Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another PSA ~ Women & Heart Attacks

I'm fine.

I spent 8 hours in emergency yesterday.

The first 5 weren't fun. The last 3 weren't fun, but at least I wasn't in as much pain.

Yesterday, I was awaken about 5 in the morning with sever chest pain. I though it must have been from eating pizza, salad and birthday cake the night before. I took some Tums and waited for it to go away. Since I wasn't feeling the usual heart attack symptoms we hear about, I kept assuming it was heartburn. Then I took 2 Tylenol PM hoping it would knock me out, and when I woke up, it would be gone. (can you tell I am stubborn about not feeling well) By 11am, I decided something was wrong, but if it was a heart attack, I'd be dead by now, so I still wasn't worrying too bad.

I decided to call the doctor. They could get me in at 2 pm, but by 1pm I was driving myself to emergency. After an EKG, x-rays and blood work, they decided my heart was fine. They kept me for observation and to run another set of blood work before I went home.

So now I have to figure out what it was. I'll follow up with my doctor. Gallstones?

Point being, women usually have different symptoms than men when having a heart attack. My sister sent me this and it is a perfect layman's way of understanding what to look for. It described my exact symptoms except I never got to the part of pain in my arms or jaw. I was aware that female heart attacks are different, but this is the best description I've ever read. Please read it and pass it on to other women in your life.


Women and heart attacks (Myocardial Infarction).

Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest and dropping to the floor that we see in the movies.

Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack.

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 have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly and warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had 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 o f 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 rhythmically 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 balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stents 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 stents.

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 explicable 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 you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do.

Principally OXYGEN is what you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.

3. Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high, and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MI's are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there.

Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware.

The more we know, the better chance we could survive.


Sherry ~ Cherie ~ ms. herbes de provence said...

(((Nancy))) I am so glad that you are okay -- I hope the pain has gone and definitely get this followed by your gp. It could be gall stones, it could even have been a panic attack (from turning 1 year older!!) :) In all seriousness, thank you for sharing this PSA with us -- it is vital and we need to know what to be on the look out for.

Be well!!

sgk213 said...

Did you notice in the article how they said not to drive yourself to the hospital? You can call us. We would drive you. Hope you are feeling better and find out what caused all of that. That is the worst, not knowing.

Ree said...

Glad you're okay. Geez, we haven't met face to face yet! ;-)

Thanks for an excellent post. My darling grandma said, "Oh yoy"...and then she hit the floor. She had been on the phone talking to my uncle, and telling him that she felt better than she had in weeks.

debra said...

An important post. So glad you are ok
Birthday Gifts!

Jami said...

It might not have been a heart attack but it could have been any number of other bad things including arrhythmia (irregular beats) or tachycardia (excessive beats). The latter often mimics heart attack symptoms. I know this because my spouse went thru it. I'm VERY glad you're OK but please don't take any chances; get it ALL checked out!

Startling statistic: the first visible sign of a heart problem in almost 50% of cases is death.

Gnightgirl said...

whew, glad you're ok; this one scared me. keep us posted!

San said...

Yes, please re-read the part about NOT driving yourself to the hospital. And I hope you have an appt. with a dr. scheduled.

Casdok said...

Thank you for the info. Hope you are ok. (H)

TX Poppet said...

Oh Nancy! How scary. But how typical of you to turn this incident into a way to help others. I'm glad you are ok. I hope you find out what caused the pain soon.

Robin said...

How frightening. Thank goodness you're alright, and thank you for this important information.

Joan said...

Wow! I hope everything is okay. I've had gallbladder attacks and eventually had it removed.

linda in c-town said...

So glad you're alright! I received that same post about a month ago. I forwarded it to everyone, but it looks like I missed you. So sorry.

Just like you to do things yourself. If there is every a next time (heaven forbid) please call the people meant to deal with this type of emergency.

Thanks for the post.

See you soon.

Fightin' Mad Mary said...

Thank goodness you are okay...Seriously!

Let us know if you find out what the problem is/was.

dkuroiwa said...

Oh my Gawd!! You are the fourth woman I know of who has gone through this!! I have copied the message and sent to my friends!!

Soooo glad that you are okay!! That must have been so scary for you!!! Keep us posted on the follow-up reports!!!
Take care!!!

hottdog said...

Holey Moley!
I'm glad to hear you're ok. and thanks for that info about heart attacks. :o)

Candy said...

I don't think a day goes by that I don't think, "Am I having a heart attack?" I'm trying to learn which are real symptoms and just me, being ridiculous. I'm so sorry for what you went through. I did the same one day. For me it was a reaction to Advair.

Thank you for the information. I read every word.

lis said...

That's it you've got to start knocking on real wood not the 'corrian'...
Get a cardiac (heart Dr.) follow up girl, need to have those heart vessels checked, pain is a symptom, the tests in the 'er' are NOT conclusive.
My mom suffered (last June) a small heart attack, despite the tests in the 'er' being neg., as had occurred in times past, but fortunately the Dr. in the 'er' decided to admit her that time, and they subsequently took a look at her heart vessels in an angiogram, the following blood tests showed a problem (but not until the 3rd. one and they are 6 or 8 hrs. apart), after the angiogram she went to surgery and had 5 heart blood vessels by passed, ''5'', over the yrs. she'd complained of a pain in her left side, left shoulder blade and on occasion left jaw.. Being stubborn she wouldn't get it checked out, went to the 'er' when there were bad episodes that scarred her but the tests were neg. and they'd call it a panic attack send her home with anti-anxiety meds... It is a miracle she did not die or end up with severe heart damage.. Just another story for you to ponder....
Glad your ok, and did go into get it checked even if you drove yourself oyee....

Oh, The Joys said...

I'm so glad you are allright!!

Mary Alice said...

That is so terrifying. I'm glad all is well.