“Yes, a tight band of severe pain across my chest on the least exertion — going to get a cup a tea can cause it. Feels like your lungs feel in extreme cold when you have bronchitis and you take a deep breath. Significant pain and then I have to lie down for it to resolve.”
The doctor came in after a bit and explained things more thoroughly with this new audience, teaching while not listening, rather than just not listening.
We talked for a while. And then the bottom line, as the doctor talked to the med student.
“What we really are dealing with here is anxiety. Because it is anxiety that would take her to the ER on a Saturday with what might be a blood clot. Most people would wait until Monday and call here to get an appointment, but she went to the ER. This is just anxiety we need to be treating.” …
It happened in the big snowstorm of ’16, being picked up by firemen and transported over snow and ice to an ambulance that couldn’t get to our house in the snow. And then into an ER, elevated troponin levels, T-wave inversions on my EKG, suddenly things started happening very quickly, and an overnight stay, then a transfer to a larger hospital, then a heart catheterization that was almost turned into bypass surgery because of the 90 percent blockage in a main artery, then an unfortunate, big bleed that has left me flat on my back for the past 38 hours.
Yeah, that sounds just like anxiety.
And the sad fact is that I waited. I waited because I felt shamed into feeling like an hysterical female, shamed into feeling like I was just anxious…
The medical “system” does not value women. As patients we are not heard, not trusted with our own knowledge of our bodies. I had a stroke, knew it was a stroke, when to the ER and was told I was probably a drug addict seeking heavy meds. No treatment. No relief of pain. A month later a female neurologist confirmed the brain tumor that caused the stroke. American medicine is a not only a joke, its dangerous. Use at your own risk.
Melissa Frykman-Thieme · Vashon, Washington
My story is so much like yours, Patti. My heart attack was actively happening and the medics, as well as the ER doctors said it must just be “anxiety and a belly ache,” They told me to pick up some antacids on the way back to my island home in the middle of the night. I said, “No, I’ll just camp out in the waiting room.” To which they replied, “No, we don’t let patients do that.” FInally my husband and I convinced them to do another blood test before we were kicked out. This test revealed that yes I was having a heart attack. Further, it was too late to have any clot-busting drugs or treatment that could have reversed the heart attack. I eventually got five stents, a spontaneous coronary artery resection (during my diagnostic heart catheterization) and a triple cardiac bypass surgery. My life, from age fifty on, has changed irreparably. I no longer am able to work, and I have frequent trips back to the ER. I have developed PTSD related to the awful and terrifying experiences in the operating room as well as the ER…
I rarely run into blatant sexism, but with doctors it’s common. My concerns are dismissed with one or more of the following: ‘It’s all in your head.’, ‘There is no such thing.’, ‘Other people do fine.’ ‘Smile! You look prettier when you smile!’ Being dismissed by a surgeon has left me with permanent nerve damage in my leg. When I complained he said,’Well, you can still go shopping!’
After an attack of appendicitis, I found out that one of the diagnoses given me by the assessing doctor (whom I saw for the first time) was an… anxiety disorder. I scratched my head trying to figure out what would have caused her to come up with it. It must have been my muted but persistent complaints about the pain, I concluded, for which she did not have an answer…
My daughter was told over and over, mostly by male doctors, that there was nothing wrong with her; that her pain was all in her head. She was also accused of drug-seeking. After exploratory surgery, it turned out she had massive internal scar-tissue buildup from the removal of an ovary several years ago…