Nika Beamon is the author of Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House; here is a link to her website:
Q: What is Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House about?
A: Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House is a memoir about my 17 year quest for the correct medical diagnosis. During those years I visited 22 doctors trying to figure out why my body was suddenly failing. Most times, I was treated for whatever symptom had presented itself rather than the root of my problems. However, when my doctor told me I needed a surgical biopsy due to suspicion of lymphoma, I decided to take my health into my own hands and find a master diagnostician like the fictional character, Dr. Gregory House, from the show House, M.D.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: I was inspired to write the book by a co-worker who knew my medical woes and thought my story might inspire others. So, I opened my heart and my brain and emptied both on to the page. I think I ended up with a brutally honest and informative tale. It not only reveals everything I went through but also shares tips so others don’t have to endure my fate.
Q: Why do you think there is so much misdiagnoses in hospitals today?
A: I think there are a host of reasons medical mistakes occur more often. The length of appointments are shorter so both doctors and patients feel rushed; that means patients ask fewer questions, share less symptoms and are quickly told test results, often with little or no explanation. More people are going to quick clinics where doctors don’t a patient’s medical history and are only doing a quick exam. Additionally, increased health care costs mean the price of diagnostic tests are out of range for some people and are refused more by medical plans.
Q: What can people do to avoid having this happen to them?
A: The best thing you can do to prevent medical mistakes is to keep a complete, update to date medical record. You should also keep a journal of symptoms to share with your doctor, write down any questions you may have to give to your doctor if you can’t ask them. If you’re uncomfortable going alone, you should take someone with you who can be an advocate. You should ask for a copy of test results which you can check online. If your doctor doesn’t seem to listening to your concerns, don’t be afraid to find another one. Look up the best doctors and hospitals in your town based on your ailment and if they can’t help you, search the country or call organizations focused on providing awareness about your ailment. If that doesn’t work, contact the National Institutes of Health or the National Organization of Rare Diseases to see if they can help. Most important of all, never give up.
Q: What kind of research did you do for the book?
A: Researching my book was easy because I’d actually been researching autoimmune diseases for years. I did reach out to other authors who had written about various illnesses, as well as Dr. Robert Lahita, who had also contributed to the bestseller Brain on Fire. Dr. Lahita reminded me to educate people more about my condition and told me how complicated diagnosing autoimmune diseases can be for doctors.
Q: What issues in health care would you like to see the mainstream media cover that they are not covering at this time?
A: I think the media often glosses over the fact that medical misdiagnosis now is the third leading cause of death in the US, claiming about 400,000 people each year. Even when people are told this they aren’t given the skills to avoid it.
Q: Who are some of your writing influences?
A: Actually both of my parents are fantastic writers so that was an early influence. As I entered high school, I became a fan of poetry. I tend to like more true stories so I read a lot of memoirs.
Q: What have you done to promote your book?
A: When I began promoting my book, I started with traditional reviews in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, IndieReader, etc… Then, I expanded out to blogs and online radio shows. Eventually, I began writing blog posts for the Huffington Post.
Q: What sort of job do you have and how was it influenced by your medical problems?
A: I am a TV News Writer/Producer at the number one local news station in New York so I write for a living. I’ve been sick since I was 17 so I’ve always coped with a trying to build a career in a highly stressful and damaging industry. Early on, other than the fact that I took pills, it was easy to hide my condition. However, as I’ve gotten sicker and procedures have become more frequent I had to tell my co-workers about it. Usually, I use my vacation time to cover medical leaves. Otherwise, I work as long and as hard as my healthier colleagues. I’m certain my illness has stopped me from pursuing my responsibility at work but as I age, I realized that’s a blessing in disguise.
Q: Are there any laws that you would like to see changed or enacted that would pertain to doctors misdiagnosing patients?
A: I don’t think a law is the answer to the problem. I think making sure doctors are taught to have a bedside manner, take more time with patients and to err on the side of caution would be best.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)