Top 10 Ridiculous Comments I’ve Received in the ER

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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I have learned the hard way that some of my chronic illnesses should NOT be managed in an emergency room. Some circumstances, however, warrant immediate medical attention. It has been difficult to figure out what exactly is an emergency and what is “normal” for a life with chronic hypoxia, pulmonary hypertension and congenital heart disease.

My therapist and I recently created a list of situations that would require immediate 911 emergency attention. For me, taking a trip to the ER is necessary when: my oxygen levels won’t go up despite the oxygen therapy; when I lose consciousness and hit my head (after having multiple concussions I don’t take head injuries lightly); when my pain levels from other co-existing conditions are too high for me to manage at home; and when my heart rate is beating at an abnormal rhythm and I need an immediate pacemaker check.

The reason why we decided to come up with some type of list is because I have had many trips to the ER over the past five years of dealing with frequent syncope episodes related to my condition.

Some of my ER experiences have been great. The ER visits that left me feeling calm and reassured afterward were the times when the doctors knew my condition was chronic. They assured me that everything was okay, and that I was not experiencing anything “new for me.” They recognized the fact that CHD and PH are extremely hard to manage, provided comfort in times of my stress from health anxiety, and made sure to get all the facts from my team of doctors about my medical needs.

My conditions were validated; I was made to feel like a human being. I was given encouragement and positive feedback about my depth of knowledge related to my medical conditions. The times in the ER when the doctors learned something from my rare conditions also were part of the positive experiences.

Unfortunately, I would like to stress that only SOME of these experiences have been great. The majority of them have been horrifying and have left me emotionally traumatized. I know the difference between a doctor who wants to take the time to get to know me and discuss my rare conditions, vs. the doctors who probably are thinking “This is her eighth time here in the past three months. She has anxiety issues. Get her out — fast!

The problem with being treated this way in a hospital is that the chronic illness community needs be able to trust their doctors. Making us feel invalidated certainly will not gain trust. Before they discovered just how serious my condition was, I was treated terribly (even though I have a mile-long medical history including CHD, with numerous anomalies associated with it).

An unwelcome top 10 list

I have created a list of the top 10 most ridiculous comments I have received from some ignorant, pompous medical professionals. If you have ever been aggravated after hearing one of these from a doctor, I am truly sorry. Coming from the girl who carries oxygen around on her back now, you are NOT alone.

(Remember: These were all prior to my diagnosis of PH and hypoxia, and some were prior to my cardiothoracic bypass surgery.)

  1. “I think this is just anxiety.”
  2. “Has she ever tried cognitive behavior therapy?”
  3. “She knows too much about her medical conditions.”
  4. “The passing out is all in her head.”
  5. “She is requesting too much testing.”
  6. “Does she see a therapist?”
  7. “You should look up conversion disorder. I think it would explain a lot.”
  8. “She looks great to me…”
  9. “Have you tried getting on any anti-anxiety medications?”
  10. “I feel she is suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome.”  

I still have nightmares about some of these wrongful insinuations.

If you ever had a similar experience, just know that it is their lack of awareness to conditions that can’t be detected by a simple blood test and X-ray. Some doctors just don’t want to take the time to dig deeper if it can’t be explained by a simple test.

You should NEVER have to be the victim of a professional’s ignorance or apathy. It’s time they know when they are wrong!


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Dave avatar


Right on I was just in ER last week with chest pain I also have a mile high health records. I also have Pulmanary Hypertension the dr on call had no clue nor wanted to talk about Pulmanary Hypertension

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

So true Dave. People do NOT feel comfortable addressing it for what it is and are so quick to undermine!

Joanne Sperando avatar

Joanne Sperando

I think every PH patient has at least 1 ER horror story. It's scary as hell when you know more than the doctor. But I think in an effort to educate, we have to be as patient as we can, direct them to consult with our PH specialist, be as prepared as possible and provide med lists, diagnosis/surgery lists, and any other pertinent info. And perhaps after the crisis is over, follow up with them so that they learn about PH and it will make life easier for the next PHer that seeks treatment. If I'm not mistaken, some of the specialty pharmacies will do teaching sessions for hospital staff.

Chris avatar


Absolutely! Couldn't agree more. It happens too many times.

Anne McCoy avatar

Anne McCoy

My 22 year old daughter, Tricia Dorrell, succumbed to PH after 4 years and MANY, MANY ER visits.
This post of yours brought me to tears. The negative ER visits far outweighed the positive and left me with a real disdain for medical professionals who left my daughter feeling like "less than". Repeatedly her symptoms were ignored and she was treated like an hypochondriac, leaving her believing she was one (further delaying an accurate diagnosis). It was not until her 2nd visit in a few week period, when I suggested a heart problem, that finally they bothered to listen, giving the diagnosis of PH within hours. To this day, 10 years after her death, I have no understanding of the unkind, unprofessional way she was treated and I cannot and will not ever fully trust the medical professionals who are sworn to diagnose and treat.

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

I am so sorry to hear about the awful experiences that your daughter had. After my recent horrible experiences I actually talked to the supervising doctor of the two doctors I had. I wrote a letter to the both of them and plan on taking action by taking my complaint to the boards. Unfortunately I have been left with emotional trauma which makes it harder for me to accept my diagnosis and the fact that I DO need oxygen. Recently this past week I haven't been wearing my oxygen while running around and about 3 days later I was experiencing so much joint pain. There is still that voice in my head saying "this is all in your head" even though deep down I know it is far from the truth. My thoughts are with you ! Something must be done about this and I wish there was a way to prevent it. Xoxo

Dave avatar


So sorry but she is in a place now where she has no more sickness

Dagmar avatar


We are in Nz. My husband started displaying symptoms of PH in 2003 (intolerance to exercise), diagnosis in 2011. In between we had many occasions where he was treated for anxiety, referred to breathing therapy,and Yes considered a hypochondriac by the Er. The fact that his symptoms of low O2 and heart arrhythmia always subsided when he lay down in a hospital bed did not help. He now carries brochures about PH which he hands over to ambulance and ER staff, that helps.

Sonia avatar


Hi, how do I get the brochures? I was unaware these were available. Il leave a message on the NZ page.


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