An ox. That’s my mother-in-law. Doesn’t miss a day at the gym. Ever.
Monday. She goes to the gym and gets to work on the treadmill. A few minutes in she gets chest pain so she decides to stop. She decides to see if the bike goes any better. It does not and again, she feels the tightness in her chest. Maybe the row machine? Nope. Chest pain. Hmm. She decides to sleep on it.
Tuesday, she skips the gym. Like I said—ever. Mom-in-law never left the couch on Tuesday, instead she zoned out watching reruns of Frasier.
Wednesday, she’s back at the gym. Same damn chest pain. She doesn’t tell anyone of course and staggers her way out to her car where she calls her daughter Pam.
Her other daughter, the one I’m not married to.
“Pam, I’m not very happy right now.” Mom-in-law said.
“Why, what do you mean?”
“I couldn’t exercise again today.”
“What do you mean again? I don’t like how this begins.” Mom-in-law tells her the story of Monday, how she could not continue to exercise, goes on a sidebar about her favorite Frasier episode about sibling rivalry, finally tells Pam about Wednesdays chest pain and Pam takes her to the urgent care. It doesn’t matter how many times I remind Pam; she refuses to stop going to urgent cares—she thinks I’m an idiot. At the urgent care, the EKG is read by the computer as normal. Mom-in-law is told that this is angina by the nurse practitioner. They asked to speak to the supervising physician. Their request was refused. Instead, the urgent care arranged an appointment for her with cardiology in—three fricking weeks! Sent her home and told her exercise is okay, but! If her chest gets tight, go ahead and stop. They sent her home to die.
With chest pain off and on, mom in law toughed it out through the night. The next day, I finally hear this story from sis-in-law, Pam, and I speed mom in law in my Camry straight to the emergency room, where the EKG is reviewed and unchanged; and ischemic. Troponin is three. Cath lab finds a ninety-nine percent lesion of her left anterior descending artery. She receives two stents. She recovers uneventfully, thank God.
A nonphysician literally sent her home to die and could not recognize a failed stress test. God help America. What if mom in law had not had an actual physician looking out for her? She would be dead and my wife would be devastated. Because an urgent care pretended it could handle chest pain and interpret EKGs.
I have taken to repetition to my Facebook and Twitter and other #SoMe, repeating my warning: beware the nonphysician, they don’t know what they don’t know. And most Americans don’t know what they don’t know either.
- S. Sham