4 weeks ago I had a heart attack. I suffered an actual myocardial infarction. I am a 42 year old woman. I am 5’4″ tall and weigh 150 pounds. I had high cholesterol in my twenties and corrected it with a low carb lifestyle and exercise that I have continued over the last 15 years. I smoked for 17 years, but I quit 7 years ago.
5 years ago my partner Bryan asked me to go to the doctor. I had developed a level of fatigue that worried him. I went to the doctor and was told that this was normal for the mother of a small child.
2 years ago I began suffering intermittent chest pain, palpitations, and episodes of blood pressure that they refer to as paroxysmal hypertension. It’s rare enough that they tested me for pheochromocytoma twice.
1 year ago I went to the emergency room three nights in a row. I was given ativan in the ER. I told Bryan it was to shut me up. They sent me home with a prescription for xanax and a diagnosis of panic attacks. I’ve had panic attacks that felt nothing like what was happening to me. No one would listen.
4 weeks ago, on an airplane between Seattle and Denver, returning from a 2 week trip to visit my parents in Alaska, I had a burning pain in my chest that had been coming and going for several days. Since the doctors had insisted there was nothing wrong with my heart, I breathed my way through it as it radiated down my left arm and up the left side of my face. My brain was screaming, “Holy shit, I’m having a heart attack!” But I didn’t think anyone would believe me. And I didn’t want to scare my six year old sleeping in the seat beside me. My whole world closed down to a single goal, to put my daughter into the arms of her father.
I breathed and the pain subsided again. The plane landed and I gathered our things. I made it through the terminal, and the train, and up the escalator to Bryan. I dropped everything at his feet and told him I couldn’t go any further. I needed to go to the doctor.
At Urgent Care they did an EKG. It was normal. I’ve still never had an abnormal EKG. They told me that they were sending me for blood work at the hospital lab, but didn’t expect to see anything so I should just head home and they would call me.
Half way home I received the call from a panicked doctor telling me to return to the hospital and head straight to the ER.
I had a heart attack.
I am not crazy. They made me think that I was and it almost killed me.
I am a 42 year old woman who looks remarkably healthy, and I had a heart attack.
I have so much more to tell you. Let’s start here. If you think that there is something wrong you aren’t crazy. “Anxiety” is a symptom as often as it’s a condition. If you think you are having a heart attack don’t let them send you home without running all the appropriate tests. Troponin levels, to begin with, which don’t elevate until 6 to 12 hours after the attack. This is important to remember. Women are not treated as aggressively as men. We have to advocate for ourselves until that changes. Let’s start here by sharing the information. I’m gathering more to pass along.
Happy 4 weeks to me. Tomorrow is never promised. Live and love every moment.