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Old 09-19-2007, 07:15 PM
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Default The Nurse Becomes the Patient

In the year 2000, I had a AIWMI (actue inferior wall heart attack); I was 44 years old. The cardiologist missed it for 7 days because of my unusual symptoms. Symptoms is women often times are not the same as the "usual" chest pain with radiation into neck, jaw or down left arm, diaphoresis,and SOB.

For 4 of those 7 days, I suffered with acute RIGHT axilla pain that radiated down my elbow. I given a cath, a clean bill of health and sent home. I was in the ER that week 3 times, the last time the pain woke me from a deep sleep. I began to feel like a drug seeker but could not deny the pain I was in. The cardiologist told me I was anxious. I told him, that's fine, then give me some Ativan but make the pain stop. Of course he did not; however he did admit me to the hospital and when my enzymes came back positive later that day I went directly to the CCU.

I called my brother (a Nurse Practitioner but more importantly my brother) who came immediately to see me. The nursing staff told him he was unable to see me because they had just gotten me to sleep. He told them that he WAS going to see me and by the time security arrived, he would have gotten the look at me he needed. (Keep in mind that I work in that hospital and once upon a time, so did he. We were not strangers nor was he going to do anything detrimental to my health.)

Having seen me he asked that my cardiologist be called and he be able to speak with him. The cardiologist refused.

The next morning the cardiologist arrived early in the morning; but not earlier than my brother; but he did not have to say a word. The cardiologist told me I had an MI and I (being the shy girl I am) was off and running. I told him that he treated my symptoms as "psychiatric" in nature because I was a woman and my symptoms were not typical. I also told him he allowed me to remain in pain for greater than 12 hours without any relief. I reminded him that pain and time was muscle. He didn't say a word.

Later that day I was transferred to another facility to have a cardiac cath. An interventionalist cardiologist did the cath. One important thing to note, the interventionalist said the cath was exactly the same as it was 6 days earlier, there was no difference, but he did see a small flap of plaque that was moving up and down which gave me the intermittent symptoms. The cardiologist missed it, but the interventionalist said it would have been "easy" to miss. Despite that, the Cardiac Interventionalist said that at the first sign of cardiac pain that was similar in nature and decreased with Nitro would have at least warranted reading the cath again.

Fast forward 5 years. I was out and about playing on Labor Day having fun with my family when I developed the same pain that I had originally with my heart. To make a long story short, I went to the ER via ambulance, was having a "STEMI" and went directly to the cath lab. I was told that they were unable to stent and I would have to have a 6 vessel.......that's right count them.............6 vessel bypass.

I did not remember the rest of my hospital stay. Not one piece of it. It's probably a defense mechanism that allowed me to maintain in the hospital without acting like a wild woman.

I was sent home with the "heart of a 20 year old" but felt physically and emotionally drained. Life had changed for me; never to be the same again, or so I thought. I was the dutiful cardiac patient, doing all the things the doctor told me to do. The epitome of a good patient except I had a glaring scare down the center of my chest to remind me on a daily basis that without that scare, my life would be over.

On Sunday, during a family outing to dinner, I developed pain in my right axilla which radiated to my right elbow and my right wrist. Ultimately, I had a slight pressure in my chest. I went home and took 4 aspirin and 2 nitro. (How is that for treating yourself?) The pain in my elbow and wrist were relieved but the pain in my right axilla remained in full force (probably a 6/10). I was forced to go to the hospital where I was admitted to the CCU. (Not surprising........disgusting, but not surprising.)

A Power PICC line was inserted (because I have no veins) and I was given a CTA. The CTA was read and it showed just what I expected...nothing... except a 50% stenosis above the proximal anastomosis site of my LCA. Not too terribly bad. My EF was 69%!

Here is the thing. I should be happy. I should be overjoyed. Why is it that I live everyday with the knowledge that this could be my last. Some days this knowledge drives me and some days the knowledge stares at me full force in my face with my own immortality.

I need to be free of the fear, and feel freedom in each breath I take. This would be one of the times that being a nurse is probably detrimental to your health.

Last edited by MyOwnWoman; 10-08-2007 at 10:34 PM. Reason: Age typo
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Old 09-20-2007, 02:55 AM
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It is really hard to know what to say to you MyOwnWoman, but I am really glad you have told us your story. As a nurse we often know just that little too much for our own good when it comes to our own illnesses that makes it hard to bear. It is easy for me to tell you to live each day and that kind of thing, because to my knowledge I have no illness myself.

My thoughts are with you and I hope that the fear will begin to subside.
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Old 09-21-2007, 11:40 PM
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It must be really hard to go through what you did. Sounds like it was really scary.
I can see one bright side, You know your warning signs and you have the knowledge for prevention. So many women die (like you almost did) because they ignore those subtle warning signs.
Just live life to the fullest! My thoughts are also with you and thanks for sharing your story.
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Old 09-21-2007, 11:47 PM
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Wow MyOwnWoman. Thank you so much for sharing that story. It really expanded my mind and made me really think about life. Thank you and my thoughts are with you.
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Old 01-10-2013, 11:00 AM
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I was browsing topics to read here in the forum and I came across your story...first, I wanted to say thank you for openly sharing your story with us.I admire you for your courage and you inspired me today.My thoughts are with you too
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