Chest pain, partner won't let me call 911. What can I do?
July 20, 2013 6:16 AM   Subscribe

My partner is having serious pain right now in the shoulder and chest. He doesn't think it is a heart attack and will not let me call 911. What can I do?

He says he doesn't think it is a heart attack because he is young and it has already been lasting for several minutes. What can I do to reduce symptoms if it is a heart attack and/or what else could this be besides a heart attack? And is there any place that you can call doctors, relate symptoms, and hear what they think that is not an emergency room?
posted by corb to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: There is a history of heart attack in his family but usually older. He says doing things to distract him from the pain helps slightly but it is still awful.
posted by corb at 6:17 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Define "won't let you call". Are they physically preventing you from picking up a telephone?

Ask forgiveness, not permission.
posted by olinerd at 6:20 AM on July 20, 2013 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: Says he will say he is fine if I call and EMTs show.
posted by corb at 6:21 AM on July 20, 2013

You need to call 911.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:21 AM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

Call 911. They are experienced with people who "say they are fine" when they're not.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:22 AM on July 20, 2013 [30 favorites]

Call anyway. Let it be on him plus maybe the EMTs can convince him otherwise.

Your health insurance might have a nurse line you can call and describe symptoms.
posted by ghharr at 6:22 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

If it were my husband, I'd call 911 anyway, no hesitation. I worked with a lady who would have diabetic and blood pressure crises constantly, and she always refused 911. We always called anyway, she almost always tried to argue with the EMTs, they virtually always convinced her to go anyway.

If you try to call your insurance company's nurse support line (if it has one), they're just going to send you to the ER after freaking out you wasted time calling them in the first place.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:22 AM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Call anyway, deal with the aftermath in your relationship later if you're wrong. Better than not having a relationship because your partner killed himself through stubbornness.
posted by Dasein at 6:25 AM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: More precisely, you call 911 and tell them,

"My partner is having serious pain right now in the shoulder and chest, but he hates me to call you guys and says he will say he is fine if I call and EMTs show."

I am absolutely SURE that they've been through stuff like this before.

"I'm fine" must be the most used last phrase. Don't let yourself be fooled.
posted by Namlit at 6:26 AM on July 20, 2013 [26 favorites]

Call anyway. Even if he says he is fine and they believe him (which they probably won't, they've seen this thing before), at least you've done all you could.

Call 911. Now.

On preview, what Namlit said.
posted by rakaidan at 6:26 AM on July 20, 2013

posted by cairdeas at 6:29 AM on July 20, 2013 [38 favorites]

(because it can reduce the damage from a heart attack sometimes, not to mask the pain)
posted by cairdeas at 6:30 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Even if it's not a heart attack, the best person to advise you and your partner about what these symptoms could be and how to resolve them is a doctor, not internet randos.

Make the call.
posted by windykites at 6:33 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call 911.

Better to be safe. Heart damage is no fun and will affect the rest of his life. If he is having a cardiac event, better to intervene soon.

If you haven't called 911, I'm curious, how "young" is he?
posted by Fairchild at 6:35 AM on July 20, 2013

I'd rather have him living and pissed off. He'll forgive you soon enough.
posted by kimberussell at 6:37 AM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Call 911 and say what Namlit said.

Nthing aspirin. From the Mayo Clinic Website on Acccute Mycardial Infarction:

Aspirin. Aspirin decreases blood clotting, helping to keep blood flowing through narrowed heart arteries. Aspirin is one of the first things you may be given in the emergency room for suspected acute coronary syndrome. You may be asked to chew the aspirin so that it's absorbed into your bloodstream more quickly.

Elsewhere I see the recommended dose is 2 regular aspirins, chewed and swallowed with water.

But call 911 first.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:39 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Absolutely call. The EMTs will probably be able to do an EKG, and that data will be a lot more convincing than "no really, I'm fine".
posted by shiny blue object at 6:56 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call 911.

