Empathy and Listening Lead an ER Physician to a Life-Changing Diagnosis

And I saved her marital life!

“I have dyspareunia (pain during intercourse) and avoided being physical with my husband for the last one year due to pain,” said this young lady :( & that was enough for me to find the silent cause.

Empathy — to put yourself in someone else’s shoes”

While working in the Emergency Department, a 38 years young lady presented with mild abdominal pain & feeling bloated on & off for the last year. She had been to her primary doctor with the same issue a few months ago but still had the same discomfort & ongoing mild pain, painkillers relieved her temporarily all this time.

Usually, in the ER, patients with chronic problems & having no acute issues are dealt with lightly or sent back to their primary doctors, but Thank God I’m blessed with empathy. I considered every patient like my own family member. That empathic feeling made me treat them differently & to the best of my knowledge.

Coming back to the story; this lady was otherwise completely fine, but I kept on asking more about her routine & nature of pain. I always try to find a clue while listening to my patient, & luckily I picked a key point while counter-questioning continuously. She had dyspareunia, pain during intercourse, and stopped being physical with her husband for almost a year since the pain had started.

And that seldom clue was enough to take this case more seriously & inquire further. I then examined her abdomen, though she was chubby & it really took me a while to find the mobile vague area on her lower abdomen that was painful with deep palpation. I was searching for that sign because she mentioned that I’m sore in the lower abdomen especially when my husband comes over me. After finding the tenderness with good concentration & deep palpation, I also felt a soft lump that was mobile & quite big, but because of the fat tissues, I couldn’t get any accurate measurement, though I was sure about something firm down there, & had to book her for further scanning immediately. I ordered an ultrasound which confirmed a huge ovarian mass on one side, reaching up to her mid-abdomen. I arranged a referral to an ObgGyn physician right away for further management.

Seeing the Ultrasound report made me feel sad & happy both at the same time, sad because it was a huge neglected or misdiagnosed abdominal mass & this poor lady suffered a whole year considering it just a mild usual pain & not sure about the reason, which affected her family life too. I was happy that Thank God I diagnosed her just by getting concerned & listening to her with full concentration, & only if everybody could deal with Love & Care.

“You always have the opportunity to serve this world better”.

The great news was that after a few weeks, a young woman stopped me in the main hall & said, “Thank you so much, doctor. The surgeons removed my huge ovarian mass & the biopsy report showed that it was benign in nature. I’m here for a followup now. Everything is back to normal in my life”. She was so obliged & that’s when I remembered, she was the lady presenting with just some mild pain in her tummy :)

So I believe Empathy is the best quality to possess & it really makes you understand the world better ❤️

This was a rare case, each case can be different and may have various other causes. So do your research & see your doctor if you have any concerns :)

Spread Positivity & Love ❤️ Comments are appreciated!

Emergency Doctor , MBA in Strategic Management @ Pace University NY