November 19, 2011 – it’s a day I’ll never forget. I was talking on the phone to a friend about some family turmoil concerning the Thanksgiving holiday. My chest hurt. After hanging up I thought maybe I was having a panic attack. I had one maybe 10 years ago or so and remembered not being able to breathe, my chest hurting, shaking, and generally being scared. A few bouts of these went by while I laid on the bed and my husband help me try to relax. The feeling was questionable enough that I actually Googled the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack. But how could someone as healthy as me have a heart attack?
Finally my husband decided it was time to take me to the hospital. Here’s the first of the really important things I’ve learned recently: don’t hope it’ll go away! If I’d been less healthy it would have been easy to dismiss this pain as indigestion, heartburn, or panic attack. Since I don’t have any of those issues, I knew something was wrong.
We arrived at the ER and I was ultimately given an EKG. No problems were present. I don’t have high cholesterol. I don’t have high blood pressure. I don’t have a known family history of heart disease. I don’t smoke. I’m not overweight. I work out 5-6 days a week. I eat very healthy. I don’t have diabetes. I’m not on oral contraceptives. I meditate regularly to control my stress. I’m only 42 years of age. I didn’t have radiating pain down my arm. I didn’t feel nauseous. In fact, I didn’t “present” like I was having a heart attack. The doctors were going to send me home. Second really important thing: know yourself! Going home didn’t seem right so I walked around until the pain returned.
Truthfully, I don’t remember much after that. I remember someone sticking nitroglycerin tablets under my tongue. I remember needles going into my arm. I remember someone asking me what I weighed (I guess that was for anesthesia).
Next thing I do remember was waking up in the cardiac care unit. I learned there had been a blood clot in my artery which they removed and a stint was inserted. I’m the proud owner of a very small piece of mesh that helped save my life.
The next question, how could this happen? As word spread, I think there were some people hoping I had been a closet smoker for 20 years to justify this unthinkable event. But, I walk my talk. And it can be scary to those around me who now had to face their own mortality. I wanted answers.