Reader Comment: A Child’s Chest Pain

A reader recently commented on the SW101 post Will My Child Have A Heart Attack with a disturbing letter about her child.  It has now been granted its own blog.  I have written my own comments in throughout the letter in red italics to make me appear extra important and potentially infallible.


Thank you for that article. My typically healthy 6 year old daughter has been complaining of chest pain, burning on the left side of the neck and feeling her heart “in her throat” as she says. This is not a big deal.  Kids say this stuff all the time.  It goes along with the ubiquitous “Tummy ache”, “I’m full”, “My eyes hurt”, “I need a drink of water”, and “Where’s my bear you can’t expect me to sleep in such harsh conditions so until you find my bear I’m going to sit here and attempt to poop my pants in protest so start lookin’ quick, POPS.”

She says it goes too fast and she gets dizzy and has actually passed out several times while doing minimal activity. This IS a big deal.  Kids don’t do this…ever.  True loss of consciousness in a 6 year old kid has a genuine cause.  In the elderly, things like autonomic instability lead to syncopal episodes (pass out when they stand up).  Add 90 years to your kid’s life, and your letter wouldn’t have won itself a full blog post.

I have taken her to several Dr’s, only to be told “kids don’t have heart attacks”.  I agree.  Kids don’t.  Adolescents do, however.  And young adults in their early 20’s do too. I’m at my wit’s end with this and worry over it constantly.  You’re right to be.  The hair is starting to stand up on the back of my neck over this one.

She had bloodwork to check her cholesterol about 14 months ago and it was high. Genetics..ding!  ding!  ding!  That, or you’ve set her up with a continuous Big Mac infusion pump through her sleeping hours.

She recently had it checked again and it was 259. That’s worse than mine…and I’m 37 spending most of my time with my butt glued to a chair while I hover like an anxious hen over my blog. Her sister (age 10) had a cholesterol level of 126. Luck of the draw, kid.  I’d see the bet and raise it if I were her. They eat virtually the same thing and my 6 year old is only 40 lbs, so she isn’t overweight. Another sign of a genetic component…which makes this just fantastically unfair.

This is now starting to affect her normal playing routine because she says running/playing make it hurt worse. REALLY bad sign.  Kids run.  Especially skinny kids.  They RUN.

I’ve been told it’s constipation ?, seriously?, reflux probable in ADULTS, heartburn same thing…grown ups, not kids, pulled sternum maybe the strangest musculoskeletal diagnosis I’ve ever heard….but so far no Doctor feels it is anything to worry about.  Are you seeing actual doctors…in actual America?  I hear the medical system on the plains of Balinor is a bit iffy.

She had a EKG and it showed she was tachycardic based on her age?  EVERY kid is tachycardic compared to an adult and a few arrythmias this is like saying “oh, we had some red wine”.  Some arrythmias KILL YOU, others are meaningless…and everything in between.  What kind of arrythmia?, however her pediatrician feels that could be normal for her age. ‘Could be?

Her teacher at school tells me she complains 5-10 times a day and says ‘my heart hearts’.  My 3 year old boy is obsessed with candy, but I’d guess he rarely actually asks for it 10 times in one 24 hour period (considering he sleeps for about 14 of them).

We live in a very small town population 4?, and have to travel 120 miles to a ped. cardiologist worth it…however they won’t see her without a referral and her pediatrician doesn’t feel it is necessary I suspect an insurance issue.  How hard is it to make a referral, even if only to help reassure mom?

If you have any suggestions for me I would love to hear them. I’m worried
that even though diet has been modified and the rest of the family has no cholesterol issues (grandparents do) that this high level is affecting her.  Do you know of any other tests that I could suggest her Doctor perform? Short of a cardiac catheterization, I’m not aware of any other helpful tests in this situation. He has also shrugged off any suggestions of a heart echo.

