When Do You Seek Help

I am a nurse, interested in understanding why women may delay seeking help when experiencing chest pain or other symptoms related to heart disease? If you have experienced chest pain (cardiac or not) or survived a heart attack, why did you not call 911 immediately?

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Hi Deb,

I can tell you that for me--age 40, training for a triathlon, with no traditional risk factors or family history of early onset heart
problems--it was basically denial. "This can't possibly be a heart attack, I'm dieting, I'm exercising, I biked 2 miles yesterday and swam the day before that, I'm only 40 years old..."

The classic heart attack symptoms I had woke me up about an hour before the alarm usually went off. I had chest pain that radiated down my left arm and up into my neck and jaw, I had cold sweats, I had nausea. A very tiny portion of my brain was ticking these off and saying, "This is a heart attack," but the rest of me was VERY much in the "that's not possible" camp. I woke my husband up, and instead of calling 911, we did the thing you're not supposed to do; we drove ourselves to the ER.

I think neither my husband nor me wanted to believe it was my heart. Heart disease was nowhere on my radar; if I thought about it at all, I kind of vaguely figured it was something to be concerned with maybe in a couple of decades. Because, you know, heart disease really only happens to old men, right? <--- Please read that as sarcastic; I know better.

Carolyn, of the Heart Sisters blog, has a great post on treatment-seeking delay behavior:
http://myheartsisters.org/tag/treatment-seeking-delay-behaviour/

And I'm sure you're familiar with the Yale Heart Study, which asks about treatment-seeking behaviors:
https://heartstudy.yale.edu/hacs/

best wishes,
Laura

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I think there were several things that delayed my seeking medical help. I always thought it was men who were fat, heavy drinkers/smokers that had heart attacks! As I'm 35, female and very fit and healthy it genuinely didn't occur to me that it could be anything cardiac related. My first symptom was a very irrational feeling of impending doom whilst I was at a social event, followed by palpitations so I left to go home. A few hours later I had bad diarrhea and fainted (normal as low BP when sick) I thought it was food poisoning and it would pass. I began to experience chest discomfort but it was about 11 hours after the first symptoms that I couldn't breath and was barely conscious that shouted for my husband to call for an ambulance. I had a SCAD and STEMI.

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I am sure many have seem my many posts including the initial one explaining circumstances re: my heart attack (Dec. 27, 2011 at age 56).

I delayed treatment for very dumb reasons: Christmas (not wanting to ruin it for anyone). Denial. Fear. Financial worries.

My pain started in early to mid December. My chest, abdomen and upper right back hurt. I did not have shortness of breath or nausea. I did occasionally get light headed and at times I was a bit fatigued but I attributed those symptoms to the season - the hustle and bustle. The pain - well, I did not know what to make of it. I had experienced back pain on and off for years so it did not seem out of the ordinary. The chest pain and abdominal pain - I just did not know and in a way, I did not want to know but never did I think about my heart.

I finally went to the doctor on Dec. 22. I explained to my GP all of my symptoms. She (later admitted that she) missed one of the comments I made which was that my chest hurt more when I would walk and during exertion. I had also told her that when I swallowed I had pain - she focused in on that since my EKG was apparently not abnormal (later found out this is not uncommon to have a normal EKG prior to a heart attack or other cardiac event). She prescribed some meds and scheduled me for an endoscopy the following week (or so).

I got through Christmas. It was hard but I did what I always do (too much) with cooking, decorating, etc. Christmas was very nice.

At 5 am on Dec. 27, I awoke with the worst pains in my chest, upper back and abdomen. I knew something was not right and that I would need medical attention. Calling 911 never occurred to me. Having a heart attack never occurred to me.

Since my husband has a lot of serious medical issues, he is not able to function if suddenly awakened and/or awakened too early in the morning. He needs to wake up on his own and at his own pace. Since this was the case, I knew I could not wake him as I wanted to be sure to get to the doctor or the ER safely and not take a chance with his driving (at that hour). So I took a shower and did all of my normal morning routine. I paid bills and packed a hospital bag just on the off chance but I really did not believe I would be admitted to the hospital (but my mind set was that if I need things to get done and done right, I should do them myself and do them then). Again, calling 911 never occurred to me.

