There are days when I don’t know what I want to write about but if I just sit quietly, something will come to me, and today was no different.
Update on my progress before I go into today’s topic…to date I have lost 13 pounds and have put nine days straight in at the gym. I am feeling strong, energetic, a little lighter and the persistent pain in the heel of my right foot is almost completely gone. I’m not ready for my marathon walking sprees yet but I hope when the weather is a little cooler, to venture out into my neighborhood and enjoy nature.
Now for today’s topic…
I become really frustrated when I hear about people who go to the doctor knowing there is something wrong with them but are not taken seriously. It happens more often to women than to men. For instance, a young, seemingly fit, woman can show up in the emergency room exhibiting cardiac symptoms and because she doesn’t fit the profile of a classic cardiac patient, she is dismissed. She’s told she’s under too much stress, she’s hormonal, she’s hysterical, or any number of other dismissive diagnoses.
In my short experience as a WomenHeart Champion Community Educator, I have heard some horror stories. One story is about a woman who went to the ER complaining of chest pain and other symptoms but because she was slurring her words, the ER doctor assumed she was drunk and of course, was dismissive. Fortunately, the nurse recognized that something else was happening and insisted the patient be further tested. She was having a major cardiac episode that was hindering blood flow to her brain which was why her speech was slurred. If not for an astute nurse, the woman might well have died from whatever was happening.
Another women who was in my WomenHeart class at the Mayo Clinic was a nurse practitioner when she was pregnant with twins. She was showing signs of preeclampsia during the last few weeks of her pregnancy, gaining much more weight than she should have. She expressed her concerns before the birth several times but of course was told there was nothing to worry about. By the time she gave birth, her ejection fraction* was so low it was NOT COMPATIBLE WITH LIFE! Now remember, she was a nurse, one of their own, one who spoke the lingo, one who understands the human body and still her concerns were dismissed.
If you find yourself in a situation where you know something is wrong with you, you must either advocate for yourself or make sure you have someone who will do that for you. If you find the doctor is dismissive of your concerns or doesn’t allow you time to discuss them, find another doctor. Don’t be sidelined or marginalized by someone because they act as though you aren’t worthy of their time. Ask your questions and when you find out what’s going on, do your homework. Ask for resources you can study about your condition. Don’t rely on “Dr. Google” because that can lead you down some pretty scary wormholes. You need reliable information from qualified sources.
We all need to be partners in our healthcare so do your part by speaking up and being heard. If you don’t understand what is being said about your condition, ask your questions. Don’t be intimidated because you don’t understand medical speak. They probably wouldn’t understand what you do for a living either. Ask them to explain it a different way if you don’t get it but don’t just blindly follow what you are being told. Ask why they want you to take a certain path. Ask what you can expect as an outcome if you follow their instructions. It’s important to know why you should do what they tell as much as it is to know what they want you to do. No one is more invested in your healthcare than you are so be that person on the frontlines fighting for your good health.
*Your ejection fraction (EF) measures the heart’s ability to pump the blood through the ventricles with each contraction. so the EF is the percentage of blood that leaves the heart. Just for some perspective, a normal EF is between 55-70% and hers I believe, was around 5%. By some miracle, she is still here 17 years later and spreading the word for WomenHeart.