, I had a second, more serious stroke.”
Jeanne was rushed to her hometown hospital in Pennsylvania where she underwent a CT scan and MRI. For two days, her blood pressure continued to spike in the hospital and physicians tried a whole host of medications, many to which she was unknowingly allergic.
After Jeanne was discharged from the hospital, her quality of life never quite returned back to normal. She was still slowly regaining sensation and movement in her right arm and leg due to the strokes and she often felt too tired to get out of bed in the morning. Periodically, her blood pressure would spike, leading to frightening pre-stroke symptoms. Jeanne was readmitted to the hospital six times throughout the year.
While in the hospital, physicians still could not pinpoint exactly what was bringing on Jeanne’s blood pressure spikes and her extreme sensitivity to medications created a challenge.
“Everything felt so surreal,” Jeanne said. “It was like I wasn’t even living my life. I slept the day away and I gained 30 pounds. I just had this unexplainable bad feeling. At my lowest point, I honestly felt like I could be dying.”
Her hometown physician had begun to believe her symptoms may be the result of anxiety or depression. But, deep down, Jeanne knew that was not the case. She needed answers and she bought two books, one about prescription drugs and one about blood pressure. She wanted to educate herself so she could better understand her health and ask her physicians the right questions.
While reading, Jeanne learned about a rare adrenal gland tumor that could result in symptoms similar to those she was experiencing. Though the chances that she had this tumor were slim, she felt the need to undergo testing.
“I learned in my research that the test for this adrenal gland tumor was something that couldn’t be done at my doctor’s office,” Jeanne said. “It needed to be performed by a very reputable healthcare institution with a wide range of expertise. That’s how I came across Cleveland Clinic.”
Jeanne learned about the MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program which is a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic’s 90-plus-year role as one of America’s respected referral institutions. The secure, online program provides medical second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 diagnoses that may impact quality of life or may be more serious.
Jeanne decided she should seek a second opinion about her diagnosis and symptoms before deciding to undergo the adrenal gland tumor evaluation. So she spent about a week gathering her medical records and test results to send to the MyConsult Clinical Operations team at Cleveland Clinic.
“I took the process very seriously,” she said. “I wanted to receive the best second opinion possible, so I was sure to be very thorough and concise when answering the MyConsult questions.”
Jeanne received the MyConsult second opinion report in her secure online account, provided by James Simon, MD, a Nephrology and Hypertension staff physician from Cleveland Clinic’s world-renowned Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute.
“Dr. Simon’s response surprised me,” Jeanne said. “Based on all the materials I had sent him through the MyConsult program, he did not believe I had developed the rare tumor on my adrenal gland. He did, however, believe that I might be suffering from Fibromuscular Dysplasia.”
Fibromuscular Dysplasia, also known as FMD, is an uncommon condition that causes lesions to form on the arteries. Because FMD often results in high blood pressure, Jeanne had been tested for it early on and her Pennsylvania physicians believed the result to be negative.
Willing to try anything and feeling encouraged by the MyConsult second opinion she had received from Cleveland Clinic, Jeanne made an appointment with a physician in her hometown specialized in hypertension. Two days later, she shared the report with her new specialist. After reviewing it, he wanted perform an angiogram to determine if Jeanne did indeed have FMD.
That day, Jeanne tested positive for Fibromuscular Dysplasia.
“I was floored,” Jeanne said. “I couldn’t believe that I was actually suffering from a condition that had been previously overlooked by my physicians; one that was affecting me so much for so long. I felt like Cleveland Clinic saved my life.”
Jeanne continued on her medication regimen and immediately underwent an angioplasty in her hometown to help widen her obstructed blood vessels. She still experiences occasional spikes in her blood pressure, but says she has felt much better overall.
“I know the journey ahead of me to manage my hypertension and FMD is long,” Jeanne said. “But, I now trust my health to Cleveland Clinic. I made an appointment to go there and see a hypertension specialist in person in February.”