At 8 am, I called my doctor's office to see if my gastroenterologist could see me. Now I can say "luck for me", she was not going to be in on that day. Ok, so I knew I needed to go with plan B.

By this time my husband was awake and I informed him that I believed I needed to go to the ER. I was still in denial that anything was SERIOUSLY wrong with me and still did not think to call 911. I was walking and talking and breathing even though I had pain. So with my denial (I did not even take my packed hospital bag) in tact, my husband drove us to the ER.

I was very fortunate that I was taken into Triage right away and then back to a bed (in the ER). After EKGs, chest xray and blood tests I was told that I probably had a heart attack but that it was caught early and since I was so young (I loved that comment) they would probably admit me for observation. While I was waiting more tests were performed.

Suddenly doctors burst into the room and told us that I needed to go to the cath lab stat to have a stent. It was like something you would see on a doctor tv show or out of a scene in a movie. They were telling people to get out of the elevator and move out of the way in the hallway. I was being RUSHED to the cath lab. Once there it was boom, boom, boom I was being prepped to get a stent.

I had 100% blockage in my RCA. OMG are you kidding me? Obviously they were not. No heart damage, thank goodness. But I almost did not go to ER.

I knew I had high levels: BP, triglycerides, cholesterol. But I did not take it seriously as my doctor was not being aggressive with me and stressing the importance of getting the levels down. I know MY health is my responsibility but I was too concerned with other (ladies, you know what I mean) that I did not care of myself (this has now changed).

I now an trying to educate others - I do not want to be a PREACHER but I take opportunities to be a TEACHER. Perhaps had I known more about women's symptoms I might have recognized the possibility of me having a heart attack; perhaps not. I never said "why me?" but rather "Me? Are you kidding? I am the one who does it all."

I completed Cardiac Rehab. I participated in a Stress Management in connection with Cardiac Rehab medical study. I am taking my meds daily, exercising more, eating better, going to the doctor(s) more frequently, having blood tests often (to monitor levels and my organ functions), and reducing stress.

So.......that is my story. Why do women not take care of themselves? That is an age old question. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

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Sorry - had to answer some texts. What I would say is ADVOCATE for your health! Get someone to LISTEN/HEAR you! Ask QUESTIONS and get ANSWERS YOU UNDERSTAND! Get COPIES OF BLOOD TEST OR OTHER RESULTS! Provide doctor(s) with as much FAMILY and PERSONAL history you can! Keep a MEDICAL JOURNAL of symptoms, side effects, etc! Be as EDUCATED as you can. Lastly, do NOT DENY that something might be wrong with you. DO NOT wait until it is too late!

Best to you and all - Hugs

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I didn't go to the ER because I wasn't yet 40 so I didn't think it could really be a heart attack, I thought it was heartburn (which I've never had), and the pain went away within an hour. It happened over and over again over a period of months, and it always went away after about 45 minutes, and I thought no one has a heart attack over and over again for 45 minutes 5 nights a week. I did go to my doctor 4 or 5 times, who sent me to a neurologist to test for carpal tunnel because the pain went down my arms, and to some other doctor, ENT? I was diagnosed (misdiagnosed) with asthma and reflux. It wasn't until I had a cardiac arrest 5 years later that they discovered I had a previous undiagnosed heart attack and I was eventually diagnosed with Prinzmetal's angina. I thought it was interesting one of my co-workers recalled that one morning when I was having the nightly spasms I had come to work and said "If I ever have a heart attack it's going to feel just like I did last night."

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My reasons share similarities with others - I'm "too young," healthy, active, nonsmoker with normal BP, cholesterol and weight.

