Saturday, September 15, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News (But Please, Use a Fact Checker!)

Last fall, my friend Carolyn and I convinced Collin to go to a public health screening to have a baseline ECG. Heart disease runs rampant in our family--it got both of my parents--and I've got a questionable history with it myself. So Collin got one...and so did I. His was fine, much to my relief.

Mine, however, looked like my heart was doing a war dance.

We're both patients at a clinic that serves those of us who don't have health insurance (I'm self-employed and Collin works at IHOP--his bosses do nothing for their employees; they're lucky they get paychecks). The care, for the most part, is excellent. The downside is that you never know from one visit to the next if you'll have the same doctor. My first doctor there was great--I really hated to see her leave. The second one was very nice but I always had the feeling her mind was elsewhere. It was to her that I delivered this odd-looking ECG. She immediately dismissed it with an offhanded explanation.

I didn't question her. I should have.

"I've been so tired lately," I told her. "I used to walk down to the shopping center every day. Now I can barely walk across the room. I guess carrying extra weight wears me out."

"Then don't carry it," she advised.

Huh? Don't carry it? She made it sound as if I could just take it off and leave it at home. Then I realized she was looking at my shopping bag.

"Don't skip meals," she told me.

That was officially weird. I know I don't look like I'm skipping meals....

She finally told me she would refer me to a cardiologist. She wanted to do an ECG first. Okay, that made sense. I went over to the lab and had it done, then went back to the doctor's office. A few minutes later, her nurse came out. "You can go now," she said. "Your ECG and blood work are fine."

I went home thinking I was fine...and never followed through with the cardiology appointment.  I hate going to doctors or being in hospitals. I'll go, but only if it's absolutely necessary.

When I went back to the clinic for my regular check-up, I had a new doctor, much to my relief. She, like my first doctor, is great. Very thorough. When I commented about my supposed-normal ECG, she gave me a look. Then she dropped a bomb on me. It turns out that my ECG was not normal. She explained that one of the leads showed my heart is not getting enough blood/oxygen.

That can't be good.

It turns out my blood work was not normal, either. I have elevated liver enzymes. She told me she would do another cardiology referral, as well as one for neurology (for anyone who doesn't already know, I'm epileptic).

I passed this information along to my friend Carolyn, who would be driving me to my appointments. Because she has such a hectic schedule, it's easier for both of us for her to schedule the appointments. She emailed me with some incredible news. I have an appointment in neurology in November. The cardiologist couldn't see me until...January???

I guess with the stress of dealing with our economy, a lot of hearts are crapping out. I wonder how far in advance I'll have to cancel if I croak before January?

Ladies, the symptoms of a heart attack are very different for us than the classic symptoms men have. Here, according to the American Heart Association, is what we should be on the lookout for: Heart Attack Symptoms.


  1. Great description of Doctor number one. Flippant and rude! Hope your heart stays with us--along with the rest of you--for a very long time. I will remember your oxygen issues in church today and say a prayer. They probably know it's not serious or they'd see you sooner. Any reason for them to make any money is usually immediate.

  2. I've always thought the sign of a good doctor is one who asks lots of questions.

  3. A suspected spammer by the unoriginal name of Anonymous tried to post a comment asking about my blog design. This is for you Anonymous: the template is Blogger's, but the photos--all of them--are mine, so DON'T USE THEM.


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