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Pay attention to symptoms that might point to serious health problems

Judith Whitehead

Judith Whitehead - Contributing Writer

Recently, my son was having what he thought was some sort of ingestion, severe indigestion. Because of his young age, 32, health care professionals thought eating habits were causing the symptoms.

The outcome would have been much different had he listened to the doctors and not pursued further medical treatment. Working a stressful job and not watching his diet, and having a history of elevated cholesterol made for a bad combination.

See a related WNY Refresh cover story in today's print edition of The Buffalo News

More often than not, we have symptoms in our daily lives that we chose to ignore, for whatever reason, for instance a busy lifestyle or time constraints. We hope the symptoms will pass and go away. This is where our own intuition kicks in and that little voice we often hear in our minds tells us - take care of this.

Symptoms like indigestion, arm and jaw pain can mean many things, but in many cases are a sure sign of a heart attack .

We must insist on taking immediate action if these symptoms continue; it can make the difference between life or NOT.

My son at first went to a gastro doctor, who thought he should try an antacid and scheduled him for an endoscopy, a scope of the esophagus. If he had done that, I am convinced he would not be here today. He then did see a cardiologist, who told him to try Mylanta and call him in the morning if the symptoms did not subside.

He did not wait; as his symptoms intensified, he drove to an emergency room and thankfully the right course was taken. His symptoms were beyond having a stress test ordered and since he was having a heart attack, immediate steps were taken.

These days, many doctors have busy practices and can miss seeing the forest for the trees; they assume too much and make a judgment call. When they look at a person who seemingly looks healthy they order some testing in their specialty and call it a day. The urgency is not always addressed and their decisions can have a tremendous and final affect on the outcome.

My son had an excellent surgeon and had a stent placed that gave him immediate relief the next day.

If you are not satisfied with a decision from a specialist, seek additional opinions. Today, with medicine becoming a business in many instances, the focus has somewhat shifted to a numbers game. Doctors have to think of much more these days than just practice good medicine and can get distracted. We must more than ever, advocate for ourselves in a medical crisis; if it doesn't seem like the right decision, it may not be.

If our family had not acted quickly in this instance, the outcome would have had a fatal ending.

Working in the health field for the last 40 years, I have seen people misdiagnosed, overmedicated, undermedicated and everything in between. It simply comes down to having a doctor who really listens to the patient and takes the time to eliminate conditions to get to the bottom of their problem.

Doctors sometimes treat symptoms to make them go away and make the patient happy. At times, they mask the symptoms and make it difficult to get a “working diagnosis,” which is critical to treat a problem.

Our family was lucky. We had a doctor who excelled in his field and took the time to recognize symptoms regardless of age or present health. We will forever be in his debt for his quick thinking and expertise.

Our whole family realizes nown more than ever, if we don't feel well, don't brush the symptoms under the rug and hope for the best. Doctors are educated and take an oath to treat and preserve health but sometimes can neglect to see the whole person. Many people still think today that if the doctor is a nice person, they must be good at treatment; not so.

When choosing a doctor, look at their credentials, check out their comments and ratings on websites and review their accomplishments. Yes, its great to “like” your doctor but more than ever, it is more important to be impressed by their competency. If you question their treatment plan and are answered with dismay, than maybe they aren't a good fit for you.

Act on your own intuition. It may save your life some day.

Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.


Twitter: @BNrefresh


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