Quite often it does take a while to get the first rheumotologist appointment. You can ask the office to put you on a wait list, so that if anyone cancels they'll call you.
Delaying treatment or diagnosis will not cause permanent joint damage -- but maybe the first doctor could extend the prednisone treatment a bit longer? How much was she given?
Often diagnosis takes a long time or does not come at all since this disease has so many different ways of presenting itself -- a good dr will treat the symptoms immediately anyway. Only a lupus-aware rheumy can make the final "Lupus" dx. Lupus is often called the disease of 10,000 faces.
I suggest checking with www.lupus.org
to find your local chapter, then check with them to see if the rhuemy you've chosen is active locally -- the ones who really know how to dx and treat are usually connected to the group!
Hope that helps, welcome to the forum, and post more questions as they arise!
(See the Lupus Resources post at the top of the page for tips on how/what to prepare for the rheumy visit.)
Lynnwood, Lupus & Sjogren's Moderator
Life is far too important to be taken seriously. - Oscar Wilde, 1882