As a home community manager, Tanya Becker is used to multitasking while talking to residents, managing maintenance crews, and overseeing construction projects. But in early 2020, she found herself struggling.
“People talked to me, but I couldn't comprehend what they were saying. I had to read things over and over again," says Tanya, 62. “My memory was terrible. I couldn't remember anything."
At one point, the Bedford resident went to the emergency department where she was treated for extremely low sodium levels. But something was still off. Suspecting some type of deficiency, her doctor recommended she see an endocrinologist.
The Path to UPMC
Tanya took to the internet to search for a top endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hormone-related problems.
“I wanted to find the best possible care," she says. “So, I looked for a doctor in Pittsburgh."
Her search lead her to UPMC endocrinologist Esra Karslioglu-French, MD. Although she was willing to make the two-hour drive — each way — to the doctor's Falk Clinic office in Pittsburgh's Oakland community, she was relieved to learn she could schedule a video visit instead.
“I was thrilled. It meant that I didn't have to take a day off of work to go see her in person," says Tanya.
At her May 2020 telehealth visit, Tanya sat down at her computer and met face-to-face with Dr. French.
“It was just like a regular appointment. I could see her like she was in the room with me," says Tanya. “She looked me right in the eye and I looked her right in the eye. It was great."
Dr. French checked her bloodwork and reviewed her symptoms and medical history. Tanya learned she had adrenal insufficiency — a potentially dangerous condition that occurs when the adrenal glands don't make enough of the hormone cortisol.
Without treatment, adrenal insufficiency can be life threatening. But it can be successfully managed with medicine, although adjustments are needed at times to ensure proper hormone levels.
“Dr. French was very patient and explained things in detail. It was a relief to have a diagnosis and to know that it was treatable," says Tanya.
Tanya immediately began taking cortef, or hydrocortisone, to replace the hormones her body no longer produced. She also got a medical alert bracelet in case of an emergency.
“I felt better right away. It was like a miracle," she says. “My head was so much clearer. I could read, I could talk to people, and I could understand what they were saying."
She had a follow-up appointment via telemedicine a month later. And she'll continue to see Dr. French every six to 12 months to review her progress and adjust her medicine, if needed.
“I sure hope I can keep doing these appointments via telemedicine," says Tanya. “I'm not a city person, so it's pretty overwhelming driving into Pittsburgh, dealing with the traffic, and having to look for parking.
“Telemedicine works just fine for me. It's really no different than going to the office — it's just a lot less stressful," she adds.
Tanya's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.