St. Paul’s Hospital told him he likely had heartburn, but he actually had a 90 per cent heart blockage

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Vancouver man is never going to St. Paul’s Hospital for heart pain again after he says a doctor told him what later turned out to be 90 per cent heart blockage, was likely just heartburn.

The hospital visit in early November came after chest pains Nicholas Lourotos, who’s a heart attack survivor, had been feeling for several days, intensified.

“[A] very alarming and very typical symptom of having a heart blockage,” Lourotos tells NEWS 1130.

He was admitted by a nurse, who gave him an electrocardiogram (ECG), and then was seen by the emergency room doctor, who gave him a blood test. Both agreed the pain was worrisome, says Lourotos.

But the cardiologist who ended up seeing him three hours later did not think the pain was serious, despite his medical history, and unlike his last five hospital visits for major heart pain — two of which ended up being heart attacks — Lourotos says he didn’t get a second blood test.

“He seemed to have decided already that somehow this was not heart-related. I’m not sure how,” adds Lourotos.

The doctor told Lourotos he didn’t see anything worrisome in the tests and since it wasn’t a heart attack, he thought it was heartburn. He gave Lourotos prescriptions for two drugs: Lipitor, which is used to treat high cholesterol, and Tecta, which is used to reduce stomach acid, even though Lourotus already had a prescription for the latter.

“He just insisted that there was nothing wrong with me and that I should just go,” says Lourotos.

Still in pain, Lourotos left the hospital, skeptical he was experiencing heartburn.

“In the end you want to make yourself believe that you’re not having a heart attack,” adds Lourotos. “So I said, ‘okay, well if the doctor doesn’t think so, that’s great.’”

But the chest pain continued and about two weeks after his visit to St. Paul’s Hospital, it got so bad Lourotos collapsed on the Canada Line. He went to Vancouver General Hospital, where he found out his gut feeling was right.

“They actually followed the same protocol everybody has ever followed in the past: ECG, blood test, X-ray, wait a few hours, second blood test,” says Lourotos. “They sent me for [an] angiogram and sure enough, I had a 90 per cent heart blockage and they just fixed it, on the spot, with a stent.”

Despite the experience, Lourotos still believes Canada has an amazing health system and feels it ultimately worked, as a second opinion caught his heart blockage. But he thinks there could have been a different outcome if he lived in a more rural area like Chilliwack or Squamish, instead of in Vancouver.

“Two weeks later you’re outside shoveling snow or something and you get persistent angina and there’s nobody with a car around or whatnot. You could easily die,” he says.

“I think in this case, it’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with our system or perhaps even St. Paul’s, but they definitely need to do some, you know, HR work in there. I think it was human error. I think it was inexperienced, maybe youthful arrogance kind of thing.”

Lourotos wrote to Providence Health looking for an explanation and assurances the doctor at St. Paul’s was informed about his misdiagnosis. While the health care provider has told him they’re looking into it, he has not gotten an apology.

“If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re going to repeat them and St. Paul’s seems to be refusing to learn from their mistakes, or at least admit them,” says Lourotos. “My lesson is if I have heart pain again, I’m not going to St. Paul’s Hospital and I think that’s the moral of the story.”

Providence unable to comment on specific patient cases

Citing patient privacy and confidentiality, Providence Health Care says it’s not able to comment on specific patient cases.

“Patients who have a compliment or complaint are urged to contact the Patient Care Quality Office, either by phone, in person, or in writing by letter, fax or mail,” Providence says in a statement to NEWS 1130. “The PCQO team works to respond to all patient complaints in a timely manner.”

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