Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Elaine: P.S. I had a heart attack!

It's World Heart Day today, September 29th.
My friend Elaine had a heart attack in April. She mentioned the event casually in the P.S. to an email she sent  describing the pleasant summer she and her husband had experienced, driving around Idaho, Oregon and California. P. S. it said, "Did I tell you I had a heart attack in April at 2:00 am?"

I got on the phone immediately and we talked for three hours about her experience. She woke up needing to go to the bathroom, swung her legs out of bed and stood up. The next thing she knew she was on the floor, couldn't breathe and was experiencing incredible pain in her chest. She couldn't call her husband who was still in bed; she was flailing on the floor, gasping and choking. He finally heard her and when he saw her condition, he reached for the bedside aspirin and put one down her throat as he called 911. Elaine described her chest pain as horrible, unbearable. As they waited suddenly her bowels gave way.  All she could think about was her new carpet and how it would never get clean again. I included this unpleasant detail because I didn't know that loss of bowel control was commonly part of the deal and also her typical female "last" thoughts....the carpet could never be adequately cleaned again.

And then she heard sirens and noises. Larry was out in the street with the lights on all over the house, making sure the emergency people would know where to go. She was whisked into an ambulance and taken to the local hospital emergency where she remembers they cut off her nightgown and cleaned her up - then they were running with her on a gurney - lights flashing by her and next she was in a helicopter lifted off to the hospital in Phoenix. More running and then she didn't remember too much until she tried to scratch her legs and a woman said "Oh no honey, you can't do that now." They were inserting the stent in her artery. Three days later she was back home recovering, with a bag full of medications.

Here's the important part. Looking back she realized she had warnings. She didn't feel good - nothing she could put her finger on, just not herself. A party girl, they were supposed to go out that night and she didn't want to go....however, it was a special occasion for friends and she forced herself. She was experiencing pain in her jaw - she thought she had a tooth problem. Even though lobster was the entree, and she loves lobster, it didn't taste good - her appetite was off. Her martini seemed undrinkable and wine put her off. She was tired. Important symptoms to note - quite different from the typical male chest pains and pains in the arms.

She had one blocked artery and with her stent in, she's doing pretty well. She'll take lots of medications for the rest of her life, but overall her outlook is good.

They had taken out helicopter medical evacuation insurance. It was inexpensive and available through AAA. Saved them a bundle.

Here, as a reminder, are the warning signs of coronary artery disease in women.

What are the signs and symptoms of CAD in women?

You may not have any symptoms at first. Symptoms may begin slowly but increase quickly as plaque builds up in your arteries. You may not notice symptoms until the artery starts to become blocked. Women often do not have the common signs and symptoms that men tend to have. You may not have tingling in your arm or chest pain. You may instead have a tight, heavy, or burning feeling in your chest. You may also have any of the following:
  • Pain in your back, neck, stomach, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath, or a cough
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion, heartburn, or loss of appetite
  • Fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat
  • Tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety


  1. Anonymous10:28 AM

    I have every one of those symptoms. Doesn't everyone? I think they're going to come up with some better symptoms...whoever "they" are!

  2. Yes, the symptoms are vague...if you get them all at once or within a short time..they could be meaningful.