My first signs of "discomfort" came and then went away over the course of three days. I put that word in parentheses because I wouldn't classify the chest discomfort as pain. I thought I had strained something working out. The thought of having a heart attack actually did cross my mind - only briefly. I simply thought I wouldn't be able to function normally at all if I was having a heart attack when in fact I was functioning normally. I didn't know one's arteries could start tearing apart due to a rare condition known as SCAD and cause loss of blood and oxygen to the heart.

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Are you doing a study or just anecdotally interested? There are so many stories here on this site, you wouldn't have time to read them. Rejection at the ER being a common reason for not returning...

Best, Mary

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I agree with Marylg , dont go to the er .call your dr. an have him make the arrangements , they just leave you in a room and act like you are faking it, i have had a stent at 58 with a 100% blockage open heart at 65 with 3 by pass , now i have lbbb and 2 blockages at 71 and went to the er with severe chest pain . they sent me home . so much for that . tonight i had such severe pain i cried for a hour took toporal xl and nitro spray mist 2 times still have chest pain, but ,, ill just leave it at that.

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My story is very similar to others above. If you do go to the ER and it doesnt turn out to be anything serious, they make you feel like a fool and embarrass you with stupid comments like, maybe you drank too much cafine.

When I did have my heart attack I was in my early 30's and thought it was indigestion. I had no risk factors at all. Luckily I was at work when it happened and they didn't mess around, they called 911 for me.

Cathy

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I think a major reason is whenever we tell our Doctor we are having chest pain, or we don't feel well and they will check us out and say "your tests are negative" and we go along our merry way. I've talked to a lot of co-workers and people on my facebook page and the majority of the ladies have experienced this. I went to my Doctor told him I had chest pains and palpatations and he gave me an EKG in his office and it was negative. The day I drove myself to the ER I thought I had really bad heartburn but my boyfriend said it shouldn't be making me cry and wake me up all night, I thought it was heartburn for like 6 days. Well, in the ER they took me in right away and gave me an EKG and told me it was "negative" "however, he said your blood tests shows an enzyme that your heart expells into your bloodstream and you are having a heart attack". I went in Sept 16th and wasn't sent home until Sept. 30th this was in 2009 I had a quadruple bypass, it was awful. But to be honest most doctors are cavalier and just really don't care, he had been treating me for a cervical rib issue I've suffered for many years and he was just over it, so I rarely wanted to even bother seeing him, he was like my 5th or 6th doctor I kept looking for a doctor that wasn't so snotty but he is the best I could find at that time. Its not easy to find a good doctor anymore. My previous doctor was tired of the HMO's so he had to drop me back in 1996 and I was on my own for a while. I don't assume ALL medical personell are like that but its been mine and many friends of mine's experience. (I know that looks odd but that's how it came out lol) I'd say in general terms its the calousness and cavalier attitude of doctors that make us feel like we are being babies if we are in severe pain, so we tell ourselfs "naw its nothing, i will feel so stupid" etc... THAT is a factor.

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For me it's embarrasing to have the Emergency Response come to my home, and all the neighbors wonder what's up. I would rather my kids drive me out of the neighborhood and then call the ER.

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I was sent home as well from the ER and made to feel stupid for wasting their time. Fortunately they do have a policy of ordering a stress test before you leave. My husband took me to the ER on a Thursday night and I suffered for the next 4 days with what turned out to be unstable angina. Since I had been told it wasn't my heart I thought I had some odd combination of severe back pain and indigestion along with the flu. I drove myself to the hospital for the stress test at 7:15 am on the Tuesday morning and failed it miserably in less than 1 minute. The cardiologist told me to go to emergency and that my paperwork would be there waiting for me. I drove home instead. (We are only a 4 minute drive to the hospital.) Tuesday was the best day I had felt since the previous Thursday. If I'd had to go in on the Monday my husband would had to have driven me. We are a one car family, without neighbors close by and two special needs dogs. I sent out 3 quick emails cancelling work I had planned to do that afternoon and my husband drove me back to the ER - dogs as well.

