The frequency with which women are mistreated or ignored at the hands of medical professionals is, unfortunately, far too common. And recently, Redditor u/anon2217shared her own deeply personal experience — which prompted scores of other women to chime in with their own.
Here is u/anon2217's story, followed by several others — each one recalling a time when the patient was completely dismissed by male ER (and other) doctors, only to have a serious, legitimate medical concern.
1."I woke up at 3 a.m. Tuesday, vomiting and shitting. I took meds, but by evening, I also had a 102-degree fever. Wednesday, I felt nauseous. Thursday, I noticed my stool was black. When I got home, I used the toilet, and it was full of blood. When I wiped, blood clots were on the toilet paper along with blood. At the ER, I showed the doctor a picture of the blood and clots, and he immediately said, 'That's completely normal for women with PCOS. This is not an emergency issue.' I insisted that he do some testing and even a pelvic exam if he wanted confirmation that I'm not on my period. He finally agreed to do a fecal smear test, blood work, and urinalysis, but told me to get dressed because, 'Once the tests come back normal, I'm dismissing you.' A while later, he came and said they were going to put in an IV and do a CT scan because the tests showed blood in the fecal smear. I now have to go to a gastroenterologist and for further testing."
2."A few years ago, I caught strep from my kids. I went to urgent care, burning up with a fever and with tonsils so swollen I could barely close my mouth. The urgent care doctor sent me to the ER and wanted me to have a CT scan on my tonsils. When I got there, the first person I saw — a man — examined me and asked why I was there for a case of strep. He was very dismissive like I was wasting his time. My husband explained that the urgent care doctor wanted a CT scan. They put me in a room for hours. Finally, a different doctor came in, looked at my throat, and ordered a scan. Surprise! My tonsil was abscessed."
3."I was peeing what looked like pure blood. The ER was 'pretty sure' I was mixing period blood into the sample. I was not having a period. The urologist then told me it was probably bladder cancer. It was not. It was a lupus attack.
4."One day, my mom went to the bathroom, and you couldn't believe the blood coming out of her rectum. The doctor at the ER asked her if she was sure it wasn't her period. They ended up sending her for a colonoscopy. Good news and bad news; A colonoscopy six weeks later told us nothing about the bleeding, but they did find precancerous polyps."
5."I came to the ER crying and holding my abdomen due to severe pain. I was also puking due to the pain — so not my best moment. By the time I was in triage, I'd stopped crying but was still hurting. The male nurse suggested that it could be acid reflux. Dude, I know what reflux is like, and it's not about to make me cry. They took my blood and urine, then sent me back out to the lobby. Hours later, he finds me in the waiting room and says, 'You'll never believe this, it's pancreatitis!'"
6."I won't go to the ER nearest my house anymore. I went there because I could tell I had a kidney stone. I was also on my period. The doctor came in and lectured me about how I wasn't allowed to go to the ER just because I didn't like my period, and that I was wasting his time. I was literally vomiting from the pain as he was yelling at me. I left and had to go straight to a different hospital, where I actually got treatment. A few months later, my husband ate a huge dinner and had upper abdominal pain. We went to the hospital near the house because he didn't feel he could go further. They immediately gave him morphine and ordered a CT scan. He turned out to be constipated."
7."I had an allergic reaction to a blood transfusion, and the young, male doctor kept telling me, loudly, that this was just what blood transfusions feel like, and to get over it. I tried to explain that I have a disease that makes me have allergic reactions to many things and that I need a higher dose of antihistamines than most people to treat a reaction. He yelled that he was the doctor, and he'd make the diagnosis. I ended up getting my rescue meds out of my purse and taking them because I could feel my throat closing."
8."I sliced the side of my thumb near off, and they kept telling me they couldn't give me pain meds. I kept telling them I don't want pain meds, I want to know if I need stitches, and I'll take ibuprofen when I get home if I need it. Meanwhile, when my husband had lower right quadrant pain, they kept trying to give him pain meds. They ordered him a CT scan with contrast, blood work, etc. It turned out to be mild inflammation of his intestine."
9."When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I went to the ER, and they did some blood work and checked on the baby. They then told me I had hemorrhoids, 'a gift mothers receive from their children.' Guess what, smug ER assholes? It was a nine-centimeter tumor in my colon."
10."Male ER doctors dismissing my concerns is exactly why when I had appendicitis (before I knew that's what I had), I refused to go to the hospital. I told my boyfriend that I wasn't wasting the time or money at the ER for a doctor to tell me I was just having bad gas or overreacting to an upset stomach, then send me home. I ended up waiting until the next morning to go in because the pain had gotten so bad. The doctor said if I had waited any longer, I would've ended up in the ICU."
