Australian researcher Dr. Mary Dahm and I were emailing back and forth about her recently published study on diagnostic uncertainty in medicine (one of my favourite subjects, I might add – especially when it involves female heart patients). I mentioned to her that the Emergency physician who had misdiagnosed my heart attack as acid reflux seemed remarkably confident at the time – despite being remarkably wrong. That misplaced confidence is what researchers who study diagnostic error call unwarranted certainty – a contributing risk factor for misdiagnosis. But Dr. Dahm raised the issue of whether diagnosing is what Emergency physicians actually do:
I can still vividly recall the hospital volunteer I met while in the CCU (the Intensive Care Unit for heart patients). She told me that several years earlier, she too had survived a heart attack like mine: what doctors call the “widow maker” heart attack. That’s an ironically male-centric name for a heart attack so severe that it could transform a (male) patient’s wife into a widow. But what really struck me about this volunteer was that she was walking, talking, and most surprisingly – looking completely “normal” – at a time when I doubted I’d ever feel “normal” again.
Yesterday, May 6th marked 15 years since the day I met that woman in the CCU. On that sunny spring day back in 2008, while recuperating from a misdiagnosed heart attack, I not only doubted my capacity for normalcy, but I certainly didn’t believe I would live long enough to celebrate a 15th Heart-iversary. Continue reading “Happy 15th Heart-iversary to me. . .♥”→
Kathy Kastan’s terrific book “From the Heart” was hot off the press when I survived a misdiagnosed heart attack in 2008. Hers was the first book I found that focused specifically on women and heart disease. Here’s how her own story was described on the book’s cover:
“After undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 42, Kathy Kastan found her world shifting in unexpected ways. Everything – her sense of well-being, relationships, daily routine, even her body image – seemed to change. Doctors helped her recover physically, but she had to find new methods to recover emotionally and create a happy, healthy life.”
A number of my readers contacted me recently to make sure I’d seen Gretchen Reynolds’ new Washington Post article (THANK YOU, dear heart sisters, for thinking of me!) For those who missed it, I want to revisit some key messages from a tragic story about Gretchen’s friend, Anne – her hiking/mountain biking/distance running (also non-drinking and non-smoking) buddy. Gretchen described 61-year old Anne as “kind and capable, modest and fit”. She died suddenly last month. Anne’s cause of death, as Gretchen wrote in her regular column in the Post, was “a bolt-of-lightning heart attack” : . Continue reading “Too fit and healthy to worry about heart disease?”→