My paperwork wasn't waiting for me. I was told to wait like everyone else so I did. I sent Dave home. I truly didn't think there was anything life threatening going on as I was feeling much better than I had the previous days. After a long wait a nurse came out of ER and called my name. Apparently my paperwork was there but no one looked at it until the cardiologist came to ER to see me. All of a sudden I was an emergency! My blood work showed I'd had a heart attack. My BP was off the charts and they couldn't get it down and I was a massive heart attack about to happen. The cardiologist wanted me as stress free as possible so for the most part I was the only one who didn't worry about me as the drugs worked really well. i spent the night in ICU and was sent by ambulance to the regional coronary care hospital very early the next morning. I truly have no recall of the ambulance drive or arriving at the other hospital. I was the first patient taken in for an angiogram and subsequent stent insertion in my circumflex artery. I have no recall of that procedure either.

My advice to any woman is that if you think you are having a heart attack you probably are. Go to another hospital.

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Thank you all for responding. As an emergency nurse, I am saddened by the stories of rejection in the ED, the disbelief by the doctors and caregivers and the sheer dismisal of patient concerns! I work in a small hospital without cath labs, so our patients are transferred out to a larger facility for more invasive testing and procedures. Often, I never know the outcome for the patient, especially if the initial ekgs and labs are not positive. It makes me think maybe we need better or different screening tests for some patients.
Laura, thank you for the links to the Yale study and the Heart Sisters Blog. I have been researching information related to heart disease in preparation for a graduate course. I came across this site and joined after reading for about two hours. I was captivated by all the stories. I think about how the emergency room/911 is utilizied for so many different problems, from simple rashes to major car wrecks, it didn't cross my mind that someone with chest pain wouldn't use 911. It has been a real eye-opener for me. Again, I appreciate your willingness to share.

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Hi Deb,

You said, "it didn't cross my mind that someone with chest pain wouldn't use 911."

If you haven't seen it yet, please check out this amazing video by Elizabeth Banks, called "Just a little heart attack."

She did it for the AHA's Go Red for Women campaign, and it succinctly and humorously sums up so much of what we've been saying about ignoring our symptoms, taking care of other people first, not wanting to believe it could be a heart attack, and though she ultimately does call 911 at the end, the look of dismay on her face as she scans her messy kitchen and then asks if the EMTs, instead of being there in 2 minutes, "could you make it... 10?" is priceless.

http://youtu.be/t7wmPWTnDbE

best,
Laura

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I think many of our were misdiagnosed in the past. I had bad chest pain for 6 yrs before my MI. My dr ordered tests which kept showing no problem. I was then misdiagnosed with having GERD and put on Nexium. My chest pain was never with exercise instead always at rest. When I would get a particularly bad "stomach issue" if I walked around it would lessen oddly enough. I was told I was too young (early 40's) to worry about that and between the tests and the fact that I never had it with exercise showed conclusively it was not cardiac related. My last bad "stomach issue" turned out to be caused by a 99% blockage in my lad. Luckily despite not feeling well and insisting I could go to work my husband called 911 from the vehicle when I passed out. Yep...I woke up with severe chest pain, got ready for work with severe chest pain, shovel the dog pen which oddly enough helped a bit with the pain (it was winter) and got in the vehicle to go to work as I had so many times before. If I would have stayed home alone that day I wouldn't be here. I know I wouldn't have even thought about calling 911. It wasn't a heart problem it was confirmed over and over for years to be a stomach problem. I was lucky to survive even though the damage destroyed 50% of my heart.

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Deb,

To share a little info here...some common conditions that happen that show up here tend to follow a few themes:

1) Arrythmia issues: If the ER EKG doesn't show it, it can be a long road to an electrophysiologist and a 30 day holter test to catch it.

2) SCAD issues: Usually noticed at ER due to high mortality rate and extreme symptoms. SCADS in process though are often not diagnosed/caught in time, and SCAD can be found in younger, menstruating women, often around childbirth or other such events. Most doctors are trained in the "young woman...usually not heart" mantra. Of course, with SCAD, there is not a lot of time to work through the other possibilities.

3) MI - of course the MI is legend in it's under-recognition, in women generally, but particularly in younger women. Past menopause, we achieve at least some parity in recognition.

