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Dr. Val Tells ABC News About Hospital Errors And How To Avoid Them

I kick off this segment with a surprising twist: I describe a hospital error that I experienced as a patient in the ER of a famous academic medical center.  And yes, I give a shout out to Paul Levy at minute 5 for his courageous efforts to reduce infection rates at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.


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2 Responses to “Dr. Val Tells ABC News About Hospital Errors And How To Avoid Them”

  1. I’ve just discovered your website today and am so glad I did. Smart, savvy, comprehensive, well-written,credible content – what more could “e-patients” want? Your own personal story of facing E.R. errors is shocking and, alas, alarmingly common.

    My own experience with a hospital error involved being sent home from the E.R. with a misdiagnosis of acid reflux, despite presenting with textbook heart attack symptoms like crushing chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm. The Emergency Room doc ordered all the standard cardiac tests. When my first cardiac enzyme/troponin blood tests came back, the doc said to me: “Your first blood test came back fine. We’ll do another blood test in a while, but IT WILL BE FINE, TOO.” He had already told me by this time that I “fit the demographics” for GERD (acid reflux).

    And although I DID have a friend with me during my five hour stay in Emergency to act as my advocate, as you recommend in this TV interview, at one point the nurse came to my bedside (while my friend was out of the room) and told me: “Your friend will have to stop questioning the doctor. He is a very good doctor and does not like to be questioned!”

    The kind of questions that my friend was asking included: “What about the pain down her ARM? That’s not a symptom of acid reflux, is it?!?!” Pretty good question, I thought…

    At the time, I was too stunned and overwhelmed to respond – plus patients are acutely aware of our vulnerability in such a stressful situation. I left the E.R. that day feeling embarrassed and apologetic for having wasted five hours of their valuable time over a simple case of indigestion. This was followed by two weeks of increasingly debilitating symptoms until I finally returned to the E.R. with now-unbearable symptoms – this time to a new diagnosis of “significant heart disease” and an emergency angioplasty and stent implanted in my left anterior descending coronary artery, which was 99% blocked.

    Since then, as you can imagine, I’ve been very interested in the subject of diagnosis and misdiagnosis in women’s heart disease – a condition which unfortunately carries a reputation for striking gender imbalance in both diagnostics and treatment.

    I spent five days at Mayo Clinic last fall, where I and 45 other heart attack survivors attended the annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women with Heart Disease. I learned there that the majority of us had been sent home from Emergency with misdiagnoses ranging from acid reflux to anxiety attacks to gall bladder problems to menopause. One women there told me she had been sent home from the E.R. three times. On the third visit, the E.R. doc suggested she might want to consider taking anti-depressants. On the fourth, she had double bypass surgery.

    For more on this subject, read “Heart Attack Misdiagnosis in Women” at http://myheartsisters.org/2009/05/28/heart-attack-misdiagnosis-women/

    Thank you, Dr. Val!

  2. drval says:

    Thanks for your comment, Carolyn. I’m utterly disgusted (but not surprised) by what happened to you and your heart attack/GERD fiasco. I’m so glad you’re here to tell about it! :)

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