My son had to find a new doctor because not only did his doctor ignore him, but never, in two years, did she have time to actually SEE him in person. She had, from when Garry and I had used her, become the “head” of the practice and she was too busy running the practice for actual patient care.
I left when she kept sending me to a “heart specialist” who, it turned out, wasn’t a heart specialist. He had been something else and had swapped specialization. He told me that I should wait until my heart condition got “really bad” before bothering to deal with it.
It was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Its first “major” symptom is typically sudden cardiac death. Many people live long lives and never know they have it unless they have a deteriorated valve — at which point they look and see that it’s a lot worse than any previous test showed. Now that the ailment is officially inheritied, you’d think there would be more doctors who understood it and could diagnose it — but you’d be wrong. Even now, there are very few cardiologists specializing in valves who can recognize its “signature.”
This was the disease that often takes healthy young athletes. Reggie Lewis died on the court at 27. On July 27, 1993, during an off-season practice at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court. There was nothing wrong with him or at least nothing that would have led anyone to assume he was going to up and die. Autopsy results later confirmed Lewis had an enlarged heart, an inherited defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which produced an errant heart rhythm under exercise stress that led to his sudden death.
I had already been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but since my “cardiologist” didn’t know anything about anything, he just said I should wait for further symptoms. Which I did and I was very nearly dead when they finally got me into an operating room three years later.
I had a lot of symptoms. I had a very noisy mitral valve that had been a murmur when I was a baby and was downright loud by the time I became an adult. My lips had a tinge of slate blue from the lack of oxygen because the left ventricle was so overgrown — and the atrial valve was bad too — that only my lack of exercise prevented me from dropping dead somewhere.
And they ignored me. When I came out of surgery and a couple of weeks later they sent me home (they kept me a lot longer than usual) and I needed a cardiologist, they doped me up on a medication that made me sick. They said “This medication doesn’t make anyone sick” and instead of changing the medication, they DOUBLED it. The next cardiologist I found was very laid back.
He said I should give up all the medications and just smoke pot. Aside from a really bad case of asthma which made inhaling smoke almost impossible, even for me, he seemed a big too “Cheech or Chong” for me though aside from the smoking part (he didn’t suggest eating it because at the time, it was legal, but we had no cannabis dispensaries). NOW, of course, we’ve got them everywhere, competing with each other. There’s a huge sign under the “Welcome to Boston” sign about “Please visit our MANY dispensaries.” They are everywhere. We’ve got at least a dozen dispensaries within a mile of this house.
But back to having your doctor ignore you. Do they give a secret, yet very popular course in medical school titled “Women patients are hysterical nutcases who you should ignore?” There are so many ways to ignore us. There’s the “pat them on the back” paternalistic approach. There’s the “treat any woman who needs a medication you don’t like prescribing as a drug abuser” method. And there’s the “don’t even listen, just do whatever you always do modus operandi.
Remember to notche is back when men show up with identical symptoms. Men are obviously not hysterics even if they have the same symptoms and sometimes, they don’t take being ignored nearly as well as women do.
Why DO we accept it? Why, when I knew this medication was making me sick, did I keep using it? Why did I assume that these doctors knew more than I did? Was it a lifetime of being ignored to the point where I expected to be ignored?
I don’t have a sensible answer, but in the “abuse to women” column, I think it’s time to add “doctors.” Men AND women!