I decided a long time ago that I was going to help women. The decision was sparked by a very personal experience in my life.
I looked at the caller ID from my dorm room phone, it was a Cleveland area code – my father’s office. “Why is dad calling me in the middle of his work day?” I asked myself, although I already knew the answer.
“Somi, you need to come home.”
My mother at the age of 45 nearly died. I was in college at the time. Literally her life changed overnight.
A few months prior she had had some arm pain after carrying some suitcases. She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with musculoskeletal strain.Her pain persisted and sometimes went to her jaw and chest.
My mother is slight, a non-smoker and lived a very active lifestyle. So, in and out of the hospital she went for 6 weeks. No one thought that in a small, non-smoker that heart disease was lingering underneath. No one listened as she described the classic symptoms of heart disease — nausea, chest pressure, pain in the left arm in the jaw.
Stress they said, stomach problems said another.
I was pre-med at the time and nervously approached her doctor “My mom, she had an abnormal EKG.” I went on to remind him about our family history – where I lost my grandmother and an aunt at a very young age to heart attacks. He grew very impatient with me and proceeded to remind me of who the doctor was in the room. “I can bet my life savings this has nothing to do with her heart.”
3 days later she was rushed to the hospital via ambulance and into emergency surgery. He robbed us all of the time to be prepared. To talk to our mother or hold her hand prior to going into surgery.
She had quadruple bypass disease. One of her major arteries was occluded by 95%. Her surgeon made us aware that if the heart attack would have come, she would have died like her mother and sister before her.
I confronted her doctor and he apologized. But I thanked him, I thanked him for teaching me who I was NOT going to be.
I learned that women were ignored, that our symptoms and presentations of disease can be very different from men. I vowed that I would take care of women, that I would listen, that I would educate, advocate, and empower.