I am a 47 year old female. In December of 2010, I had surgery to remove a 2-inch atrial myxoma (a heart tumor) in my left atrium, the costs for which were astronomical, but that is not what I am writing about. I am writing about what happened in the months after my surgery and a cure that cost $9.19 if you don’t count all of the unnecessary doctor visits and procedures.
Shortly after my atrial myxoma excision surgery, I began experiencing symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis. I visited my internist and he ordered lab work to confirm a diagnosis. The lab work was negative, but I continued to experience severe joint pain.
New symptoms emerged, including severe headaches and some numbness. More symptoms started to show up over time. I had pericarditis, pleuritis, chostochondritis, atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. These symptoms had me back in the ER a few times, which included having several electrocardioversions for the arrhythmias and an MRI and CAT scan for the headaches and numbness for suspected mini strokes.
I was sent to two different neurologists. One said I was having migraines and the other said I was possibly hyperventilating. I also had follow up care with my cardiologist a few times and an electrophysiologist a few times. They put me on medication for arrhythmias and were considering ablation surgery to treat them. My cardiologist also recommended I go to a rheumatologist because a lot of my symptoms sounded like an autoimmune disease. The rheumatologist’s tests for lupus were negative, except I had high C reactive protein levels. I had been googling as the symptoms piled up to see if there could be some mystery diagnosis that the doctors were missing. I stumbled on Dressler’s Syndrome, aka Post Pericardiotomy Syndrome. All of the symptoms fit, since I recently had heart surgery to remove the atrial myxoma.
Armed with my new information and a potential diagnosis, I went back to my electrophysiologist with my list of symptoms and told him what I suspected was happening. He concurred with my diagnosis of Dressler’s Syndrome and told me ablation surgery was not indicated for my condition. All I had to do was take 600mg of ibuprophen three times a day for 2 weeks. The cost of my cure was $9.19 for a bottle of 150 ibuprophen tablets on sale at CVS.
The moral of my story is: sometimes you have to be your own advocate.
This blog was originally published on the Costs of Care blog.