The Yoga Teacher's Heart Attack
Chapter 6: Inept ER Doc
When Bad Doctors Happen to Good Patients (part 2)
6 March 2017
And I’m laying there, with King Kong renewing his deadly grip on my precious rib cage, my brain is screaming that I had read that women had different heart attack symptoms. But. I. Cannot. Breathe. No breath, no words.
I’m laying in this incredibly subpar hospital, having what I believe is some kind of heart situation and OMG, how could a doctor miss all the signs? Why are two my EKG leads dangling off the bed?
I ask the nurse “Was the EKG okay?”
She replies “Well, it did show an abnormality or two, but we’ve ruled out cardiac. You’ll be fine.”
Nurse pats my forearm, as though she’s reassured me.
All I can think is one abnormality or two?
Well, which is it? And why is an abnormal EKG being ignored?
The ER doctor returns to my bedside after about 30 minutes and asks if I feel better.
Admittedly, the chest pain and jaw pain have slid down to a 7 out of 10, but breathing is still hard. Damn hard.
I say it feels like I’m being squeezed by a TheraBand.
I mean, I wanted to say King Kong, but I wanted to be taken seriously, so I went with a medical word.
“What’s that? Did you say squeezed by a hair band?”
Good lord. Did you even go to medical school, wench? I’m so Googling you the second I find my phone. I take another look at her face and realize that she's no Dr. Jo Wilson! She's Harry Potter's mean aunt, Petunia Dursley. All judgey and constipated.
“Ther. A. Band. You. Know. Rubber band for. Physical. Therapy.”
“Okay, well I don’t know what that is, but your blood sugar is high. And your potassium is a little off."
"But my heart feels like it isn't beating right. It feels like it is stopping and that it can't find its normal rhythm. "
Dr. Dursley tries to smile, like she had been forced to undergo a “how to be nice” seminar and someone told her to tilt her head 30% to the left and show teeth, that that’s what makes a nice impression.
"And are you in full menopause yet? Hormone imbalances can make the heart feel a little fluttery sometimes.”
“My chest hurts. My heart feels weird. Is the EKG okay?”
Again, Dr. Dursley winces out a tooth grin. And again pats my forearm like that just makes her incompetence bearable somehow.
Hmm. didn't the nurse say the EKG wasn't normal? Lordy, do I have to do everything around here? Self-diagnose, Google Dr. Dursley's med school, write the nurse up for poor EKG lead attaching skills ... all while having some kind of heart sitch? Why don't I get our parking validated while I'm at it?
“Short. Of. Breath. Hurts. Why?”
“You are having a pre-diabetic episode. Blood sugar as high as yours, can cause someone to feel bad. The shortness of breath? Well, you need to work on your BMI. Once your BMI is lower, then you’ll breathe more easily.”
The nurse comes in with discharge papers. I ask her what my blood sugar was.
“Looks like your blood sugar was 138.”
I admit that, yes, my blood sugar does run low, usually under 100. She sees my alarmed look and asks, “When’s the last time you ate?”
Ah ha! I had an English muffin in the car on the way. I was feeling clammy and green around the gills, and thought that a little nibble might help, especially after I had eaten a trail mix of Tylenol, aspirin and ibuprofen.
“Hmm. Well then 138 is pretty normal if you’ve eaten carbohydrates in the last hour or two.”
“But my heart feels weird. The EKG was okay?”
“Well, I had some trouble getting the leads attached, but you should follow up with your primary care physician about BMI lowering techniques.”
And then I’m discharged, approximately 90 minutes after I had first arrived.
Basically, I was fat-shamed in the middle of a medical crisis. By Petunia Dursley. Where's Hermione with a good revenge spell when I need her?
I am utterly devastated. I feel so incredibly weak and achey and confused. Exhausted out of my skin. If nursing newborns is a 10 on the exhaustion scale, I'm at a 12.
As James drives me home, I thumb through the discharge papers, looking for something, anything. What's this? Kale salad recipe? WTF?
As I fume about how horrible Dr. Dursley was, darling prince of a husband reminds me: every class has the class clown, the bottom of the barrel. And clearly, Close Hospital has hired subpar doctors to maintain its subpar image around town.
“We’ll go see Dr. Vivian,” James proclaims after a long pause. “We’ll go today.”
Feeling so deflated, I mewled, “They are always booked out. I can’t get in today.”
“We’ll call and then we’ll go. And we'll wait. And then they will see you.”
So, yes, I supposed what with my Scottish and American Indian genepool and Taurus sign born in the year of a dragon, I'm sort of good at holding a good, long grudge.
Husband James no doubt realizes that I’m in a world of hurt if I willingly agree to go to Close Hospital after a nine-year boycott.
In hindsight? I should have called 911. My coworkers later scolded me for the inanity of enduring a heart attack without their help.
I also I didn't realize there was a fire station about one mile from my house, so I could have gotten treated and diagnosed more quickly.
A big plus to an ambulance ride? You skip all the paperwork fussiness and go straight to treatment.
Nonetheless, James drives me to Close Hospital and we check in to triage. My chest still hurts and breathing is damn difficult. I feel like the elephant has taken a break and handed me off to King Kong, who has just picked me up around the rib cage and is squeezing with all his might.
My jaw hurts, my lower back feels like I’ve been shot. I run my hand to my lower back every couple of minutes, feeling for blood or an exposed bulging disc.
Nurse starts an EKG. She can’t get all 12 leads on, and says a few times “Well, this will do for now. It’s close enough.”
ER doctor comes in and looks concerned. Asks me to recap how I’m feeling. I can barely eke out one word at a time. I’m able to say that my chest hurts, that my jaw is a 10 out of 10 on the pain scale, that I feel like I’ve been struck by lightning. With her dark hair back in a messy bun, I think she looks a little like Jo Wilson from Grey's Anatomy.
“Do you have any pain radiating down the left arm?” the doctor asks me.
“No, but my jaw is killing me. My heart feels weird. It hurts. Is the EKG okay?”
The doctor doesn't answer my question.
Instead, she turns to the nurse and says “Since there’s no arm pain, that rules out this as a cardiac event.”
<insert Psycho shrieking violin shower music here>