The day I died was also the day of my awakening. Mine wasn’t a dramatic see the white light, but I did stop breathing. It was the not breathing that jarred me awake at 1:15 a.m.
After trying to force air into my lungs with a portable fan, I called EMS. By the time they arrived, I was breathing normally but my blood pressure was bordering stroke level. I arrived at the emergency room at 2:15 a.m. and was admitted at 6:30 a.m. because my blood pressure wasn’t coming down. In fact, it did not normalize until 7 p.m.
After a week of undergoing tests, the cause for my heart function to drop to 15% remained a mystery. It was in that moment that I decided to take control of my health which required several seismic shifts in thinking and actions.
First, was changing the language which allowed me to move from being a professional dieter to focusing on making lifestyle choices that would improve the quality and quantity of life. Second, I had to move with purpose, so walking every day for 30-45 minutes became the norm. A follow-up ultrasound, reconfirmed that the likely suspect was the H1N1 flu virus and that following Dr. Oz’s presciption of diet and exercise resulted in the heart function returning back to near normal levels.
That was eight years ago.
This event is significant because it was the pivotal moment that started this journey to advocate for
the health and wellness needs for women of color. Instead of accepting a generalized diagnosis based on demographics, I actively participate in the design of my care that is more aligned with my personal needs.
I am reminded of Dr. Susan Moore, a black physician in Indiana who died of Covid-19. She succumbed to this disease about two weeks after sharing a video accusing a white doctor of dismissing her complaints of pain and requests for medication because she was Black.
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributes unequal treatment to “enduring racist cultural beliefs and practices.”
The article cites a 2016 study that found half of white medical students and residents held unfounded beliefs about intrinsic biologic differences falsely believing the pain of Black patients was less severe than that of white patients. Sadly, Dr. Moore’s case should, but won’t, refocus attention on the much broader issue of what experts call implicit racial bias in health care toward Black patients.
This disconnect will continue unless we act on what is happening in this moment and change this from a moment into a movement.
The missed opportunity is having information given to us by us. As a community we can collectively resolve that 2021 is the year we advance forward with purpose to take control of our own health and well-being.