I think we all have a bit of ‘doctors anxiety’ to a point. That fear to go to the doctor’s surgery just in case something is wrong. Ignorance is bliss, right?
This story starts with tingling in my left pinky finger.
I’m miffed. I’m almost a year post-op after a ulnar decompression in my left elbow but I’m displaying all the symptoms that the nerve is once again trapped. I tweet angrily, venting my frustration out into the void.
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Then the pain started. I first experienced the symptoms on the Sunday but the pain started on the Thursday. I noticed it at work, an ache in the top of my arm that then turned into a pulling pain in certain positions and for certain movements. Not at all the pain I knew to be associated with a nerve compression injury.
Friday, 2pm: the chest pains hit me hard and fast.
I’m suddenly crippled by shortness of breath, palpitations and chest pain but I have this sickening feeling that I need to go to A&E. Not that I need a doctor, but that something is very wrong.
5 minutes after presenting to A&E and an hour after the chest pains started, I’ve had an ECG and blood tests taken. They’re only testing for cardiac issues but I know that instead of running a Troponin blood test that both me and the triage nurse think is pointless, they should be running a D-Dimer blood test.
As expected, the doctor tells me an hour later that the lab results and ECG are normal. I tell him that I’m not satisfied and explain why. He says that my suspicions are what he thought when he first read my notes. He orders a D-Dimer.
6:30pm, I’m called in for the results of my D-Dimer.
Maybe the news that was broken to me wasn’t the life changing news some people face but it’s still the most serious thing I’ve faced where my health is concerned
He doesn’t need to explain what that means. He already knows I’ve worked in Blood Sciences. He knows that I know this means I have an elevated chance of having a blood clot somewhere in my body.
The swelling and pain in my left arm indicates that it’s almost certain. I need a blood thinning injection.
The injection of Clexane is injected into my stomach and I’m sent home, under the instructions to return to the Ambulatory Emergency Care unit the next day for more investigation.
Over the course of the weekend, I spend nearly 10 hours in hospital and eventually on Monday morning, I return once more for a CTPA scan to check there’s no clots on my lungs.
At around 2pm, the consultant on the AEC comes and calls for me and we sit to discuss the results of the scan. Thankfully, there’s no clots. I can come off the anticoagulants. But the CTPA has highlighted an issue the consultant thinks is a chance find.
I have a leaky tricuspid valve in my heart.
Doctors anxiety is something that I find keeps me from going to seek medical help when I need it most but that can sometimes be more dangerous than the problem itself
First of all, I want to thank all the staff at Worcestershire Royal Hospital for their care and compassion over the last few days. That’s all the clinical staff who saw me and my colleagues in the labs who handled my blood samples. I felt extremely well looked after and can’t complain about how thorough everyone was with me (and other patients) in order to find out what was wrong.
But the point of this post is to try and highlight that if you know something isn’t right with your body, go to a doctor or nurse or pharmacist straight away. Even if it’s nothing, you’ve still put your mind at rest. I went, expecting my chest pains to just be anxiety, and found out that I’ve almost certainly had a clot that’s (mercifully) dispersed and have a leaky heart valve. Two things that really should be taken seriously.
I know that ‘doctors anxiety’ is a very real thing and we experience it for one reason or another. Maybe a bad past experience or maybe we’re scared to find out something is seriously wrong. And these are valid fears. But ignoring your ‘doctors anxiety’ is sometimes good for your health. That ‘doctors anxiety’ may make a diagnosis uncomfortable but with that diagnosis, you can get any help that you need to get better. If you let the ‘doctors anxiety’ win? Well, who knows what could happen.
Doctors anxiety is very real and can be very scary but sometimes we have to find ways to overcome it, as hard as it is
I almost didn’t go to A&E. I was going to go on Saturday instead and then thought that I may not need to go at all but deep down, I knew I almost certainly had a clot and had thought so for a few weeks. Now, all the signs point to the fact I almost definitely had one. My gut feeling to go to hospital paid off. Maybe without all the anticoagulants, any clot would have grown and gone to my lungs.
I almost let my ‘doctors anxiety’ win.
And I am so glad I didn’t.