4) MVD - microvascular "dysfunction"...ischemia, whatever, many names. This can ONLY be diagnosed at this point with acytecholine challenge cath, and usually at high level centers: Stanford, Cedars Sinai, Emory, Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Pennsylvania, Florida (in short, where there are doctors who have been involved to some degree with the WISE study, commenced 20 years ago or so). EKGs and most tests probably won't show it, stress tests, nuclear, or even regular old gold standard caths. This is one reason that women suffer with CP and SOB, yet are dismissed with "GI or Anxiety". Yes, one gets anxious when it feels like you're having a hollywood heart attack, or even chronic chest pain. And yes, anxiolytics will neutralize even people undergoing MIs, so the effectiveness of the drugs does not mean that it's anxiety. Correlation is not causation. I've personally had 5 or6 ER visits, got nitro paste at ONE of them, after I'd been diagnosed and even had my own arsenal that wasn't adequate to the occasion. But I also had 14 years (I honestly can't recall) of being sent back and forth, being doubted, which increased my feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness to go there. You can only be told it's in your head so many times and then you start to believe it.

Even now, WITH MVD, and my own nitro capsules, spray and patches, I can sometimes suddenly feel like absolute death - and I want to go to the ER. What have I done even in the past month, twice? I dose myself up with nitro and xanax and go sit in the ER waiting room, waiting for my drugs to kick in. Although I'd LOVE to have the 2 draws of troponins, 6-8 hours apart to know if I am having a "small, but insignificant infarction", and to know if I am sustaining muscle damage, I know that once I get my symptoms under control, they will wonder why I'm taking up space for a $2000 visit just to know that. And to be clear, muscle damage from ischemia seems to take a lot longer than clot or occlusion, so perhaps that's why plain old ischemia doesn't show elevated troponins till later, after the damage is done.

It's no wonder that women with MVD have a higher rate of MI & SCD...because if you've accumulated enough muscle damage, eventually you cross that threshold where the larger MI occurs or is suddenly fatal. Getting a non-shameful regular admission management and testing protocol would be a start - and that's just in those "lucky" enough to have a diagnosis at the right centers with the right doctors. I'd also like to add that DISCERNING a "real" MI from chronic angina is very difficult when the pain can be severe. Yet we are chided for needing or wanting anxiety or chronic pain meds and treated like drug seekers.

We suffer because there is not yet good diagnostic testing, inadequate education in our doctors and medical staff (in fact, outright denial and ignorance), and a system where we fall through the cracks. Why don't we go to the ER? We DID.

Best, Mary

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I have never called 911. I have had a lot of chest pain, but I have never had a heart attack - I am a dcm/chf patient. In April, I was not thinking that I was having a heart attack - I was concerned that my bicuspid aortic valve might have gone south on me. So I called my cardiology clinic, and a female nurse called me back to say to go to the er if I "was having the pain that I said that I was having." I went to the er, they did bloodwork, an ekg, a chest x-ray, and put in an iv port. Then told me I had not had a heart attack but sent me to the heart hospital since I am a cardiac patient. They also started me on oxygen, which helped me immensely.

I got to the heart hospital at 5 pm, the hospitalist saw me sometime after midnight. She prescribed me lasix in the iv port and an anti-coagulant shot in the tummy. By the time I was done with those, I was really depressed because I am a chf patient, and I really felt like I had gone down a level. However the lasix was a godsend because it really got some fluid out of me. They did more bloodwork, did a chest x-ray in the morning, then did an echo. Then the hospitalist came in and told me that I should be happy because my heart was fine - maybe I had some lung infection? He also told me that there was nothing wrong with my kidneys, since once they gave me lasix I started "peeing like a racehorse" (his words). I told him that I was glad about that! The chimerical lung infection of course he had seen no evidence of, again I was glad of that! We had a discussion about how my heart is not fine, and that is why I have been a heart patient for 10 years (diagnosed June 14, 2002) ... Then the nurse came in and cheerily asked me again, "Aren't you happy that it is not your heart? We had another discussion.

