A ride in an ambulance, and back in time…
A few months ago I had a health scare. At a meeting of professional speakers in Chicago, my heart rate suddenly skyrocketed and I couldn’t get it under control. As a heart attack survivor with a surgically repaired heart, I know an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, could develop over time, but the fast thumping in my chest was scary.
The dizziness and discomfort became so intense, we called 911. (To be honest, I tried very hard to avoid the excitement of calling the ambulance, but I was worried I would pass out in my friend’s car on the way to the hospital.)
I have nothing but praise for the treatment I received in the ambulance and in the ER. Everyone took my issue seriously and I was given all of the proper tests. The doctors determined I needed to stay in the hospital for observation and have some tests the next morning.
For more than a decade, I’ve worked to raise awareness around women and heart disease. With efforts such as the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines program, standards of care and gender disparity issues in treatment have improved. All of that was demonstrated in my initial interactions.
Once I was admitted, however, I traveled back in time.
“You are too young to be here.”
If I heard that statement just once, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But over and over during my time in the hospital, nurses, aides, food service staff and others told me I was too young to be having heart issues.
Is it unreasonable to believe a 48-year-old woman might have an issue with her heart? No.
Think about the message this sends. Words matter. The attitudes of health care providers matter. While I am a strong advocate for my own health care, it made even me question if I had made the right decision calling the ambulance. Was I wasting everyone’s time?
The most glaring example came from the admitting physician who literally (yes, I mean literally) patted me on the knee and told me the anxiety of my day had just taken over and I shouldn’t really be staying in the hospital. He would have sent me home.
This was in sharp contrast to the cardiologist who refused to allow me to go home without the tests because he was concerned I had developed a deadly type of arrhythmia and may not survive the trip. (Luckily, that was not the case. My abnormal rhythm seems to be an annoying, but not life threatening condition.)
We’ve made progress in the mission to improve women’s heart health, but it is not enough. How is it possible, after all this time, this still happens? It isn’t right.
There is still work to be done.
I’m rededicating myself to the mission of improving women’s heart health and treatment!
For many years, I’ve strictly limited the number of my speaking engagements per year. Now that our daughters are older, and in an effort to have a larger impact on women’s wellness, in 2015 I will be doubling the number of engagements available.
In hospital sponsored community wellness events, Go Red Luncheons, Heart Truth programs, work place wellness programs, as well as programs for nurses, physicians and other health care professionals I hope to reach more 10,000 people in the next 12 months.
Let’s work together.
We’ve made great strides, but the race isn’t won yet.
What are your thoughts on the progress of our mission? Please leave a comment below.