by Stewart B. Segal, MD
I hear it all the time! “I didn’t come in sooner because I thought I would be better in the morning.” Instead, I’m interviewing the patient in the Intensive Care Unit of my local hospital. Ever hear of a man dying from indigestion? Neither have I. What I too often see is the patient (usually a male) who says “Doc, I thought it was just indigestion.” It wasn’t! It was a massive heart attack and precious time was lost as heart muscle died and, ultimately, so did the patient.
Not long ago I saw the patient who was having bad headaches and walking into walls. His symptoms persisted for over a month before he saw me. Again, my patient rationalized his problems. “I’m just stressed.” Stress does lots of things but it doesn’t cause you to walk into walls.
The earlier the diagnosis, the more chance I, and my team of specialist, have to intervene on your behalf. The emergency room has special procedures called “stroke alerts” and “cardiac alerts” designed to quickly and expertly bring together a team of highly trained individuals and advanced medical techniques proven to limit the damage from a heart attack or stroke. There is a golden window of opportunity. In the case of a stroke, the “alert team” has to intervene within the first six hours of symptom onset.
So please don’t linger at home in pain, presuming it is indigestion or stress. If you are not sure what to do, call your doctor. Please, do not drive yourself to my office or the hospital. If you lose control of your car you may well kill yourself and innocent bystanders. Use the paramedics! Their ambulance is a mobile intensive care unit. Their skills are phenomenal. They can have the appropriate “alert” team waiting for you at the door of the hospital.
One last thing, please listen to your spouse. In the case of the husband, I know it breaks the unwritten rule that men cannot listen to or admit that their wife is right, but she is!