I was not angry because I was prepared for this, having read extensively on this site about this happening to women. I was glad to come home with less edema and reassured that my lungs were NOT involved, and I had learned quite a bit about the part oxygen plays in my feeling bad, and about intake and output. But all of that I learned on my own, not from the staff. And that is why I do not want to ever go to the er again, no matter how sick I am. That was only my second time to go, and it was my first time as a diagnosed heart patient, and the next time, again like this time, I will think very seriously before I step foot into the car to go to the er.

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I had no chest pains, I sleep on my stomach, I had been going in to see my doctor every month because I found myself waking at night choking for air. She asked if adding more pillows under my head helped and when I said I slept on my stomach she said it was just my asthma and nothing to be concerned with I saw her three weeks before having a massive heart attack and was given a new inhaler as a way of getting the choking cough under control. I got up at 1:30 am with the choking cough but this time I was throwing up. I thought the cough was causing me to throw up so I waited until after 7:30 in the morning and my still throwing up before I went to the hospital with what I thought was a bad asthma attack.

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DebERnurse - Thanks for posting and I was interested in all the responses. Long story short as possible. My mother, father, younger brother (at age 37 had a heart attack) and older brother have all had multiple bi-passes. I had been having chest pains since I started chemo for breast cancer eight years ago. I was told I was fine - just part of side effects of my reaction to chemo.

I continued with chest pains, mostly at rest, almost always with jaw pain at least 2/3 times a week. I've had them even when I drive. Two years after my chemo and surgeries my older brother had to have a 4-by pass surgery. He was not a pound over-weight, ran or walked every day, ate healthy, etc. and his wife was shocked because they had done everything to prevent heart problems. His doctor said it was genetic. That was a wake-up call for me. I was having chest pain as I sat there listening.

I went to my GP who ordered a stress test which was fine but said I should see a cardiologist but don't let them do a cath on me. Of course, cardiologist wanted to do a cath "to make me feel better." I had a 90% blockage in the LAD artery requiring a stent. Everyone was shocked but thankful I went ahead with the cath.

However, I continued to have chest pains. In the next two years I had more stress tests (negative) and caths (negative) "to make me feel better." I was uncomfortable with doing caths simply "to make me feel better." There seemed to be no answer to the chest pains. I was made to feel it was in my head because I've had a lot of trauma in the last 20+ years.
(Short history = our 18 year old daughter was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma just before her high school graduation. We were told she would probably die. She didn't, thank the Lord, but it was a year of hell for her. 10 years after that our son was diagnosed with a large brain tumor - we were told he was going to die. Thank the Lord, he didn't and he is fine today. Definitely two miracles. 8 years after that, my husband died a horrible death of CJD. He died 56 days after he first started acting strangely. Four months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had 6 rounds of chemo and 4 major surgeries.)

I really didn't think the pains were "in my head." I sought a 2nd opinion. I went to a lady cardiologist who immediately diagnosed me with Prinzmedal angina and said I was one of those unlucky people who have false negative stress tests and EKG's. She said she would watch me closely with periodic testing, started me on anti-spasm drugs.

Finally I had a diagnosis, (yea!) which made me feel 100% better and confident. 18 months later, she quits her private practice to go on to bigger and better things. Good for her, bad for me. I went to doctor #3. He came with high credentials and was a "top doc" in his field and city. From day one I felt we didn't click. I got the impression he didn't "buy into" Prinzmedal. His 1st question was, why was I changing doctors again? That was uncomfortable. Over the next 18 months I saw him two times and both times he didn't seem concerned by my continued chest pains, even with the meds. Last December I was at my GP's office with my 95 year old dad and had one of my chest pain episodes. HGP did an EKG, which he said was fine (I thought that was a good thing) but the doctor still wanted me to have a nuclear stress test, which I did the next week. It came back with a "slightly abnormal reading."

