A woman in 'excruciating' pain believed she had appendicitis but 3 different doctors disagreed. Surgery revealed she had appendicitis.
- A doctor told Amanda Buschelman she had ovarian cysts. He didn't believe her when she said she had no ovaries.
- Buschelman experienced an "excruciating" pain for 3 weeks that stumped 2 ER doctors and a gynecologist.
On January 6, an emergency room doctor confidently told Amanda Buschelman ovarian cysts were the cause of her "excruciating" pain. But there was one problem: Buschelman had no ovaries.
Buschelman, a mother of 3 who lives in Trenton, Ohio, had a full hysterectomy in 2013, which removed her uterus, fallopian tubes, and, yes, her ovaries.
But the ER doctor insisted she had ovaries. "He said, 'Well, you probably just had your uterus removed,'" Buschelman said in an interview with Insider. "I said, 'No, I was there. They definitely took my ovaries.'"
Not only was the ER doctor "over-argumentative," which she said the hospital later apologized for, he misdiagnosed Buschelman with both ovarian cysts and later, after looking up her records to confirm she had no ovaries, with diverticulitis.
Following the incident at the ER, Buschelman visited two more doctors who could not pinpoint why she was in so much pain. Buschelman waited nearly 3 weeks for surgery to help determine the cause of her discomfort. Now she knows that wait put her at risk for her appendix rupturing at any point, a life-threatening condition.
Buschelman, 43, shared her story in a TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 4.5 million times.
Buschelman experienced excruciating pain that stumped three doctors
After experiencing sudden onset pain in her lower right abdomen the night before, Buschelman went to her family doctor on January 6, after dropping her kids off at school.
Buschelman was told she likely had appendicitis, based on her symptoms and her response after her doctor applied pressure to her belly. He could not treat her in his office, so he sent her to the TriHealth Bethesda Butler Hospital in Hamilton, Ohio. (The hospital has not responded to Insider's multiple requests for comment.)
At the ER, Buschelman relayed the message from her doctor, suspecting appendicitis. The ER doctor pressed on the side of her abdomen, and she reacted with pain, but he did not diagnose her with appendicitis, citing the normal results of her CT scan and blood work.
The ER doctor diagnosed her pain as ovarian cysts, and went back and forth with her about whether or not she had ovaries. After seeing her hysterectomy in her medical history, the doctor's "attitude shifted," Buschelman said, and he then determined she had diverticulitis, or inflammation in the walls of her intestines. He gave Buschelman antibiotics and sent her home.
Buschelman's pain did not subside. Three days later she returned to the ER, where another doctor told her she did not have diverticulitis and performed an MRI.
The MRI revealed she had a mass around her colon, but the ER doctor did not identify an inflamed appendix through the scan.
Buschelman said she suspects she might have had chronic appendicitis, which can also be more difficult to diagnose compared to the more common acute appendicitis, though doctors never confirmed which type of appendicitis she had. Scientists have only recently accepted chronic appendicitis, which might not show up in blood tests or CT scans, as a medical phenomenon, The Washington Post reported.
The doctor at the ER told her to get a consultation from her gynecologist, who later said the mass could be an endometriosis implant, or when cells from the uterus grow in other areas of the body, formed before her hysterectomy. But the gynecologist couldn't identify the mass based on scans alone — she needed to perform surgery to be sure.
Surgery revealed Buschelman had appendicitis after all
The OBGYN scheduled Buschelman's surgery for January 26. The mother of three waited for her surgery date in ongoing, and immense, pain.
For more than two weeks, Buschelman admitted the pain made her "unpleasant" to be around, particularly for her children and husband. Buschelman also began to feel depressed and anxious that the mass in her abdomen might be a cancerous tumor.
"I have three children and a husband that depend on me," she said. "I spent a lot of time very fearful."
But, after surgery, her husband informed her that doctors discovered the reason for her pain: Buschelman had appendicitis, just as her primary care doctor told her 20 days prior.
When the gynecologist went in to remove the endometriosis implant, she spotted an enlarged appendix, and called the general surgeon to remove it. Following surgery, Buschelman said she felt "like a new woman" as her pain finally subsided.
The experience made Buschelman passionate about patient advocacy
Buschelman told Insider her experience of being misdiagnosed and dismissed by doctors demonstrated to her why women should always advocate for themselves. She's teaching her two daughters, 10 and 11, to trust their gut instincts, but fears they, too, could be gaslight by their doctors at some point.
"I've known the ins and outs of this body for 42 years. That doctor knew me for 42 seconds and argued with me about what I knew about myself," Buschelman said. "That's really concerning."
Buschelman said the experience showed her the importance of listening to her own body and advocating for herself during doctor visits. She said she will continue voicing stories of medical gaslighting on TikTok.
"What shocked me and saddened me, but also empowered me, were the 30,000 women who commented [on my TikTok] with similar experiences," Buschelman said. "That blew me away."
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