Working for the Right Organization

“I am going to set you up for physical therapy,” said my doctor when I went to her complaining of dizziness.

Having had low blood pressure my entire life, I’m used to getting a spell of dizziness upon standing suddenly, but this was different, and more and more frequent. This time I was standing in my garage talking to my husband, and the whole room suddenly swirled around my head and I felt woozy. I leaned against the wall or I would have gone down, no question.

It happened again on a very hot day during one of our American Heart Association Heart Walks. I was staffing the walk and had to just throw myself onto the grass (in a very dramatic fashion) so as not to pass out. Thank goodness, it was soft grass and not hard concrete.

Having worked for the American Heart Association for a year, I was surprised by my doctor’s brush off when I told her about these episodes — going to physical therapy made no sense to me.

So, I changed primary care physicians. On my first visit, I entered brandishing my Go Red for Women literature. Women’s heart illnesses and symptoms are different than men’s, like in my case, and I wanted to talk about that. He basically laughed at me but sent me for a stress test, which came back negative. I said, “That’s great; now what do we do for my dizziness?” He hinted that maybe I needed a different kind of doctor, one who deals with psychiatric issues, but he did reluctantly set me up for a heart monitor.

During the week that I wore the monitor, I experienced a dizzy spell while in the park with my dog Oliver. I suddenly got very weak and leaned up against the fence. The guy next to me asked if I was OK because, apparently, I had turned as white as a ghost. I immediately got a call from the heart monitor people who asked, “Did you just have an episode?” I said, yes, and was glad they caught it. I was immediately diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia, which I hadn’t heard of before, but my doctor said was a racing heart. He put me on beta blockers, which work just fine, and I haven’t been dizzy since.

In my case, working at the American Heart Association and visiting its website made a big difference and may have saved my life because I wouldn’t know what was going on without the AHA.

The moral of my story is that you have to be your own advocate. Unless you’re an overweight, smoking, elderly man, some doctors don’t seem to listen. Read. Learn. Educate yourself. Come prepared to fight and bring someone else along who can advocate for you as well. And hopefully the resolution will be as smooth as mine was in the end.

Now I can sleep at night and work for an organization that I believe in. That’s always been paramount in my work experience.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Heart Association.

Highlighting our readers’ experiences with heart disease from their own perspective. We’re always looking for contributions, so please send us yours. Before submitting, please review our Writer’s Guidelines.

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