Monday, January 03, 2011


There are so many articles and information on the symptoms of a heart attack. We all know the basic ones: pressure in the chest, chest pains, numbness/tingling radiating down the left arm, jaw pain, lightheadedness, palpitations and for some women, heartburn. The worst thing to do is to look up “symptoms” or “medical advice” on the internet while experiencing these things. Although I know it’s the worst thing to do, I. can’t. help. myself. It’s there. All the info you ever needed is right there in front of you, so why not? I cannot tell you how many times I have been to the emergency room this past year over symptoms that mimicked a heart attack. No joke - if I walked into the emergency room today, I would probably be greeted by name, almost like Norm on Cheers. “Hi Deb”, or, perhaps, “Welcome back!” Regardless, it’s all very frustrating and yet comforting that they all seem to know me very well. With some of the newer staff, I have to warn them about my anxiety and hypochondria. They nod, while I state the symptoms that they all gasp about.

“I’m having severe chest pains along with pain in my jaw that radiates right down to my left arm.”

The drill is the same: they hook me up to oxygen, place me on a blood pressure machine that squeezes my arm till my hand turns blue and literally ties me up to an EKG machine that really doesn’t tell you jack shit. There are stories where people are having heart attacks and for whatever reason, the EKG doesn’t pick it up. I usually have a chest x-ray and blood test done, but this last time, just an EKG was given and a quick exam. I have been diagnosed with what’s called “costochondritis” which is an inflammation of the rib or cartilage connecting a rib. It is a common cause of chest pain. The doctor usually diagnoses this by pressing on the walls of your chest, and if it hurts, then you’re diagnosed with that if your EKG is normal. They send you home with some ibuprofen and some well wishes. In my opinion, costochondritis is some made up name for when doctors don’t know what the hell you have.

So when do I call 911? And if I experience chest pains and every single symptom related to a heart attack, do I hesitate to call 911? Do I take chances on a life threatening episode? I can usually tell the difference between an anxiety attack and a heart attack. At times, if I’m unsure, I’ll just pop an aspirin and hope for the best. But what about significant signs? If I have heartburn, do I rush to the ER? If I could show you my medical history on “false alarms”, as well as the medical bills, you wouldn’t believe it. So my question is: am I a hypochondriac because I go to the ER for symptoms that mimic a heart attack or are my visits well validated as “normal”?

Upon my next visit, (and you know there will be one), they can at least let me decorate my own area. Maybe I should start working in the hospital so I can feel safe.

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LarryLilly said...

I hear you there. That and gastric problems, all in the same area. Why couldnt the heart be somehwere like the lower leg, the tummy where it is the lungs in the far upper reach. No, they all occupy the same area.

But better be alive and wrong than be dead right, and dead.

~Just me again~ said...

It's really a tough call isn't it. I know when I had my lil strokes in '06. By the time my mom came to take me in, it had subsided. I'd gone to the hospital, and they told me next time call 911. Well...since then I've had a couple that I thought maybe I should, but I neglected it....I think if it was the real thing, for me I will know.

But I think in the medical bill dept we're a lil more lucky as it's pretty much all covered.

Katherine said...

When suffering constant pain, as you are, it can cause a person to distraction. You want answers & definitive answers for what ails you so that you can deal with it.
It's easy for others to consider you a hypochondriac but no one else can FEEL the pain that you feel.
Do you get any back pain with this pain because sometime back injuries/ damage to the disc spaces in the spine can cause pain to radiate down the arm & chest and at times the pain can be quite frightening & intense. I have damage in my spine & often experience this pain. Sometimes the onset it sudden and sometimes I can sort of feel it coming but knowing the source of the pain makes it a lot easier to handle.
Anyway, I hope it settles for you Deb.
Whilst I'm here I'd like to wish you & Madeline a very Happy New Year.

the walking man said...

Have your gall bladder checked to ascertain whether there is a stone or some blockage.

Just_because_today said...

I think you know the answer to that, and we both know what anxiety and panic attacks can do.

Keep in mind that many websites don't have accurate information. It can be someone with no credentials or knowledge (like me) giving advice.

We all handle things in our own way - not one better than the other. For instance, I wait until I can't wait no more...with my history, it is probably not the right thing to do. When I called 911(or it was called for me) it was because I knew after being in pain for long "that" pain was different - somehow I did.

So...what can I tell you? at least you always know you are okay! But I would insist on having an EZ Pass and to have my own bedspread.

monicac2 said...

You probably are a hypochondriac ... and I only say that because it takes one to know one.

Right now I'm currently suffering from a cough that started with a scratchy throat followed by a sore throat. Seems pretty typical, except I have some wheezing with it and, because this follows some cigarettes I smoked while out of town recently (I know), I am convinced I have lung cancer. As I lay on the couch, my hypochondria told me, "You should go Google "bronchitis precedes lung cancer" to see what shows up. Thank God I didn't (yet). I have been down that road before!

My two cents? If you think you are, you probably are - and once you know it, you can manage it. Doesn't mean that all of our symptoms are imagined but we just need to look at all of them with a critical eye.