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VOICES: It’s OK to get more than one opinion

  • Stephanie Shinno

It’s been five years since I noticed my health taking a different turn. I went from a healthy lifestyle to one full of stress eating, event planning and no running while taking care of three growing kids.

When I turned 33-years-old, I noticed my metabolism slowing down, and I had to really watch what I ate. And I started getting back spasms when I was washing the dishes or even if I was just sweeping the floor.

On a stressful day at my last job, my health took a scary turn. Suddenly my skin leaked out clear fluid all over my body and my liver count was recorded higher than normal. My father told my job that I wouldn’t be coming in to work the next day, and he took me straight to O‘ahu to get it checked out by a dermatologist at Straub Medical Center. Proteins were leaking out of my system, causing chaos, and I needed to be stabilized.

It was then I started taking Dupixent self-shots every two weeks, and was going to my old physician for wellness checkups. She couldn’t figure it out, and just told me I had to lose weight. I knew something was wrong with me, and no matter how hard I tried I kept gaining weight. It scared me when one day at a parade when I started walking, my legs started to cramp up.

Following that incident, fatigue hit, enough where a simple chore at home got me sweating and my face would start to turn red. I thought I had some kind of autoimmune disease but I could not pinpoint it. People thought I just had a mental issue and needed to toughen up. But that was far from the truth. I was a runner, and not being able to run felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body.

My closest friends who knew me knew this wasn’t me. It had to be something else going on with my body.

While chatting with my friend, a nurse, on Facebook Messenger, she said “Your doctor is like your hairdresser. You need to have faith, trust and be able to communicate well with them. If you don’t feel you and your current doctor are a good fit, I think you should look for another doctor.”

After realizing I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my long-time physician, I decided to keep my ears open for a new doctor’s recommendation.

Last year, during the pandemic, my food allergies were getting worse, where I became a weekly regular patient at the Kaua‘i Urgent Care in Lihu‘e and had to get shot of allergies or steroids to calm my skin flareups on a regular basis.

The nurses and doctors at Urgent Care really are the best, and very understanding. I always crack a joke with them, wishing for a doctor to create a bubble for me. But one day, after reviewing my chart, the Urgent Care doctor told me about Dr. Rachel Ackerman from Kaua‘i Medical Clinic.

I quickly called and made an appointment. At my first check-up with Dr. Ackerman, I got the impression she knew what she was doing. She got all my referrals out with my rheumatologist Dr. Sian Yik Lim from Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center and Wilcox Medical Center. And she made sure to connect me back to my dermatologist, Dr. Mika Yamazaki from Straub Medical Center at Diamond Head.

On a more resourceful note, the best part of the pandemic was the telehealth appointments I used through “MyChart.” Once I made an appointment, the doctor would send me an invitation to do a virtual call via a text message or on “MyChart.” Compared to the many years of flying to O‘ahu to see a specialist, this was very convenient for me during COVID-19.

As a result, last month, after my first consultation, Dr. Lim ordered my blood work to be done, and the test came back with a new finding. It was there I tested positive for an autoimmune disease called Sjogren Syndrome-where salivary and tear glands are affected.

That made a lot of sense to me because my eyes were always dry and I felt dehydrated or thirsty all the time even when I drank a lot of water.

I also had been getting heart palpitations more often, which concerned me because, on my mom’s side, only a handful of her siblings live to see past the age of 60 because of their heart disease. So Dr. Ackerman ordered a heart sonogram, which I am so grateful for.

Dr. Ackerman read my test results, and she said my heart was firming a little bit, and one of my walls was increased where blood could not fill in normally in one of my chambers.

I did my own research and it made sense. No wonder I felt tired or felt like I was living in an older body. When blood can’t reach other body parts, it becomes a problem, and I was retaining water. It was probably why I had cramping in my legs and could not have the energy to run like I used to.

Currently, my dermatologist is working on getting me back on my Dupixent self-shots to suppress my proteins, but first I need to get a biopsy of my skin. And Dr. Ackerman has been very helpful in connecting the dots for me. She calls to explain what each doctor needs to do and gets my referral orders out quickly. In return, the other doctor’s office call me the next day for an appointment.

In good hands now

After five long, uncertain years, I am finally getting the right diagnosis, medication, support and care I need. I’m 38-years-old and feeling hopeful. As a working single parent, I am truly grateful. My 2021 new-year resolution and forever resolution is to take care of my health so I can watch my kids grow and have a family of their own. That is all I want besides their happiness.

Now besides keeping a positive attitude, and staying away from stressful situations, I am drinking water with slices of lemon around the clock, eating cleaner, including vinegar in my diet, or eating sinigang (a Filipino tamarind soup) to help activate my salivary glands. I am also drinking turmeric tea first thing in the morning and before bed to help with inflammation and, of course, adding more daily walking, daily meditation (control my emotions so I don’t stress eat) while taking medication on time, and praying.

