I read a blog article tweeted by Carolyn Thomas at Heart Sisters the other day. It hit very close to home and close to some recent conversation with another heart sister Teri. (See Teri’s story). It was written by Brian Loew, the CEO of Inspire and is titled What Do You Wish Your Doctor Knew?. It is no so much the article itself, but the comments that are so valuable. One in particular said, “I wish my doctor knew this is not routine for me.”
That statement resonates to my core. This is exactly how I felt as I was being discharged from the hospital after what according to all of the hospital staff was a massive heart attack. I had my heart attack late on a Thursday and was discharged on Saturday morning; literally spending less than 48 hours in the hospital after almost dying. If it were not for my decision to call an ambulance I would have died. My doctor told me that most women that are having “the widow-maker” die because they decide to lay down to see if they feel better. Once they do this, they just never wake up. In fact he told me that less than 20% of women survive this kind of heart attack and that I had done everything right to give them the best chance to save my life.
Armed with all of this new information on the seriousness of what had happened (and really not absorbing much of it–see Post Heart Attack Stun), I was shocked to be going home so quickly. I was also shocked and put off by the callousness of the staff as I was being discharged. I was terrified. I had never been sick like this and to me, it was not routine. How could this be taken so lightly? In reality, I am sure they do not take it lightly, but that was the impression that was given to me at the time. The staff of the CCU is well trained and took great medical care of me (you know, that saving my life thing that I am grateful for!).
As the nurse was discharging me, he handed me an appointment card for my follow-up with the cardiac surgeon and it was 3 1/2 weeks away. Really? I said, “He isn’t going to see me until then?” The nurse said, “He doesn’t need to.” Here is the thing doctors–you may not need to see me, but I need to see you.
I was fortunate in my circumstance in that I am stubborn. Being stubborn led to me refusing all anti anxiety and pain medicines at the hospital. That following week, I had so much bleed back and it was so painful that I went to see my family doctor. Shocked at the turn of events, he spent his entire lunch hour with me because they had worked me in. He checked the groin incision to make sure it was ok as I was sure the massive bruising down the inside of my leg and across my entire abdomen meant I was going to bleed to death. I was sure I was going to die in my sleep; I was sure every single thing I ate was going to clog an artery and I was sure that I was never going to get well. I just needed a doctor to tell me I was really ok. He went over things like what I should eat and avoid now as my only instruction from the hospital was to limit salt. At the end of my appointment he gave me the pain medicine and told me not to be so stubborn next time.
I felt so much better after he took that time with me. I know he did not have that kind of time in his schedule that day and I will always be grateful to him. I was so scared and I really needed his time. I needed to hear that I wasn’t going to die. It was all so new to me to now have this chronic illness and to not be sure what it meant for me or what to expect.
For me, this is what I wish my doctor and all cardiologists knew. You may not need to see me, but I need to see you.