GP contacted cardiologist who said I should have another cath. Sure enough, another blockage and stent. That was during this last Christmas holiday. Things at the hospital were not good. They had my name wrong, I got two different stent cards with different info on the cards, got two discharge papers with different info. When I asked, the staff just acted like that wasn't a big deal. I was really concerned they had me mixed up with another patient. I'm still not sure what was going on.

I was told to make an appointment with the cardiologist to see him in two weeks. When I called to make the appointment I was told the cardiologist didn't need to see me for a followup for 4 months. That really puzzled me.

I opted to do cardiac rehab thinking that maybe I needed to build up my stamina. I continued to have chest pains - not as frequent but with more intensity. Rehab nurse called cardiologist office. He still didn't want to see me until late April. He said he knew I was "fine." How could he know that for sure?? When I did see him in April and expressed my dismay over him not wanting to see me when I had pain as well as several questions, he decided that my real problem was that I was depressed. He said a lot of men get depressed after a heart procedure. Ok, I buy that for some people but I didn't think I was depressed. I told him I KNOW what depression feels like and that I truly did not think I was depressed. (I was in therapy for 3 years. I KNOW when I'm depressed.) I was upset with him and I don't think he could understand how that could possibly be.

At my regular appointment with my GP for blood work, I told him my dismay. The cardiologist never did send him any info about my cath/stent even though he told me they would do it. My GP felt I should get another opinion. The GP wasn't comfortable that the chest pains were being dismissed.

So, today I see cardiologist #4. It was understood between us I was getting another opinion. I wanted everything up front. This cardiologist had gone over all my cath, stent, stress test, sleep apnea test and any other heart related tests I've had in the last 6 years. He immediately said I DO NOT have Prinzmedal angina. He said that Prinzmedal is specific in what it is and would have shown up on an EKG as a heart attack. I told him I have had numerous EKG's but only ONE when I was actually having pains. It was negative. He said Prinzmedal is spasms of the large arteries and what I'm having/feeling is probably in the smaller arteries so it doesn't show up on any tests. That is the first time that has been told to me. Doctor #3 did not say anything about me NOT having Prinzmedal. So I am confused. Thie doctor today also discovered that I am not taking the proper dosage of Isorsibide. The dosage I was taking was suppose to be 3 times a day and I was only taking it once a day (which is what is one the bottle). He rewrote the script. How did 3 doctors miss that - including my GP?? I like doctor #4 much better than #3 but I am still a little confused. I am confident that taking the higher dosage of the med will probably eliminate my chest pain but how will I know if I have any more blockages in the future. I did ask him that and he said there is no way to know without occasional testing. He said that I DO have coronary artery disease and that it is usually a chronic condition so most likely I WILL have a blockage again at some point even with the life-style changes I've been making - losing weight and exercising more.

(sigh) For whatever reason, my heart issue has bothered me more than the cancer ever did. Maybe its because I'm alone and have no one to bounce things off of - no one to tell me, ah, its ok. Being a widow is NOT easy.

Anyway, Deb, thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent. If, as a nurse, you have any words of wisdom, please tell me. Or, anyone else out there. I think I've got a handle on things and then it seems I take a left turn and don't know where I'm going. I have way too much time to think. I do know that!! It is hard to turn the brain off, though.
God bless.

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I think that when a patient comes into the hospital with chest pains, that the staff always thinks "heart attack". When they know that that has not happened, they start the goodbyes!

And of course women's symptoms are different from those of men.

I also think that the hospital staff just is not very good at TALKING to the patients. And from what I have seen here, women heart patients seem to be VERY verbal. So that really puts a barrier between us and the staff, who have become accustomed to men patients who nod their answers and let their spouses or children talk for them. And I am not being gender biased here, I am trying to describe what I think is customary for many men patients, which is what has influenced the standards of care for heart patients throughout the twentieth century.

Good discussion, and I hope to see some results so that I, for one, will not hesitate to go to the hospital er when I need to!

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The information provided by this online support network through WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and Inspire is for general informational purposes only. The information is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, see a doctor immediately. In an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease never recommends or endorses any specific physicians, products or treatments for any condition.