Final Thoughts – (I’ll dispense with the red italics, even though it makes me feel Extremely Important):

I can’t be certain that your story is completely true, because I don’t know you and haven’t seen your daughter’s medical file.  It also rings a bit fantastical since I’ve spent lots of time around pediatricians and have never seen one as cavalier as what you describe based on the small amount of information you’ve provided me.  As a rule, I do not believe that many doctors are lazy, incompetent, negligent…or drunk.  If you’re going to a licensed child specialist physician, they probably know what they’re talking about.

That said, IF your story is completely true, my advice is to knock on doors – pound on them if you have to.  Walk up to any door with an M.D. on it (be wary of any other initials except perhaps D.O.) – until you get a referral to a pediatric cardiologist for an echo.  Women walked for 5 solid hours under the Haitian sun to have their child seen in our clinics when I did relief work there, so you can cross vast distances for your child too.

The echo, in my opinion, is the first place to start.  Your child also probably needs medication for the cholesterol issue – or will in the very near future – and if your pediatrician seems to be cavalier about this, you may need to look for one that is more aggressive.  But diet changes won’t help this situation much, and exercise could be dangerous until you rule out structural heart disease.  It’s almost impossible to find cardiomyopathy without imaging, and totally impossible to find early atherosclerosis without a significant work up by a cardiologist.

Rest assured, there is a doctor out there who will find in in their writing hand to put in 10 minutes and refer you to a specialist if your story is as legit as it appears on this blog.  If it takes spending a week in a larger city, fine.  If it takes getting on an airplane, DO IT!  If what you said is true, and there are no additional conveniently omitted facts, your child needs to see a specialist.  Do NOT stop pestering doctors until she does.

Finally, let me say that while my heart goes out to you, remember that I am a doctor…but not YOUR doctor.  And this is a blog, not my clinic.  As you can see by my responses, I’m giving my honest opinion, but also being silly.  I write this blog for fun, not to extend my day at the office.  Therefore, these responses qualify only as  suggestions and musings, not medical advice.  A licensed physician, who has actually seen your daughter and evaluated her entire history, is the one who needs to make a real recommendation in this situation.  It completely annoys me that I find it necessary to say that….the world these days is run by lawyers.

All joking and useless lawyer pandering aside, my responses in this blog really boil down to one thing:  Keep knocking….

5 thoughts on “Reader Comment: A Child’s Chest Pain

  1. wow. jeepers-creepers. how about a holter monitor, a stress test? if she cannot get to the pediatric cardiologist, cannot a pediatrician order them?

    i found myself sitting up straighter, shoulders back, all aquiver with attention just at the sight of your red italics.

    i completely concur, doctor, with this: “Women walked for 5 solid hours under the Haitian sun to have their child seen in our clinics when I did relief work there, so you can cross vast distances for your child too.” if i recall correctly, one woman even hiked home hours after giving birth…

    it would be nice to know the outcome of testing done on this little one. best of luck to mom and child.

    how often have you flashed on your trip to haiti in the last, ohhhh, 27 days?


    1. secretwave101

      Nice to hear from you again, Professor!

      I recently attempted to return to Haiti, but as I am new to my position, my boss denied my request. He pointed out that we do have an actual army down there. I still would like to have helped. I still might, but not until April or perhaps in the fall.

      Glad you liked the italics. A bit much, I admit. But aaahhh, the AUTHORITY! The POWER!!


  2. Nicole

    This could be panic attacks. They DO happen to children. It happened to my daughter for years, same exact thing and started at a very young age. SAME EXACT THING YOU ARE DESCRIBING!


  3. SAM

    I found this very interesting as I have been wondering some of the same about my 5 yr old. The difference is my 5 yr old does not complain all the time. She complains about her heart hurting while swimming all the time and sometimes after running. She was recently diagnosed with asthma which runs in the family. She is on preventive medicine. Still complains while swimming. I did some research and have to say I am concerned that something more is going on. Here is the link I found if you want to check it out. – – Just some background she was born premature. thanks for the info.


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