A guest post by Karen Friedman MD and Sara Merwin MPH, authors of The Informed Patient: A Complete Guide to a Hospital Stay (Cornell University Press) was kindly published by The Heart Sisters blog. The Heart Sisters is a website for women who have been diagnosed with heart disease, so the guest post follows the fictional journey of Linda, a 49-year-old woman who may be having a heart attack.

Linda was having a busy day: 9 to 5 at the office, and now grocery shopping. But she wasn’t feeling right. She was a little warm and dizzy and felt heart palpitations. She finished shopping and hurried home because she knew something was wrong. But what had her doctor told her? Chew an aspirin if she ever had heart attack symptoms.* Call 911. Linda wasn’t taking any chances: too many people depended on her. She called a friend to meet her in Emergency, grabbed her pill bottles and her printed medical history, and stuck them in her purse.

Linda is savvy. She had symptoms that could have been confused with any number of things, but she made a series of wise decisions: she followed her doctor’s advice, called a friend to help out, and went to the hospital armed with her important records.

At the hospital Emergency Department (ED) she meets a triage nurse, who is trained to determine the seriousness of patients’ medical conditions and their need for immediate care. Linda is only 49 years old, but has been diagnosed with heart disease. The triage nurse examines Linda and alerts the emergency medicine physicians that there is a patient who might be having a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Linda is whisked into a cubicle where doctors and nurses ask her questions. Her friend records the names and professions of the hospital personnel and the types of tests that Linda will have.

Read the complete article about becoming a hospital patient here.