Rose is now training for a big 10k road race on May 1st. She’s sharing this experience with thousands of runners, but few of them are likely heart patients like she is. Fewer still are longtime cardiac care nurses who have the chance to learn firsthand what being a heart patient is like.
I met Rose in person when she came into our hospital’s Patient & Family Resource Centre on the cardiology unit where I volunteer on Monday afternoons. She turned out to be a good example of how even a veteran cardiac care nurse who’s barely 44 years old can suffer from life-threatening coronary artery disease.
Yet Rose’s story of denial, delay and misdiagnosis will sound remarkably familiar to many heart patients.
She told me that, just like too many of us do, she at first put off getting help even as her heart symptoms increased over months. In fact, it struck me that Rose, even though she was an experienced cardiac nurse, had an awful lot in common with other less-educated heart patients:
1. She now admits, just like too many of us do, being in denial when she first experienced fatigue, breathlessness, nausea and arm pain while out walking with her neighbour during the fall of 2009.
2. Despite her advanced professional knowledge, Rose still waited another full month before consulting her family doctor about these symptoms – yes, just like too many of us do. This in fact is known as treatment-seeking delay behaviour – again, alarmingly typical in women heart patients.
3. After her doctor referred Rose to two more doctors, both of these physicians suggested that her heart was not actually the problem – a misdiagnosis that’s all too common for too many women heart patients, sometimes even in mid-heart attack.
Rose’s story has a happy ending because she was able to finally get emergency treatment to open a 95% blockage in one of her coronary arteries in time to prevent a deadly heart attack. And lifestyle changes like losing weight, heart-healthy eating, and improved physical fitness have since meant a profound boost to her overall well-being.
Read Rose’s story, which includes contact info about supporting her TC 10k team.