The next health adventure for me at my age would be dental care. You would be surprised how important dental care is to your health, and how it’s all tied together.

Lesson learned

It’s OK to get more than one opinion. I know I sound redundant, but I appreciate what my friend told me, and shortened it. She said: “You should have a hairdresser relationship with your doctor — if not, it’s time to find a new doctor.”


Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. Ann Other January 13, 2021 10:50 pm Reply

    Aloha Stephanie, you sure have a complicated symptomotology, although it seems to have you wrapped around the medical philosophy of a “pill for every ill”. It’s obvious, no one is sick because they do not have enough medicines. There is a cause to sickness and malfunction. After all, what was going on in your body before you were sick? What was causing normal function was causing it. Remember when you felt totally alove and well.

    Although some people never do, because they may have had a slight neck injury to where their brain stem becomes their spinal cord, that is where the skull joins the spine, during the birth process. There is a literal turning of the head on the neck to come out into the world, into the external environment…ooops!

    Perhaps that other opinion needs to be outside the confines of the pill philosophy, or at least over to another more natural approach to your dilemma.

    There are 4 kinds of doctors licensed in Hawaii, and most of the US: medical (M.D.) chiropractic (D.C.), naturopathic (N.D.), and osteopathic (D.O.).

    You are well ware of the M.D. already. To briefly discuss the others.

    Some chiropractors are traditional and rely on removing spinal structural displacements that disturb your nervous system’s (brain stem and spinal cord) ability to organize, control, and coordinate your body’s cells, tissues, organs, and systems, some of which you are having severe issues with.

    The primary purpose of the spine, and its vertebrae, is to house and protect the Nervous System. The nervous system organized the development of your entire body within a few days after conception, the beginning of your life. The nervous system then organized your development over the next approximate 9 months of your growing into an infant ready for birth.

    In your letter, you have already talked about spinal pain, thus you are speaking indirectly of neurological problems. The nerve problem may well be impacting your skin, tear ducts, desire for copious water intake, and etc. Where spinal pain is, is not necessarily where the problem with the nervous system is. Low back pain is usually caused by neck displacement, unless of course a tractor drove over your low back.

    So Perhaps another opinion is in your future.

    Seeking opinion of a neuro spinal chiropractor may be of benefit to you. These type of chiros do not diagnose or treat your symptoms, but instead remove spinal caused malfunction to your nervous system to allow your nervous system to operate your body properly the way it was functioning long before you had any symptoms you described. The nervous system organized the development of your body starting a few days after your conception of your parents’ 2 cells, the sperm and the ovum; and coordinates and organizes all normal funtions throughout your body throughout your life. The nervous system when optimally functioning will restore your normal body functions so you are well and healthy without medications or prescription drugs. A neuro-spinal chiropractor may be of help to you.

    Let us not forget the incredible tools of treatment and different approaches to diagnosis, that is different from medical care, the naturopathic physicians have their extensive training in Homeopathy, botanical medicine, nutrition, and many are expert in acupuncture, as well as other natural treatments. Some of the first naturopaths on island with many many years of experience are in the Natural Health Clinic in Lihue. I have benefitted there from their care.

    We also have Osteopathic doctors who originally preceded chiropractors in spinal care, both back in the latter 1800’s. However, osteopaths have in the last several decades aligned themselves more with medical doctors and prescription drug therapies, though the osteopathic profession has treatments unique to their training that helps many people.

    So talk about another opinion, you’d do well, probably get well, to consult with every doctor on island. Good luck! We need an in depth directory and description of every doctor on island as well as other types of Health Care providers.

    And do not forget the Health Care providers that do that which improves your health over time and do not rely on diagnosis and treatment. There are many and many varieties.

    Of great importance is what you put on and in your body. Toxic, meaning poisonous chemicals, are everywhere nowadays. In and on your food, and in medications and prescription drugs. There are chemical pollutants in our air, water, and on and in the land from agricultural and industrial chemicals and pollutants gone wild.

    Even tiny remote Kauai is lathered on some parts of the island in Ag chemicals, but then so are our grocery stores with foods grown “far across the seas”, and to get them here is a chemistry set wonder?

    Stephanie let me encourage you to persevere so that you can prevail. Better Health is always around the next corner so long as you take the correct turn.

    Remember true Health Care does not concern itself with your symptoms or tests or diagnosis or treatments, it just does to you, or teaches you, or shows you how to be well and Healthy; a different approach, but a better arrival.

    Remember, Besides food and other things entering our bodies, like liquids or solids, don’t forget the importance of the adequate amount of and clean “5 Freebies”: Sun, Water, Air, Rest, Exercise. they form the acronym SWARE…so do it every day that you can.

    All best to you in this trying new year.

    Ann Other

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