He's Fed Up

Q: For the past three years, my wife (late twenties) has been having heart palpitations that have required us to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours in emergency rooms and doctors' offices. All anyone can tell her is that even though they can't find a cause for the condition, they don't feel that it is life-threatening or even all that unhealthy. Doctors always ask about her stress levels and she denies feeling stressed. But I really do think it's caused by anxiety.

A couple of weeks ago, after about the third trip to the emergency room in as many days, I got fed up and told her I'm tired of sitting in cold hospitals, rocking our three-year-old daughter to sleep, waiting for test results that will tell us nothing. I finally told her I would drop her off at the hospital and she could call me later to pick her up. She was furious at me for not being more sensitive and understanding. Do you think I out of line? -- Luke

Dr. Susan: For the sake of your young child, in particular, your idea to drop off and pick up your wife is a sensible idea. Make sure you emphasize the positive reasons, not that you're fed up. Being fed up with a loved one who is suffering, while understandable, is not something you need to share with her. (Tell a buddy. Tell me. But don't tell her.) Has your wife seen a psychiatrist or psychologist and described her symptoms precisely, rather than only running into emergency rooms when she can't think straight? I'm no expert here, but maybe she could be having some sort of panic attack? A racing heart and overwhelming fear are symptoms. The right medication, along with counseling, could help. Don't give up searching out the solution between hospital visits. And be as compassionate as possible. But don't drag your kid to the hospital routinely -- that's got to be very scary for her and useless for your wife.

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