Monday, January 29, 2018

Angry then Saw an Article that Made Me Even More Angry

My iPhone gifted me with a Vox article this afternoon.  A woman has a $12,000 ER bill. Her insurance won't pay.  Why? The diagnosis was deemed not an emergency. She went to the ER worried that she had appendicitis. It turns out she had Ovarian cysts.

I'm furious.

It adds fire to the fury I was feeling this morning, because for some reason (I can't remember why), I started thinking about women and heart attacks.  Maybe there was an article in my Google News. But now I can't find anything, so I'm not sure.

Anyway, women are more likely to die of heart attacks than men. 

Wait!  I found the article.  It was in the Sydney Morning Herald.  The main subject of the article is that women are more likely to have heart attacks due to stress and depression than men.  But yeah. Isn't it usually the men we worry about when something stressful happens?  Do we not worry more about our grandfathers's hearts than our grandmother's hearts when things are intense? Our father's hearts more than our mothers? Do husbands worry about their wives' hearts as much as wives worry about their husbands heart?  

Reading the article this morning made me nervous, because in the past year or so I've had episodes of very painful chest pain.  It was pain that radiated to my jaw, neck, and back.  The first few times I kept it a secret. Why? Because I have issues. I'm afraid to tell people I'm having medical problems, because I've been so often dismissed.

One time the pain lasted for over an hour and antacids weren't helping.  I finally texted my husband. We considered going to the doctor. Then it was decided that we'd text a doctor that we know personally. This doctor said something along the lines of, if I didn't have shortness of breath, I probably didn't need to go to the ER.  I'm wondering if he'd say the same thing if I was a man. 

Even though this person is supposed to have a strong relationship with us, he never checked back to see how I was doing. I'm still angry about that, especially since we've done favors for his family. As a a doctor, the decent thing to do would be to check back to see if I'm okay. As a friend, the decent thing would be to check back to see if I'm okay. He's both a doctor and a friend, and yet neither of those things compelled him to act decently.  

I imagine someone reading this is thinking, Well, get over it. You obviously are alive, so you're heart must be fine.

Well, hopefully if someone is thinking this, they are right. BUT it's not necessary so.  I've learned that  people can survive so-called silent heart attacks without medical care, but damage is done to their heart.  Eventually, the damage might end up killing them.

When I had my annual physical a few months later, I told my doctor about my chest pain. She didn't look at me with concern.  She looked...amused.  Her facial expression seemed to say, Well, aren't you a darling little hypochondriac.  I think I asked her if heartburn can cause radiating pain throughout the body. She said yes. And she's right. From what I read, it can.  But that doesn't mean it couldn't also be a heart issue.

Would she have dropped the subject so fast if I was a man, or would she have ordered tests? Might she have referred me to a cardiologist? 

For those interested in learning more about how women are treated differently than men when it comes to heart disease, here's an article about it.  

To me, it's depressing and infuriating.  It's not just discrimination. It's deadly discrimination. I was thinking about heart problems. I worried. I got angry. I thought about how I'll probably end up dying (at whatever age) because I don't have the guts to speak up for myself and demand medical care.

Because of a change in insurance, we're getting a new primary care physician.  We have to get referrals for all specialists. I considered asking the doctor about going to a cardiologist and wondered if I'd get another dismissive response.  Will he look at me amused? If I tell my family, will they make me feel like I'm overreacting, because it's my husband's heart they'd worry about and not mine?  Will they show the same lack of concern that many of them showed for my eating disorder, gynecological problems, and neurological symptoms? 

If the doctor and my family all seemed to think my heart concerns were ridiculous, would I have the guts to fight for myself?  I don't know.  I kind of doubt it. And then I imagine getting some tests, and the tests come out negative.  Can I handle the shame of knowing/imagining that I'm being labeled a hypochondriac.  

If I was a strong person, of course I could handle it.  But I AM not strong...especially when it comes to self-medical advocacy.  

Anyway, I'm thinking all this today and then see the article about the fucked up insurance issue.  So what if once again, I end up having one of the many female symptoms of a heart attack.  Even if I could manage to be brave enough to speak up; even if I could manage to deal with dismissive attitudes from the people in my life; even if I could manage dealing with dismissive attitudes from doctors....

Well, I also have to face the fear of paying thousands of dollars if I guess wrong.  If it ends up that my heart attack was just indigestion, my family might be losing thousands of dollars.  Because apparently some insurance companies want us to self-diagnose ourselves before going to the ER.  

How many times have I seen PSA's saying that if you have certain symptoms, don't delay. Go to the ER immediately.  It's fucking bullshit.  Well....those people who write the PSA's probably do actually care. They probably do want us to get help.  But as for the sexist doctors and insurance companies?  I don't think they really give a fuck.  Or maybe the doctors care, but they're just horribly ignorant. Their ignorance is dangerous. Their sexism is dangerous.  

I feel my life is completely dependent on having good-health luck, because if my luck runs out, I have strong doubts that any doctor is going to save me.   

I am so sick of it all.  

To those who say things like, Stop Using Dr. Google....well, fuck them. Dr. Google is pretty much all we can depend on these days.  It's just too bad he can't prescribe medicine or perform surgery if we should need it.  

Edited to add: Mistake in my post.  I now remember that I didn't ask the doctor if heartburn pain could radiate through other parts of the body. I asked if you can have heartburn without eating, because when the episodes happened to me, they were in the morning before I ate anything.  

Anyway, yeah you can have heartburn in the morning. But still. From what I've heard, some women have heart attacks that feel like heartburn or indigestion, so I shouldn't be made to feel like a hypochondriac for worrying about my heart.  And if we lived in a more supportive and more affordable world, I could have gotten things checked case I am one of those women whose indigestion was something much more sinister.