We have talked about the statistics. We talked about the warning signs and about what to do when someone is having a stroke. What we have yet to talk about is that sometimes doctors fail.
On October 14, 2009 I went to the Alina clinic in Woodbury for my yearly exam and birth control prescription renewal. The doctor was more concerned about whether or not my insurance would pay for the pap because I was a few weeks early. She said “Ya know they only pay for one per year. Your last exams was in November 2008. So they might not pay and you will get a bill.” The doctor actually left the room for a few minutes so I could think about whether or not I wanted my exam. Still to this day I can’t believe she did that.
When she came back in the room she was rushing and barely listening to anything I was saying. I was getting annoyed so I changed my tone and said “look I am really tired, my right leg has been throbbing, I have redness and swelling in my calf and upper thigh. This isn’t normal for me.” The doctor looked me in the eye and said “well you said you haven’t been walking as much. Go home walk and drink more water. Here’s your script. Bye.”
With those words she left the room and I got dressed. If she wasn’t concerned then I shouldn’t be. So I didn’t give it a second though and I went on about my day. As the days went by I wasn’t getting any better. I had shooting pains and major swelling in my leg. Again I brushed it off, drank some water, and walked a little more. I had bigger things to tackle. I finished out my last few days at the pharmacy benefit management company and looked forward to staring my new job that Monday. I didn’t have the time to be sick, so my health it was shoved to the side. After all the doctor she wasn’t worried so I wasn’t going to worry either.
Monday came and I was super pumped for my new job. By the end of the day I did not feel well. The shooting pain was moving up my leg into my stomach and I had this massive head ache. When I got home I took some Tylenol and went to bed. I woke up fine on Tuesday and set out to conquer day 2 of my new job. I felt fine all day Tuesday. Wednesday afternoon would prove to be difficult. I had this pain it felt like someone was dragging a knife up and down my right side. My leg was so swollen it barely fit in my pants and I just felt sick. When I got home I took some Tylenol and went to sleep.
Thursday October 22, 2009 I woke up feeling fine. I had slight pains in my chest, I chalked it up to a cold and headed out to work. Fuck me, the freeway was bumper to bumper and I was worried about being late. I continued on I94, as I drove the pain in my chest kept on getting worse. It felt like thousands of knives poking me and when I tried to take a deep breath it felt like trying to inflate a tiny balloon. Again I said to myself “don’t worry you will be fine, all you need to do is make it to work, take some Tylenol and drink some water. My condition worsened, by the time I reached Saint Paul I could barely breath, my arms were going numb, my heart was racing, and I, I was fighting. Lexington Parkway, I made it there and took the exit. I drove all the way back to Woodbury. I remember thinking do I go home or do I go straight to the Hospital.
I chose the hospital and that is where my morning unraveled. The doctor ruled out a heart attack and he was leaning towards a respiratory infection. I apologized profusely for taking up their time. My blood oxygen level was below 50% and the doctor paused for a moment and asked if I was on a birth control I told him “yes, Yes I am. I am on the Nuva Ring.” The Doctor explained the risks of blood clots and the D-Dimer test to me. He told me, its most likely not that, but we want to be safe. The results came back and the results were not good. I was in trouble. I was sent off to CT and with in forty minutes the blood clot was found. I had a blood clot the size of a ten cent gumball in my left lung. It was wedged in the main valve leading from my left lung to my heart. My lung had signs of infarction, I had 20% tissue death in the lower portion of my left lung. My heart was barely getting any blood nor was my body getting the vital amount of oxygen it needed.
The Doctor ordered the highest dose of Heparin possible. He talked to me and tried to explain everything that was going on. A nurse he noticed that my blood pressure was climbing. I remember looking at the nurse and saying “I feel really light headed, like I am sinking, and and……..” In that moment I lost my words. In that moment I had a stroke. The staff gave me clot busters and started the Heparin drip. I was not going home for a while. At 26 years old, just five days shy of my 27th birthday I almost died. My life was forever changed and I was left to chart my course as a survivor.
In the coming days I would learn that my stroke was 100% preventable. On October 14, 2009 I described the tell tale signs of a possible blood clot in the leg. She knew I was on the Nuva Ring which was known to cause blood clots. All my doctor had to do that day was listen to me. She had the ability to order a D-Dimer, that test would have signified that I had a clot somewhere in my body, instead she dismissed my concerns and sent me home. Preventable was the hardest pill I had to swallow. I went through hell because a doctor didn’t give a fuck about me, she was more concerned about my insurance company paying than my health.
I had to endure three weeks of Lovenox injections, seven months of INR checks and take warfarin sodium in an attempt to keep my blood thin. Worst of all because of her oversight that day, I can no longer carry a child. OBGYN’s are suppose to bring babies into this world, not take away a woman’s fertility. They are suppose to advocates for women’s health and not be the reason a woman’s health fails. I was on a birth control, so as I told her “Hey my leg hurts, its swollen, red, and warm to the touch.” A red flag should of went up and she should have done her duty and ordered the D-Dimer. Her lack of concern made me dismiss a shit ton of red flags. I thought “the doctor wasn’t concerned, so why should I be concerned?”
The beautiful thing about a woman’s body is that, it never steers her wrong. I should have listened to my gut and pushed for a second opinion. That one doctor changed my perspective and now I fight for my own health. I am not afraid to ask for a second, third, or forth opinion. I will not give up or in until I find someone who is just as passionate about health as I am. I will be damned if I ever get dismissed by a doctor again. To be honest I don’t trust doctors anymore. They are only as smart as the paper their license is printed on.
The OBGYN I saw that day is fully aware of what happened to me. She actually called me and apologized. I said to her “Your apology cannot bring my lung function back, it will not restore my ability to have a baby, and it will not make your lack of concern OK. You can shove your apology up your ass. What’s done is done.” I cannot undo what she did to me, but I sure as hell can make sure no other woman endures my fate. If my story saves one woman or makes one woman pause and ask her doctor “what is my risk.” Then the hell I went through on that day was worth it, because I was able to make a difference in another woman’s life.