I'd rather have my partner pissed off with me and alive to bitch about it.
posted by easily confused at 6:57 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Call 911. They are experienced with people who "say they are fine" when they're not.

This. In some locations (maybe all? I don't know) if you even call 911 and hang up they'll call you right back.

Or is there a walk-in urgent care place near you? Tell him that even if it's something else, why not see a Dr and have whatever that is treated? The Dr at the walk-in place will call an ambulance if need be.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:57 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call EMT, chew aspirin.

Often, heart attacks don't even feel like pain, more like pressure, a twinge, or nothing at all.
posted by cacofonie at 6:58 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Call 911. Agreed with all that they will check him out regardless what he says. Report back, all my best wishes.
posted by sweetkid at 6:59 AM on July 20, 2013

Call 911. They can usually begin advanced treatment in the ambulance and save precious minutes wasted going to the ER or urgent care. If the paramedics evaluate and decide not to transport, in our community there isn't a charge.
posted by tamitang at 7:01 AM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: Hopefully you've stopped reading and made the call, but here's an anecdote. My brother, with zero history of heart problems, had a fainting spell at home. This had happened to him very occasionally since childhood so he said he was fine. His son, with recent EMT training, insisted on taking him to the hospital. Long story short, he didn't leave the hospital until they had installed a pacemaker. A repeat episode could have killed him. Call 911.
posted by beagle at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Even if it's not a heart attack, he appears to be suffering from a great deal of sudden pain. He's not fine! Call 911.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:23 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make the call. Aspirin if you've got it. Go if you haven't already!
posted by azpenguin at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2013

I would make the call anyway, but if you are not willing to do that, give him two aspirin, tell him how much you love him, and tell him anything else you would want to say to him if you thought it might be your last chance.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: I'm an EMT. (IANYEMT, TINMA).

I agree with previous posters that you should call 911 regardless of his instructions and also offer him 325mg aspirin (either one adult pill or four baby pills) to be chewed and washed down with a sip of water. Make sure the aspirin is not too old (one day past expiration date is probably fine; one year, maybe not). If you don't have the aspirin, don't go out to buy it because the EMTs will probably get there before you come back.

Several minutes is not a long time for heart attacks; people can experience partial infarctions for hours or days.

Young people do get heart attacks.

Don't bother with nurse's hotlines or anything like that. Call 911 and get him assessed.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:34 AM on July 20, 2013 [14 favorites]

I hope you called 911, or persuaded him to take a ride to the ER. That sort of intense pain always calls for medical advice, and the medical advice will be Come in and get it checked out. I did that once, and it was heratburn, and they said You did the right thing, we're glad it's nothing worse. Please post an update, and I hope the update is something mild.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on July 20, 2013

My friend died at 21 from a heart attack, he had no family history and no
posted by irish01 at 8:39 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call. Even if it turns out not serious, nobody in the emergency room or at 911 will mind. Better to be wrong that way than the fatal way. He need not feel embarrassed that it might be nothing.
posted by mermayd at 8:42 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No! No way! Don't go to the hospital! Do what I did, tough it out, brazen it out to people who care about you! Be a tough guy! It's so attractive! It's sexy and stuff!

Then die, like I did, on the way to the damn hospital, because you're a stubborn fool, like I am.

Don't pay your partner any mind. Call anyway. No matter what, you don't play around with this stuff. Unless you're a fool.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:44 AM on July 20, 2013 [64 favorites]

i would call if you're worried, yeah.

once you call and if it's not a heart attack, it might be heartburn/gerd/etc. my husband used to get these sudden attacks and if he could make himself burp the pressure would lessen. our doctor told him to chew simethicone with it happened and it helps every time.
posted by nadawi at 8:49 AM on July 20, 2013

I have had luck with "OK, you may not want to go to the hospital, but I am freaking the hell out and I will be terrified and freaked until you see a doctor. Do it for me."

