What Would You Do If Your Doctor Won’t Listen? Part 2: Dr. Elaine’s Personal Story

I’ve had my own up close and personal experience with physicians not listening.  It was an eye opening experience that I’ll never forget. A few years ago, right before the 4th of July, I arrived home, to find my husband, Victor not feeling well.  He was feeling very tired and weak.  Before I left for the office, he said he’d planned to work in our lawn, sprucing up for the holiday.  I asked him how long he’d worked outside, he said an hour, (my neighbor later told me he’d been outside in the 80 degree weather for most of the afternoon).

I thought he was dehydrated, and gave him some fluids to drink.  When I checked in on him again, he said he was experiencing chest pain. I asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital, and he said yes, so I called 911.

I told the ER physician, that I was his wife and a physician, and I didn’t think he was having a heart attack, and that I believed he was severely dehydrated.  He smiled and said nothing.  Hours later, his entire work-up for a heart attack was negative, there was no signs of any damage to his heart.  He did have an abnormal EKG that was not suggestive of a heart attack. While in the ER his chest pain subsided.  I believe that was due to the IV fluids he received.  As a precaution, the doctor wanted to admit him for observation.

I asked him, what about his dehydration, he said, “Yes, he is a little dehydrated.”

After he was taken to his room, I told his admitting nurse that he was dehydrated.   Later the next day, I told another nurse, and the cardiologist that he was dehydrated.  The cardiologist agreed, but reminded me of the abnormal EKG.  The ongoing monitoring of his heart remained normal.  Victor was doing fine, and on his third day, I was planning to take him home, as the cardiologist promised, pending the results of a stress echocardiogram.  Before I left to pick him up, he called me and calmly told me, “You need to get to the hospital ASAP. The doctor is going to do an emergency cardiac catheterization. Because my heart isn’t properly pumping blood.”

I was stunned “What on earth are you talking about?  Your heart is fine!  You did NOT have a heart attack.”

The cardiologist got on the phone and said, “Your husband has severe left ventricular dysfunction (abnormal functioning of a vital heart chamber), according to his stress echocardiogram. He needs to have an emergency cardiac catheterization.”

“No he doesn’t, I know my husband, and he’s never exhibited any signs of ventricular dysfunction.

“He’s dehydrated.”

I rushed to the hospital and accompanied him to the cath lab. As I waited for him, my mind was reeling. I wondered, “How could this be happening?  Did I miss signs of heart disease that I should’ve noticed?”

“I know he’s dehydrated, but this is scary stuff.  What if I’m wrong?

My mind, was racing, with concern, doubt and uncertainty, while I at the same time, crafting a preliminary plan to begin naturally reversing heart disease, based on all of the resources I knew was available.

After waiting for about an hour, the cardiologist came out smiling and took me into the cardiac cath lab control room.

“I have good news, your husband’s arteries are 100% patent (open, meaning no sign of heart disease). The radiologist misread the echocardiogram.”

I was so relieved to hear he was fine, and still reeling from concerns of all a scenario I didn’t want to happen, these questions later came to mind: #1 Why didn’t you review the echocardiogram yourself BEFORE ordering an emergency catheterization? #2 did you know, the report was wrong and it needed to profit from an unnecessary procedure?

My response, “So do we have to pay for this error?”
He chuckled and walked away.

The next day Victor was discharged, and received a $36,000 discounted bill that our insurance company paid for.

But it took almost 2 years for him to fully health and completely recover, from the discomfort caused by the deep incision the doctor made in his upper thigh to insert the catheter into his femoral artery.

I learned a lot from this experience, and shared it with my colleagues, who have unfortunately experienced similar situations when “doctors knows best,” and “doctors don’t listen.”

I’ve learned that I have to be more proactive, I should’ve asked more questions and required more answers.  I hope you’ll learn from my and the other experiences,

At the end of the first blog post is a list of resources.  Click here to gain access.