According to a story from NTD, a former NFL cheerleader successfully diagnosed her own rare disease, pectus excavatum, after her symptoms were dismissed by her doctors as nothing more than anxiety. Danielle Goldsmith used to be a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams, and has continued to live an active lifestyle. However, a frightening episode while hiking this past August made her realize that something was wrong.
About Pectus Excavatum
Pectus excavatum is a deformity in which the rib cage and sternum take an abnormal shape. Generally, the chest has a caved in and sunken appearance, giving the chest a cupped shape. The cause of the deformity it not well understood, but a genetic component is suspected in a significant percentage of cases; family history is a substantial risk factor. Men are more commonly affected than women. It may appear alongside other genetic conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The symptoms of pectus excavatum include abnormal chest shape, chest and back pain, reduced lung capacity, and heart problems. The noticeable deformity can cause social anxiety and depression in some patients. There are a number of procedures and surgical operations available to treat pectus excavatum. To learn more about this rare condition, click here.
During the hike, Danielle experienced severe shortness of breath, perhaps because the condition was hampering her lung capacity. Soon, the symptoms began to persist daily, including chest pain and even bouts of paralysis.
Shamefully, her doctors were quick to dismiss her reported symptoms and concerns. They told her that she was experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. This story appears to be another example of women being ignored by the doctors that are supposed to care for them. Statistics indicate that a woman’s pain or symptoms are more likely to be downplayed or ignored by medical professionals. Doctors are also more likely to attribute physical ailments to mental disorders or illness when treating women. Women of color especially are vulnerable to this type of discrimination.
Thankfully, Danielle was persistent and determined enough to make a diagnosis herself. After voicing her suspicions to her doctor, further testing revealed that she was right. She eventually underwent surgery in order to lift her caved-in chest off of her lungs and heart.
Danielle still had a road to recovery ahead. If you would like to support her expenses, click here.