Yeah, it's manipulative. But it worked.
posted by bunderful at 9:19 AM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: I'm assuming (hoping) you have dealt with this by now, but one piece of advice I can offer is to look up and see if there's a dial-a-nurse service available to you. Your local government might offer one, or your health insurance company might offer one. You call up and a nurse asks you questions about your symptoms and triages your problem for you, telling you if you need to go to the doctor right now or whenever you get a chance or if you should get to the ER right now. The one near me, Telehealth Ontario, will even call an ambulance for you if that's the determination they make of the right thing to do.

The advice he won't take from you, he might take from an RN.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:25 AM on July 20, 2013

Best answer: Just some quick diagnostic advice for the future. Heart attack pain is left sided. It is also usually described as pressure or weight on the chest. Therefore if someone is having sharp, right sided chest pain it greatly reduces one's index of suspicion for heart attack. I'm not saying it'simpossible to have right sided chest pain during a heart attack- heck, there are people who have their heart on the right side of their chest (dextracardia), I'm just saying that its rare. It should also be noted that these are not the only symptoms that can present during a heart attack-women often will experience abdominal discomfort like indigestion and sometimes the only symptom present in the elderly will be increased malaise. Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and breaking out in cold sweat are also commonly presenting sumptoms. That being said, pain is not normal, and unexplained intense pain that does not go away on its own should be evaluated by medical professionals.
posted by brevator at 11:21 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I came to say aspririn. But, also, if you are convinced he needs to be seen, call 911 or put him In the car and drive him at metaphorical gunpoint. When my ex had chicken pox in his 30s, which is pretty deadly in adults, and I concluded he needed to see a doctor, I told him something like "Get in the fucking car. I am not asking you. I am telling you. You are in the army. If you want to die young, do it at work, not on my fucking couch. I am not going to live with that."

They changed his meds, his fever came down, he stopped being irrational. Even EMT can intercede in some situations where it is clear a person is fucked in the head. You do not need permission to make the decision for a fucked in the head irrational person who is endangering their own life.
posted by Michele in California at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Please, please let us know how everything turned out. Hoping for the best, and hoping you convinced him to call 911.
posted by cooker girl at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2013

Response by poster: okay, back!

Did not convince to go for 911 but did check for the nearest kind of urgent care/clinic sort of situation, which turned out to be just a few blocks away, on the grounds that it would be a check-out (but they would call an ambulance if it was necessary). He is okay, apparently really severe heartburn can also look like a heart attack.

However thank you all so so much for all the great advice that convinced me to get up and kick him into doing something at least, because just because it was not a heart attack this time doesn't mean it might not be next time.

Especial thanks to danceswithblue, once we got back I showed him your story and we had a serious talk about What Happens Next time so this never ever happens again.
posted by corb at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2013 [28 favorites]

As per my first aid instructor's comments (he was a former paramedic): If anyone ever tells you that they are feeling chest pain, and y'all think that it may be a heart attack, they must sit/lie down immediately.
Do not stand up, do not walk to the bathroom.
Often, the body will start to clear all material out of the system - someone may feel like they have to urinate/defecate/puke. They must stay seated/lying down. Furniture/modesty is not the priority - their health is.

I can appreciate that someone would be willing to go to a clinic under their own power, but the simple act of transporting there/getting up, walking to car, sitting down/getting out of car to walk to building can be enough to bring on a second attack.

I have personally lost 2 friends this way: one elderly gentleman experienced heart attack symptoms while driving. He pulled over, took a breather, and drove directly to the hospital with his wife in the car. He refused to be loaded onto a stretcher, insisting that he could walk. Dropped with a second heart attack in the first steps, and died.

Other healthy, physically fit young friend in late 30s experienced heart attack symptoms at his martial arts class. He waved it off, and went home by vehicle. He was found later that night with body close to the washroom - was thought that he had experienced a full attack, and was moving to the washroom to empty his bowels when the second wave hit.

