I’m not currently in Turkey. Instead of teaching my students or traveling to some Anatolian city nobody’s ever heard of, I’ve been sitting at my mom’s house in Valparaiso, Indiana healing all summer. It’s complicated. Here’s how it started:
April 25: I was feeling pretty good by now. No problems.
May 5: Orthodox Easter Sunday, I felt great. Went to church the night before. Stayed at a friend’s to get to the airport for a morning flight to Kiev.
May 12: Returned to Istanbul from Kiev. Never felt better. Got a lot of hiking done on that trip.
May 14: Woke up in the morning and couldn’t put pressure on my right foot. Took some painkillers hoping it would subside. I stayed home and rested.
May 18: After a private lesson, my student, Gamze, drove me to the Göztepe Public Hospital ER. I had x-rays and a consultation with an ER doctor who spoke English, but confused left and right (good thing I didn’t need any surgery). X-rays were negative and she told me to rest for a few days and it will be fine.
May 24: It wasn’t fine. It got worse. I now had terrible pain in my right foot that kept me up all night and worsening pain in my left foot and left knee. It took me about 20 minutes just to stand up out of bed in the morning. The worst pain I have ever felt. My friend Martin asked his girlfriend, Gönül, to drive me to the Kocaeli University Hospital, about an hour and a half away, where a friend of theirs worked. This is where it gets weird.
At the hospital, I hobbled over to reception and asked where to find the doctor. I was in obvious pain, but there was no wheelchair in sight. I had to hobble up the stairs to find the doctor, who immediately referred me to a rheumatologist. I hobbled back downstairs and across the entire hospital to Rheumatology.
Without even examining me, the rheumatologist said, “I think you have Ankylosing Spondylitis”.
“Please bend over and touch the ground without bending your knees.”
“What, do I look like a gymnast? NOBODY can do that!”
So I tried and failed, and she shook her head as if I had done something wrong before sending me off for x-rays and bloodwork.
Hobbling across the entire hospital and back downstairs again, we checked in at radiology, then I was told I had to hobble back near Rheumatology where the payment office is located and pay before returning for the x-ray. A wheelchair really would have been great by now.
After x-ray, I hobbled upstairs to the lab, where, once again, I was told to go to the payment office and come back. I pointed to my foot and said “I can’t walk”, but the nurse shrugged her shoulders and went back to work.
Lots of hobbling later, I went back to the rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis with an “I’m sorry” and gave me a prescription for all kinds of arthritis medicine. I asked her to take more tests, because I had read it might be reactive arthritis caused by an infection, and explained my symptoms after Egypt. She said that it was impossible and sent me on my way. I just smiled and said “thanks.”
Quack. That’s a pretty serious diagnosis to be able to make in 10 minutes!
I went home, decided to give the arthritis medicine a try, and go from there. I spent 10 days in bed.