I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that the Emergency Department physician who misdiagnosed me with acid reflux and sent me home despite my textbook heart attack symptoms (central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm) did NOT voluntarily report his diagnostic error to his supervisor or to anybody else after I was correctly diagnosed much later by a different emergency doc. Continue reading
It’s fair to say that you would not be reading these words had my heart attack not been misdiagnosed with a cheerful “You are in the right demographic for acid reflux!” Had I been correctly diagnosed, admitted and appropriately treated during that first trip to the Emergency Department, I would likely never have started this blog in 2009. Nor would I be still writing years later about female heart patients being misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack.
We know that women continue to be under-diagnosed – and then under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to men presenting with cardiac symptoms. In fact, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, female heart patients in their 50s and younger are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than our male counterparts.(1)
Here’s my latest round of true tales from women whose cardiovascular disease is still being missed: Continue reading
News flash! Yet another new cardiac study from yet another group of respected researchers has been published in yet another medical journal suggesting that (…wait for it!) women receive poorer care during a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(1)
“We really don’t need yet another study that basically comes down to: ‘Sucks to be female. Better luck next life!’, do we?”
Well, Laura – apparently we do. Because those studies just keep on coming. Continue reading
To the surprise of absolutely no women who have ever been misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack as I was, Dr. Mary O’Connor of Mayo Clinic claims:
“Women do not always receive the same medical care as men.”
Trouble is, Dr. O’Connor didn’t make this disturbing statement five years ago. Continue reading
Take it from me: the only thing worse than a heart attack is being misdiagnosed and sent home from hospital while you’re having it. And for women in particular, this is a tragically all-too-common reality. Research on cardiac misdiagnoses reported in The New England Journal of Medicine(1), for example, looked at more than 10,000 heart patients (48% of them women) who had gone to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other significant heart attack symptoms. Women younger than 55 were SEVEN TIMES more likely to be misdiagnosed and turned away from the E.R. than their male counterparts.
The consequences of this reality for women were enormous: being sent home from the hospital in mid-heart attack doubled their chances of dying.
Some of the most popular cardiac misdiagnoses that heart attack survivors have told me about include physician guesses like indigestion, menopause, stress, gall bladder issues, exhaustion, pulled muscles, dehydration and more. But perhaps the most distressing misdiagnosis to trip from the lips of an Emergency Department physician is “anxiety”. This one single word is instantly both dismissive and embarrassing. And worse, to have the diagnosis of “anxious female” recorded permanently on a woman’s chart virtually guarantees a definitive psychiatric stereotype for all future medical visits. Continue reading
- Get sick (preferably with a short-term acute ailment).
- Get an appointment to see your doctor.
- Get diagnosed.
- Get a prescription.
- Get better.
- Thank your brilliant doctor.
Now, here’s how to be a “DIFFICULT PATIENT”:
- Contract a chronic, progressive illness.
- Go see your doctor.
- Get diagnosed.
- Take your meds.
- Get diagnosed with something different. Many, many times.
- Take your new meds.
- Keep going back, because symptoms keep getting worse.
- Get more tests.
- Take different meds.
- Get referrals to specialists. Many, many times.
- Get more tests, more meds and more invasive medical procedures.
- Keep going back.
You get the picture . . .
© 2011 Carolyn Thomas www.myheartsisters.org
- The Loss of ‘Self’ in Chronic Illness is What Really Hurts
- When You Fear Being Labelled a “Difficult” Patient
- The New Country Called Heart Disease
- It Wasn’t Heart Disease – But What Was It?
- The Heart Patient’s Chronic Lament: “Excuse Me. I’m Sorry. I Don’t Mean to Be a Bother…”
- What Doctors Really Think About Women Who Are ‘Medical Googlers’
- Women’s Cardiac Care: is it Gender Difference – or Gender Bias?
- Heart Attack Misdiagnosis in Women