So please, stay put, call 911 and wait for EMTs to arrive - they have the necessary equipment to both move people with as little impact as possible, as well as attempt resuscitation.
Glad your partner is OK!
posted by NorthernAutumn at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2013 [16 favorites]

EMTs and emergency departments don't mess around with chest pain. They take all chest pain seriously until they can confirm it's not heart-related.

I once walked into an ER, on the advice of a nurse, complaining of chest pain. In my experience, it was consistent with previous bouts of pleural inflammation, but it had lasted weeks and wasn't getting better. They called me in quickly, gave me 4 baby aspirin, did a nuclear scan for telltale heart attack damage and an echocardiogram for pericarditis and endocarditis. They found nothing and I was out within 6 hours. Magically, the pain started to get better the next day (maybe it was the aspirin?).

Chest pain is such a big deal that they want to quickly stabilize and treat, and rule out heart attacks and other insidious problems as soon as possible - so you want to take it seriously as well.
posted by WasabiFlux at 2:37 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Corb, did they talk to you about his stomach? I ask because when a similar thing happened to us (heart attack scare, ER, turned out to be stomach acid issues) we found out that his stomach damage had likely been caused by my husband's habit of coming home and relaxing after work with a couple ibuprofens and a glass of wine. Everyone knows not to mix Tylenol and alcohol, but we didn't know not to mix ibuprofen; turns out that will burn a hole right through your stomach. Just throwing it out in case that's part of your partner's routine as well...
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:04 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing the stomach ibuprofen thing. My sister was in the ER, reluctantly, last year, for the same thing. She had to have an emergency operation to remove part of her stomach.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:18 PM on July 20, 2013

I'm glad your beau is all right.

EMTs and emergency departments don't mess around with chest pain.

Nthing this.

The tl;dr version* is that after reacting badly to a beta blocker with some shortness of breath and exceedingly minor chest pain, I went to the ER to get checked out and was on a bed getting an EKG in like 5 minutes, even though the pain wasn't even at a 1 on a 0-10 scale.

There was something the ER attending didn't like about my ekg, so they ran an assload of blood tests, kept me overnight in the cardiac ward and stole my blood a few more times, and ran a nuclear stress test in the morning. Whereupon I learned that apart from being hypertensive and anxious, I'm fine. And I got to be radioactive!

*The longer version involves Iain Banks' death, wrestling a small but STRONG dog into compliance, and having a full-on panic attack in the grocery store. Like ya do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:02 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

corb, I'm really happy your partner is okay. That is some damned powerful heartburn.
posted by Coatlicue at 5:12 PM on July 20, 2013

I used to get scary, bad heartburn (as described in this posting) and 'read that when I had an attack I should take two big swallows of a strong antacid like liquid Gaviscon.

Wait no more than 2 minutes. If I still had the pain call 911. It has always gone away and now, thank God, I don't get it anymore.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 8:47 AM on July 21, 2013

Best answer: Yeah, severe heartburn can mimic heart attack symptoms. A suckling pig dinner in Bali once landed me in the ER for an EKG. As the doctor there explained to me, the acid can burn the nerve endings in such a way that the pain radiates similarly to heart attack pains.

Glad that's all it turned out to be and glad that you agreed on a plan for if it happens again.

If his family and personal health history are such that a heart attack is a big worry, you might consider getting a home defibrillator. From what I've read, how quickly someone gets a shock makes the biggest difference in heart attack survival rates -- more than aspirin, more than CPR, and now with the prevalence of AEDs in homes, workplaces, and public places, even more than how far you are from the hospital. This is the one I gave to my mother-in-law and my own parents for Christmas two years ago: Phillips HeartStart Home Defibrillator (AED). The Amazon reviews are full of "this saved my life / my husband / my coworker" stories.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:13 AM on July 21, 2013

« Older My work crush has a GF??   |   Is there any point in stockbrokers? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.