I Decided Not To Act Like a Typical Woman and Find Out
I’m the type of person who hates inconveniencing anyone. I’ll eat something I didn’t order at a restaurant because I’ll feel bad that the chef already cooked it. I’m also not one to complain when I’m sick. After all, like most moms, we still need to make dinner, help with homework and drive one of our kids to an activity. So it was after much internal debate and extreme reluctance that I drove myself to the emergency room concerned that I might be having a heart attack.
To give you a picture of me, I’m rather petite, in good shape, don’t smoke and eat right. I’m not saying this for any other reason than to clarify that I’m certainly not in the “high risk” category for having a heart attack. But, on this particular morning, I felt two mild pains in my chest that lasted for about 30 seconds. It wasn’t a pain that catches your breath, but more of a surprise. It was gone so quickly I didn’t really dwell on it.
In the early afternoon I suddenly realized that my left arm felt numb and tingly. I began going through all of the reasons this might be occurring. I had just returned from a blogger trip on Tuesday night and was wheeling some heavy luggage through the airport – maybe that was causing it. I tend to write with my laptop on my lap sitting in a chair – maybe it had simply fallen asleep. As women, we’re notorious for ignoring signs or chalking them up to something else. And, unfortunately, many doctors will do the same thing when it comes to women. But something nagged at me when I coupled this with the two chest pains I had had earlier in the day.
That’s when I realized I needed to decide what I wanted to do. I work with my husband from our home office but he was out with his children since it was spring break. I tried to call him but got his voice mail. I knew he was planning on stopping by a client’s home so I could drive over there. I figured I just wanted some assurance that I was being silly. As I got into my car I finally started to question – am I having a heart attack? As I got to the end of the street I had a decision to make – I could turn left and find my husband or I could turn right and drive myself to the ER.
I sat at that stop sign for a good two minutes. I recalled my friend up the street – a 42 year-old woman who is an avid runner and extremely healthy who ignored some symptoms she was having for about 2 hours and went into cardiac arrest when she finally had her husband call an ambulance. I thought of the blogs I write about how women regularly ignore symptoms and justify this by explaining they’re just too busy to get something checked out. But mostly I thought about my kids. How if they had something bothering them I wouldn’t hesitate in taking them to the ER.
So I turned right. I still felt slight silly and over-dramatic. From the valet parker to the admitting nurse at the ER, I kept apologizing and telling them I’m rather embarrassed to even be there. They, however, did not think I was silly. By then I had reached my husband. How do you tell the person you love that you don’t want to upset them but you just drove yourself to the ER because you’re worried you might be having a heart attack?
My first EKG was “abnormal” but my second was normal. My blood tests showed that I had not had a “cardiac event” but the doctor wanted me to stay overnight to do a stress test in the morning. While I haven’t been given a definitive diagnosis it appears that I have some sort of arrhythmia.
I think it’s hard for women like myself, who appear and feel completely healthy, to grasp that something might not be as it seems. Denial is a powerful force. But I’m proud of myself for listening to my own advice and that of my neighbors and not ignoring a health warning.
Have you ever been in a similar situation where you weren’t sure if you should check out a health concern? What was your choice? Feel free to post a comment. I think it’s important we all support each other.