Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Woman's Heart

So I waited until the person in question was feeling adequately recovered.  
Then I asked her permission to share with you. 
She said, "Yes."
 So here we go...  

Several weeks ago, my mom was out on her daily walk when she began experiencing some chest pains.  Those pains escalated into shortness of breath and became a little frightening. 
She had to flag down a passing neighbor to drive her home.

Now, my mom has been walking all over her neighborhood, up and down hills, at a decent pace, every single day, rain or shine, cold or hot, for probably twenty-five or thirty years, so for her to have to "hitch" a ride home was a very unusual occurrence.  She can out walk me,  and I'm twenty years younger.

Because her heart continued to pound and she didn't feel better immediately, my step-dad encouraged her to contact her regular doctor just to be on the safe side.  Her doctor referred her to a cardiologist just to be on the safe side. The cardiologist, in turn, ordered a stress test just to be on the safe side.

I, on the other hand, thought that they were all over-reacting.  I figured she maybe overdid her workout a little bit, or experienced some major acid reflux.  Either that or her doctors were in cahoots and bilking her insurance company for the big bucks because she said "chest pain."

And when the cardiologist said she needed to have a cardiac catheterization one week before Christmas because the stress test wasn't conclusive and he just wanted to check out the back of her heart? 

Oh yeah, that confirmed it for me.  He's completely crazy.  Find a new doctor, I said.  Nothing's wrong with you.  You're not even sixty yet, you aren't obese, you eat a pretty well-balanced diet and you exercise consistently.  You had some gas.  You'll be fine. Who are those doctors trying to fool?  They just want your copay.  Why upset everyone at Christmas-time?  Can't they wait till the first of the year? 
If it were me, I would tell them what they could do with their cardiac cath!

Thank goodness my mom didn't listen to me.  Since I'm not, you know, the cardiologist or anything.

Because during her procedure, they found this hiding behind her heart:

An eighty percent blockage in a main artery that was undetectable on the echo, stress test, whatever other things they had done before.  This is the one the doctor calls the "silent killer" because guess what?  Women generally ignore their first chest pains and brush them off as nothing.  Or they go to the doctor, but they minimize the discomfort they felt and the doctor placates them, maybe does a simple EKG and finds nothing, then sends them home.  But that blocked blood flow? 

According to her doctor, the next "symptom" could very well have been a massive heart attack.
At fifty-nine years old. 
A massive heart attack in a woman who does all  most of the right things!

This is what her heart looks like now:

The doctor placed a stint in her artery (while she was fully awake and without any meds because her IV blew...but that's another, horrifying story in itself) and she's got some new medicines to ward off any further build-up in there.  She spent Christmas recuperating and feeling a little stunned by it all.  She'll be fine since she did exactly as she was advised by the ones qualified to give that sort of advice.

So here's my public service announcement for you, my bloggy friends.  No matter how old you are, please listen to your body.  Use your best judgement.  Don't ignore pain, because pain is an indicator that your body needs attention. 

But further than that, women don't always experience the classic heart attack symptoms, so please get familiar with the warning signs that women can have.  I've copied and pasted them below just for you!

And this year?  If you aren't already doing what is right for your body, would you think about making a healthy change?  Think about that Krispy Kreme donut before you put it in your mouth!  That's potential artery-clogging sludge!  Wouldn't an apple and a little peanut butter be better? Think about that 5 gallon bucket of ice cream you bought the kids as a special treat.  Do you really want their young hearts pumping past all that cholesterol and fat?  Wouldn't they be just as happy with a frozen fruit bar? 

OK, well, almost as happy!

Consider working out as a family...play outside, walk together or ride bikes.  If your kids are older, like mine, challenge them to a 30 day get-fit program and do it together! My kids find it hilarious to watch Mom kickboxing in the living room, but it sure motivates them to get off their butts!  They love it even more when they pull off ten more sit-ups or five more pull-ups than I can.  ;)  Hey, I try!

A Heart Attack may cause some or all of these symptoms:

Pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort or squeezing in the center of the chest
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Stabbing chest pain
Radiating pain to shoulder(s), neck, back, arm(s) or jaw
Pounding heartbeats (palpitations) or feeling extra heartbeats
Upper abdominal pain
Nausea, vomiting or severe indigestion
Sweating for no apparent reason
Dizziness with weakness
Sudden extreme fatigue
Panic with feeling of impending doom

A note about women's milder symptoms - About a third of women experience no chest pain at all when having a heart attack and 71% of women report flu-like symptoms for two weeks to a month prior to having more acute chest discomfort or severe shortness of breath. These milder symptoms are under-reported to emergency room staff.

Information above was copied from the website WomensHeart.Org .  I am NOT a doctor or a medical practitioner and you should seek medical advice from a professional if you have questions!

Mama...if you read this far...I LOVE YOU!!  


The Momster said...


I am glad they were able to diagnose your mom and do the stint procedure. My Dad has been through two major bypasses, not to mention an artificial valve, a defib, and now a trifib. Momma is now having some heart issues so I am using her as my reason to get motivated to get healthy and have regular physicals.

Thanks for sharing - if it saves one other person's life, it's all worth it.

mendyc said...

Makes me wanna cry when I think of how much worse this could have turned out. :(

Chelsea Gour said...

I hope it was a Cook stent! J/K. So glad that this was caught before....you know, she had to have quad by-pass like my mom! Who totally ignored all those warning signs for a really long time. And thanks for all that info. Excuse me while I go make a doctor's appointment....:) Hug your mom. And what do you have to say for yourself young lady....giving me a hard time all these years about what I won't feed my kids!!! :P