Women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks: the COVID long-haulers of cardiology

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Ed Yong, my favourite Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer over at The Atlantic, wrote recently that, when he first started reporting on the medical phenomenon called “long-COVID” (meaning ongoing debilitating COVID symptoms that continue far longer than eight weeks), few scientists or physicians knew that it existed – and more importantly, many even doubted that it did:

“Some researchers still hesitate to recognize long-COVID if it doesn’t present in certain ways; they’re running studies without listening to patients. Long-haulers are growing frustrated that what is self-evident to them – that their condition is very real and in need of urgent attention – is taking a worrying amount of time to be acknowledged.”

That paragraph beautifully captures what women whose heart attack symptoms were initially dismissed have described as well – that sense of not being listened to during a heart attack that was “very real”.    .     .    .

Continue reading “Women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks: the COVID long-haulers of cardiology”

“Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal”

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

It isn’t often that I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. But sometimes, a dream or a fire truck siren or whatever jolts me so wide awake in the middle of the night that sleep seems suddenly impossible. When this does happen, I’ve learned that I can sometimes lull myself back to sleep by turning on my bedside radio. (Radios! Remember those?)  My old clock radio is tuned permanently to CBC, our national Canadian broadcaster. And 1 a.m. is when CBC runs the Public Radio International program called “The World” . I love that show.

It isn’t often that I hear something on The World so perfectly applicable to women’s heart attacks that I’m moved to sit up in bed, grab a Sharpie and the little stack of post-it notes beside said radio, and quickly scribble down the words before I forget what’s just been said. But this was one of those times.         .    .    Continue reading ““Be alert to both the absence of normal as well as the presence of abnormal””

Dear Carolyn: “I couldn’t tell if my pain was ‘normal’.”

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

I happen to have a pain specialist in my family:  my darling 6-year old granddaughter Everly Rose, who studies her assorted owies very seriously. She updates me at each visit on how every scratch, scar or scab is coming along, rating the pain that each injury caused her on the playground, at summer day camp, or while playing with Homie, her cat. 

I, on the other hand, am apparently keen on NOT making a fuss, no matter what – yes, even the chest and left arm pain that continued during my own misdiagnosed heart attack.

One of my Toronto readers told me recently about the time that she too could not bring herself to describe her pain as pain.  As part of my occasional “Dear Carolyn” series of reader narratives, I’m sharing her story here. Notice how many times she avoids revealing her true pain:       .          .   Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “I couldn’t tell if my pain was ‘normal’.””

Learn or Blame: when mistakes happen in medicine

by Carolyn Thomas   ♥   @HeartSisters

Mistakes happen in medicine, just like in every other workplace. As intensive care physician and president of The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) Dr. Samantha Batt-Rawden reminded us in a BBC Newsnight interview:

“If patients are looking for a doctor who has never made a mistake, they simply won‘t find one.”       .          .         .

Continue reading “Learn or Blame: when mistakes happen in medicine”

Panic attack – or heart attack?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters 

For most of us, feelings of anxiety or panic are occasional, mild and brief – the body’s normal responses to being worried or scared. I never thought of myself as a person who was prone to experience anxiety or panic – until I survived a heart attack. I can now tell you quite confidently that there are few things in life that are more anxiety-producing than being in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack. . .      .            . Continue reading “Panic attack – or heart attack?”

Women’s heart attacks (still!) more likely misdiagnosed than men’s

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

My interest in women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks began after my own misdiagnosed heart attack. Despite textbook cardiac symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, profuse sweating and pain down my left arm, I was confidently told: “You’re in the right demographic for acid reflux!” – and sent home from the Emergency Department. 

I know that, had I been appropriately diagnosed and treated on that fateful day, I’d have little interest in this topic. But I wasn’t. So I do.     .         .    Continue reading “Women’s heart attacks (still!) more likely misdiagnosed than men’s”