Tag Archives: treatment seeking delay

“Can’t go to my support group meeting because my husband’s expecting dinner”

13 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-1-45-37-pmI opened an email recently from one of my Mayo heart sisters. She had dropped me a note because she was concerned about a woman (a recent heart attack survivor) who had told her she really wanted to attend their community’s next WomenHeart support group meeting for women living with heart disease (this one was a monthly meeting held from 3-4:30 p.m.). But this woman claimed that she couldn’t go to the meeting – because she “had to be home to cook dinner for her husband.” Although her hubby was retired and at home all day long, the heart attack survivor explained that “he expects to have dinner ready at the regular time that I have had it for him all the years he was working.”

My initial reaction (after checking the calendar just to make sure it’s not still 1950): I need to go have a wee lie-down to recuperate from reading this story. Continue reading

Slow-onset heart attack: the trickster that fools us

19 Apr

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As I’ve noted here previously, there were a number of very good reasons that I believed that Emergency Department physician who sent me home with an acid reflux misdiagnosis. Despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm, these reasons included:

1.  He had the letters M.D. after his name;

2.  He misdiagnosed me in a decisively authoritative manner;

3.  I wanted to believe him because I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much;

4.  The Emergency nurse scolded me privately about my questions to this doctor, warning me: “He is a very good doctor, and he does not like to be questioned!”  (The questions I’d been asking included, not surprisingly: “But Doctor, what about this pain down my left arm?”);

5.  Most of all, what I had always imagined a heart attack looking like (clutching one’s chest in agony, falling down unconscious, 911, ambulance, sirens, CPR) was not at all what I was experiencing. Instead, despite my alarming symptoms, I was still able to walk, talk, think and generally behave like a normally functioning person, i.e. one who is definitely NOT having a heart attack!*

So it all made sense to me as I was being sent home from Emergency that day, feeling very embarrassed because I had clearly been making a big fuss over nothing.

My experience, however, might have been what researchers in Ireland refer to as “slow-onset myocardial infarction”.   Continue reading

Getting help during a heart attack: ‘delayers’ vs ‘survivors’

13 May

by Carolyn Thomas

If you thought you were having a heart attack, would part of you worry about being embarrassed if it turned out your symptoms weren’t that serious after all? Would you dread the attention of an ambulance coming to your home?  If so, you might be considered a “delayer”.

On the other hand, would you likely call 911 immediately because you believe that embarrassment passes quickly and without long-term damage, while a heart attack does not? If so, you’d be considered a “survivor”.

Check this chart to see which category you belong in – and then take whatever steps are required to move yourself immediately from delaying to surviving.   Continue reading

The heart patient’s chronic lament: “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a bother…”

15 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Two weeks before being hospitalized with a heart attack, I was sent home from the Emergency Department of that same hospital with an acid reflux misdiagnosis, despite presenting with textbook heart attack symptoms like chest pain and pain radiating down my left arm.  

At that first visit, I left for home feeling embarrassed and apologetic because I’d just wasted five hours of their valuable time. I felt so embarrassed, in fact, that I even sent the staff in Emergency a sheepish little thank you note the following day, apologizing once again for making such a fuss over nothing.

Not making a fuss is a valued trait for many of us strong women, but this tendency can cause disastrous cardiac outcomes when it makes us reluctant to seek immediate medical attention when we need it most.  Continue reading

Why wouldn’t you call 911 for heart attack symptoms?

15 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

The other evening, I was out for our regular pre-sushi walk with my friend, Patty.  She told me a dramatic story of a co-worker whose husband had just suffered a heart attack. Turns out that this co-worker had attended one of my workplace presentations about heart health at their office just a couple months ago, yet when her husband phoned her at work to tell her of his distressing cardiac symptoms, she did not call 911 for him (as I continually harp on to my audiences!)  Instead, she left work and drove all the way home to pick him up, loaded him into her car, and then drove him all the way back into town to the hospital.

When Patty heard this story from her co-worker later, she wondered:

“Why didn’t you call 911 for your husband like Carolyn told us to do?”

But it seems that this co-worker, like many of us, had acted purely on impulse: just get home and get him to the E.R.  Unfortunately, her decision to drive hubby to the E.R. instead of calling 911 for help is not at all uncommon. 

Continue reading