It was probably indigestion. That Pad Thai was a bit too salty.
Or maybe a muscle was pulled? There was a move, and boxes were being hauled upstairs.
There’s any number of reasons why my left arm and chest were hurting at the same time, I told myself.
My fellow cubicle dwellers, however, were split on the diagnosis and one comment from the back corner prompted me to take action.
“Left arm and chest? Hate to break this to you, sister, you may be having a heart attack.”
Now here’s the thing about us women, we don’t complain.
Well, that’s not true. I complain a lot, but I rarely go to the doctor with said complaints.
So, it was with some discomfort that extended beyond the dull pain in my chest and the shooting pains up my arm that I went for a midday visit to the not-so-friendly walk-in clinic.
My expectation was that they would put my mind at ease and that would be worth the hours of work I’d have to do from home to catch up. I was wrong.
Now I’m no doctor, but if a middle age woman with documented high blood pressure, chest and left arm pains heads into a clinic it seems there should be some interest, shouldn’t there?
Maybe something more than push against hands and a request to lift arms in the air?
Not even my blood pressure was checked—for the record, it was high according to the update at the drug store.
Maybe that wouldn’t have been bothersome had these questions been asked without being preceded by a heavy sigh.
Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but I do read. I read all about how male doctors are terrible at diagnosing women’s ailments. It’s reached the point where it’s actually deeply stereotypical to sigh, offer useless commentary and then watch a patient walk away, only to have them buy the farm from a heart attack days or weeks later.
Such well documented uselessness is what made my concern about this damn arm and chest pain all the more pronounced.
All over the world, women experience much higher rates of pain, and degraded care for that pain, than men. More than 100 million Americans report living with chronic pain, and the vast majority are women. Yet, doctors routinely discount women’s experiences of pain as emotional or psychological discomfort—aka, hooey.
For example a report penned in 2015 and published in PLOS Medicine found that in 34 countries “many women globally experience poor treatment during childbirth, including abusive, neglectful or disrespectful care.”
You’d think that would be one area where we’d get some special treatment.
We spend a lot of time in the Okanagan talking about how we don’t have enough doctors, how the ones who are here are underpaid and overworked and so on.
What we don’t hear enough about is what’s being done to make the care we receive here exemplary. Is there somebody at that medical school teaching bedside manner? Are they working on dealing with pervasive sexism?
At the very least, are they pointing out that when you choose to do a job you should at least try to do it well. You definitely shouldn’t sigh and half-ass-it when someone has genuine concerns about their well-being.
Needless to say, this has done nothing for my blood pressure. The good news is if I buy the farm next week, you’ll all be learning about where not to go for medical help.
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