In October 2006 I had a cardiac cath with stent placement. It had taken over a year of going from doctor to cardiologist and back to doctor and back to cardiologist ad nauseum for them to finally settle upon a cardiac cath to see if there really was anything wrong with my heart. This is not unusual for diagnosing heart disease in women. In my case I was extremely lucky…there was no heart attack.. only a 90% blockage of one of the arteries. Exactly one year later, I had to have the cardiac cath again… and finally began to feel more like a real human being. By that time, I had spent so much time weak kneed and short of breath that I had (and still have) lost all the muscle tone in my body. This is not unusual either.
All of the tests… stress test, echocardiogram,ekg (multiple) and any number that I can’t remember the names of… showed that my heart was perfectly healthy… perfect low blood pressure (every time)…everything showed perfect in every test… and yet the weakness and shortness of breath continued.
I found this info somewhere… can’t remember where. I am passing it on to my fiber friends in hopes this will make us all aware that we need to sometimes push our doctors a bit…even when the tests all show perfect…if we are having any symptoms at all.
‘I had a completely unexpected heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might’ve brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend ha d sent me, and actually thinking,’A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.’ A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation—the only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.
‘After that had seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasming), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rh ythmically when administering CPR).
This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws.
‘AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening–we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven’t we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, ‘Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack !’ I lowered the foot rest, dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself ‘If this is a heart attack, I shouldn’t be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else . . . but, on the other hand, if I don’t, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in moment.’
‘I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics… I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn’t feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to unbolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.
‘I then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don’t remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St.Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the Cardiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like ‘Have you taken any medications?’) but I couldn’t make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram ballo on up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.
‘I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the Paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St. Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stints.
‘Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned first hand.’
1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body not the usual men’s symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn’t know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they’ll feel better in the morning when they wake up….which doesn’t happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you’ve not felt before. It is better to have a ‘false alarm’ visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!
2. Note that I said ‘Call the Paramedics’. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! DO NOT try to drive yourself to the ER–you’re a hazard to others on the road and so is your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what’s happening with you instead of the road. Do NOT call your doctor, he doesn’t know where you live and if it’s at night you won’t reach him anyway, and if it’s daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell y ou to call the Paramedics. He doesn’t carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.