Misdiagnosis can have devastating consequences for those who are unfortunate enough to experience them. The negative impact they can have is exemplified clearly by the story of Chandler Plante, a young woman whose stroke was misdiagnosed as anxiety. Despite seeking medical attention for troubling symptoms, it wasn’t until later that she discovered she had experienced multiple strokes. Now, she faces the permanent loss of vision in one eye. Plante’s story serves as a stark reminder of the importance of accurate diagnoses and the potential consequences of misdiagnosis.
The Story of Chandler Plante
Chandler Plante, a healthy woman in her early 20s, contracted the original strain of COVID in December 2020. In the following months, she began experiencing alarming symptoms, such as severe migraines and numbness in her hands and forearms. Regrettably, these symptoms were initially dismissed as anxiety. In March, Plante had her first stroke but was misdiagnosed, with the incident being labeled as an anxiety attack. It took until June for the doctors to conduct an MRI, revealing critical stenosis in her internal carotid arteries and confirming that she had experienced an ischemic stroke.
“I started having these strange symptoms. I had severe migraines that just never really seemed to stop. I started getting numbness in my hands and my forearms — things that were different, but I just didn’t know to be concerned about,” she recalled. “And then in March, I actually ended up having my first stroke, but it was misdiagnosed as an anxiety attack. I had left arm numbness. My entire tongue went numb in my mouth. I actually ended up passing out in the E.R., and that was really when things started to go awry.” (1)
However, the complications did not end there for Plante. In November 2021, she woke up with numbness in her head after receiving stents in her carotid arteries. A trip to the hospital led to the discovery of a large mass behind her eyeball, initially misdiagnosed as a meningioma, a type of brain tumor. Unfortunately, shortly afterward, Plante woke up with no vision in her right eye. Due to a lack of available healthcare professionals, she was forced to seek assistance at a different hospital, ultimately receiving treatment that addressed the inflammation that had caused her strokes. Despite ongoing treatments, Plante remains without sight in her right eye.
This health scare has permanently altered Plante’s life. She had to quit her job as a journalist in New York City and move back home with her parents. She deals with pain, ongoing treatments, and anxiety from what she has experienced. Not only has she had to learn how to function again with vision in only one eye, but she has also had to come to terms with her altered physical appearance. To help her deal with it and stay positive, she began sharing her experiences on TikTok and making jokes about her condition. This, she says, helps to bring light in her dark moments, as well as cope with this new life that she must live.
“I’m trying to have a good attitude and bring sunlight to it. I think sometimes people see me making jokes about it and they don’t understand that I have to live with this every single day, so I can’t carry the full weight of it every single day.”
As to how she feels about being misdiagnosed, she said she has mixed feelings. On one hand, she did have anxiety, so she’s glad that this was addressed without hesitation. That being said, had her first stroke not been missed, maybe she wouldn’t be in the position she is now. She understands that a stroke at age 21 is not common and therefore likely wouldn’t be on a doctor’s radar, however, it is still hard to understand how it was missed like that.
“On one hand, I felt grateful to have my mental health addressed and on the other hand, I’m devastated to have had an entire ischemic stroke overlooked,” she explained. “I feel like we shouldn’t have to pick between the two. I feel like I should be able to have my anxiety addressed before the age of 21 and also have an enormous medical episode caught, especially when I’m presenting in some of the most traditional ways.”
The Prevalence of Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis is not an isolated incident; it is a widespread issue in the medical field. According to a report by the National Academy of Medicine, diagnostic errors affect an estimated 12 million American adults each year. These errors can lead to delayed or incorrect treatments, progression of diseases, and even death. In the case of Chandler Plante, misdiagnosis resulted in the loss of her vision and significant life-altering consequences. (2)
Steps to Protect Ourselves:
While most of the responsibility of a misdiagnosis lies in the hands of health care professionals, there are some things that you can do to protect yourself (3):
- Be Your Own Advocate:
It is crucial to actively participate in our medical care and advocate for ourselves. This includes voicing concerns and seeking second opinions if necessary. If you feel that your symptoms are not being properly addressed or dismissed, do not hesitate to advocate for further investigation or a referral to a specialist.
- Thoroughly Communicate Symptoms:
When seeking medical assistance, it is essential to provide a detailed account of your symptoms. Communicate any changes, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may be. The more information you can provide, the better doctors can assess and diagnose your condition accurately.
- Seek Reputable Medical Professionals:
Do thorough research to find reputable medical professionals or specialists with experience in the specific area of concern. Seek recommendations from trusted sources, and consider visiting renowned hospitals or clinics known for their comprehensive diagnostic capabilities.
- Request Necessary Tests:
If you are concerned about a particular condition, ask your healthcare provider about relevant tests to eliminate or confirm potential diagnoses. An informed discussion with your doctor can help ensure that appropriate tests are ordered, minimizing the chances of misdiagnosis.
- Trust Your Intuition:
As an individual, you know your body best. If something doesn’t feel right or you are not satisfied with the explanation provided, trust your intuition. Seek additional opinions or explore other medical options until you feel confident in the diagnosis and treatment plan.
The Bottom Line
The case of Chandler Plante highlights the devastating consequences that can arise from misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in the medical field, leading to delayed treatments, unnecessary suffering, and even permanent damage. As patients, we must be proactive in protecting ourselves. By being our own advocates and actively participating in our healthcare, we can help ensure accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatments. Trusting our instincts and seeking reputable medical professionals can further safeguard our health and prevent the potentially life-altering consequences of misdiagnosis.
- “Young Woman’s Stroke Misdiagnosed as Anxiety Attack. Months Later, She Loses Sight in One Eye (Exclusive).” People. Angela Andaloro. January 19, 2024.
- “The frequency of diagnostic errors in outpatient care: estimations from three large observational studies involving US adult populations.” Pubmed. Hardeep Singh, Ashley N D Meyer and Eric J Thomas. September 2014.
- “The growing risk of misdiagnosis and how to protect yourself.” Truist