11."I had a hemorrhoid rupture, bleeding, and pain after a bought of IBS flare-up. It was a lot of blood that wouldn't stop, and I was soaking through tissue. I told the nurse what was up, and she put me in a room immediately. The doctor comes in and goes, 'Are you sure it's not just your cycle?' Fuck, man, look at my chart. I had a partial hysterectomy in 2004, I literally haven't had a period in almost 20 years. He did an exam, and, sure enough, it was a ruptured fissure on the inside of my rectal area."
12."I've found being pregnant means that any and all physical ailments are pregnancy-related and, therefore, not concerning as long as baby is doing okay. It took me six doctor visits — over the course of a month — before a doctor ordered an X-ray for my elbow after I fell in the shower and couldn't use my arm. They insisted that sore joints are normal in pregnancy, and I really, really don't want to risk my baby's health by getting an unnecessary X-ray, right? Nope. It was a busted elbow."
13."I had an asthma attack at work without access to an inhaler. The EMTs came and told me it was probably just anxiety. I told them that I do not have a history of anxiety attacks — I have a history of asthma. The EMTs were two 40+ men who didn't listen to a thing I said to them. I rejected their ride to the hospital and had my partner take me to my family doctor, who determined it was likely an asthma attack."
14."I once had a rash around my lips. The male doctor I saw told me that I was licking my lips too much, and that's all it was. I said no, I've always licked my lips, and this has never happened before. He told me that when he needs to remind himself to stop doing something, he snaps a rubber band on his wrist or slaps his hand, then suggested I try it. I did lick my lips while there, and he saw and slapped my wrist! I was livid. Later, I found out on my own through trial and error that I was having an allergic reaction to my chapstick."
15."I had ER doctors dismiss me during a kidney stone because a pregnancy test came back positive — I had a miscarriage five days prior — and they thought I was 'drug-seeking.' They actually told me to go home and lay down with a hot water bottle. Two days later, when I was urinating blood and couldn't sleep or even sit, my primary doctor got me in to see someone."
16."I had a big, fat cyst on my left tube, and I felt that something was wrong with it. It was the worst pain I've ever had in my life. I fainted twice, and it felt like a knife was stabbed into my belly. The male doctor insisted I needed to get my appendix checked. The appendix is on the right of your body. I begged him for an echocardiogram, but it wasn't until after another doctor confirmed there was nothing wrong with my appendix that I finally got the echo. I was then rushed into surgery because the cyst happened to turn around and was blocking all blood flow to my tube. Ten minutes later, they had to remove my left tube."
17."I have PCOS and presumed endometriosis, but I don't 'look' like someone with PCOS, so the ER male doctors didn’t take me seriously. I was keeled over vomiting. Several hours later, I had an ultrasound. I'd been hemorrhaging in my abdomen. They didn’t have an OBGYN on call, so they wanted to admit me. l opted not to as they said there was nothing they could do beyond give me morphine and a bed."
18."One day, I was throwing up nonstop and couldn’t breathe. Honest to God, I thought I was dying. I was under an insane amount of stress between my career, preparing for major knee surgery, and getting married during COVID. I have ulcer flare-ups — plus, with endometriosis, my stomach is real wonky — but this was not right. My husband carried me to the ER, totally freaking out. The ER doctors judgmentally thought I was going through some kind of withdrawal. Mind you, I am a successful 28-year-old. I have never done drugs and hardly even drink. Turns out, I went into starvation ketoacidosis from not eating enough and getting sick from ulcers, which threw off my blood sugar. I also had a terrible period, and I'm not diabetic. I was in the ICU for a week."
19."I've had tons of strep throat over the years, and I still have my pockmarked tonsils. Once, I was at a movie and felt the popcorn kernel get stuck. Nothing I could do would get it out. My tonsils ended up with an infection, so I went in. The doctor told me it couldn't be a popcorn kernel, that doesn't make sense. I asked him to just look, but he insisted on testing me for strep, then sent me home. I ended up going back in and was told I had a bad infection, but he wasn't sure why. This time, he gave me antibiotics and sent me to an ENT specialist. That doctor also didn't believe me, but I finally managed to convince him to at least look. One tongue depressor and a hemostat later, I had a popcorn kernel souvenir to go with my horrible infection."
20."I had an abscess and had to go in four times before they took an X-ray. My whole neck was so swollen, I was drooling, everything tasted like cigarette ashes, and I wasn't able to swallow. I brought in a printout of symptoms and said, 'This, all of this.' They finally believed me — still, no pain meds, though. I didn't want them but found it odd that I was in so much pain I couldn't swallow, yet they didn't offer anything. Anytime my SO goes in for anything, he walks out with a prescription for pain meds and antibiotics. Talk about double standards."