This woman: Dr. Camille Frazier-Mills. Of course I can list her amazing credentials and accomplishments. She has them all, and they speak for themselves. Here’s what you may not discover on a resume or a google search:
This incredibly skilled and intelligent woman radically changed my life and perception of what it means to be a patient with a chronic illness. I will never forget my first clinic visit with her at Duke Syncope & Dysautonomia Clinic.
I lost hope that anyone local could help. I was begged by my mom to reach out to Dr. Carboni, the pediatric cardiologist who originally diagnosed me and compassionately managed my health even though Dysautonomia is not his specialty. Per usual, he saved the day, informing me that Duke recently launched an adult clinic for Dysautonomia patients.
I still remember that first appointment, arriving skeptical, unwilling to hope that a new doctor might actually help me. I prepared to teach Dr. Frazier Mills about Dysautonomia. I remember promising myself that no matter how bad the experience was, I would not cry in the car on the way home. Instead, I was treated to a life altering surprise.
Not only did Dr. Frazier Mills know far more about Dysautonomia than I, she educated me about other forms of Dysautonomia I had yet to research. She hit the ground running, ordering tests, altering and adding medications in the most deliberate and intelligent manner. And while she understood that a cure is not a current possible outcome, she cared if my quality of life was improving.
Through previous experiences, I was trained not to notify doctors when I pass out. Too often I was informed that it is not life threatening or curable, so tough luck. No one before Dr. Frazier Mills (excluding my amazing Duke pediatric team) appeared to care about how this affected my quality of life. All others lost interest as soon as they concluded that I was not in fact going to die.
During the first few months at the clinic, I was still passing out at least a couple times per week, and during tough weeks, daily. I suffered a few injuries during this time from incidents such as passing out on top of a glass coffee table. I mentioned the frequent syncope offhand in a follow up appointment. Why offhand? Still, even in a qualified clinic, I had yet to relinquish the strategy of downplaying symptoms so that doctors and nurses would not label me “hypersensitive."
To my pleasant surprise, Diana, an amazing nurse in the clinic, consulted Dr. Frazier-Mills about the frequent syncope. After discussing, they asked that I message them whenever I passed out. Once home, I cried tears of gratitude. They asked me, a patient, to bother them with my symptoms. For the first time in too long, I believed that maybe, just maybe, my quality of life is worth fighting for. Maybe I deserve more than the “be grateful you’re not dying” speech. They earned my trust forever that day. It is not often that medical professionals treating chronic illnesses go the extra mile to solve a medical mystery.
This experience in particular demonstrated that Dr. Frazier-Mills and her team are no ordinary medical team. They are exceptional in knowledge, skill, and empathy.
They eventually discovered my pacemaker’s rate drop function was turned off by a previous doctor who was not familiar with my unique pacemaker settings. After correcting this, syncope episodes decreased to one or two times per month, allowing me newfound energy to research and experiment with alternative physical therapy modalities.
Dr. Frazier-Mills never needed to say the words, “you and your quality of life matter.” She demonstrated with her actions that I am not just another chart, another nuisance in a long clinical day.
She and her team fought for me after I stopped fighting for myself. I will never take that gift for granted.
If you are a patient without a specialist, about to give up and resign to your lot, mostly trapped in your house but assigned to be grateful that you’re not dying, please, do not give up.
You matter. Anyone who has the luxury to stand whenever they please has no place telling you that “it could be worse; be grateful it’s not life threatening.” You deserve a doctor who will fight for your quality of life. You deserve a Dr. Frazier-Mills.
I am honored to announce Dr. Frazier-Mills will be taking a seat on the board of Glass Body Steel Soul.
I hope to be more like her with each new day: intentionally, intelligently, and compassionately fighting for Dysautonomia patients.