This is a really difficult article to write, as the feelings that keep pushing at me are shame, embarrassment and a load of guilt. But I know it is very important to share what I have experienced, and perhaps help someone with similar symptoms. For the last 4-5 weeks I have been having a tightening around my midriff. There really was not much pain with it, and I kept thinking it was anxiety.
On Wednesday, I had a doctor appointment with a new doctor – an Internist. I did tell her about the pressure in my chest, but looking back I have to admit that I sort of played it down. I really did not believe it was anything serious. She sent me to have blood drawn, and she wanted to see a complete lipid study, an A1C (blood glucose test), as well as all the regular tests since I am on blood thinners. BTW, my cholesterol numbers are great. In fact, I have never seen a high number on any of my cholesterol blood tests. So, I did not think I had anything to worry about with my cholesterol.
Ever since my previous heart attack, I have also been on meds for high blood pressure. But the meds work really well, and my blood pressure is always wonderful. I really did not have much to worry about, as far as the numbers were concerned, with the exception of my weight. I keep saying that I have to lose some of this excess weight, and it never seems to happen.
And then comes Sunday… A fairly normal day, but I had this pressure in my chest that I just could not get rid of. My son Mike had been doing some work in the garage and he called me out there to explain his plans for expanding the kitchen. Only problem was that I was having trouble paying attention. The pressure in my chest was non-stop. As I turned to go back inside, I casually asked Mike if he was planning on being around that day. He immediately picked up on it, and asked me what was going on: “Are you having pain?” I tried to shrug it off, but he would not let it go. He took me inside and went for the blood pressure gauge. My blood pressure was high. He took it again, about 5 times, but he still was getting high readings. Obviously, my great blood pressure readings were now a thing of the past. He insisted that we go to the hospital. Would I be writing this article if he had listened to me? And you must understand, that I was feeling so foolish. The closest hospital is 40 miles away, and I was so sure that this tightness would pass. It seemed like such an inconvenience to have him drive me all that way.
When I got to the hospital, they took me in immediately. I kept thinking how dumb I was going to feel when they said there was nothing wrong. But, they were treating me as though it was serious. They took 3 more vials of blood, even when I told them that I just had all these tests done 3-4 days prior. And the really hard part: “How would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?” I think I answered 6 or 7, wondering if I was lying, as it really was not that bad. I could stand it. They gave me Nitroquick pills to put under my tongue, and when that did not stop the pressure, they put a Nitroquick patch on my back. That evening the cardiologist came to my room, and explained the options. I agreed to have an angioplasty the next day, even though I was not sure I trusted it. But, as the doctor pointed out, it would be the most accurate, and any blockage could be taken care of immediately.
Basically, that is exactly what happened. My 1st heart attack (2 years ago) had blocked the artery on the left side of my heart, aka “The Widow Maker.” How ominous is that? This time it was the right side of my heart, and again, I had a very serious blockage. They added a stent to the right side, and now that side is working fine.
So, why did I decide to write this? I want everyone to understand how varied and non-descript the symptoms of a heart attack can be. Do not take any of the symptoms I described for granted. I could just as easily be dead right now. Fortunately, I have a stubborn son, who was smart enough to see through my denial.
Woman most often do not have the same heart attack symptoms as a man will have. And my symptoms for my 2nd heart attack were very different from the symptoms for my 1st heart attack. My 1st heart attack I had no pain – I just kept throwing up for 4 days – I thought I might have the flu or something. That time I had my daughter-in-law to thank for saving my life by coming over to the house, and persuading me to go to the emergency room.
The 2nd heart attack, again I had no pain. It just felt like someone was standing on my chest. Except for some very fleeting moments, I never really had much pain. There was not the pain running up my arm, no jaw pain, none of the symptoms you usually hear about. At one point I remember saying that my teeth hurt, but even that did not last for very long.
I have to take it pretty easy for the next few weeks, but I can not deny any of this anymore. As soon as possible, I am starting an exercise program, and I am now reviewing diet programs. I am learning about low glycemic diets, as that seems the most logical for me. I have been pretty careful the last couple of years, but now it is time to be extremely careful! Pretty careful does not cut it anymore.
In closing, I just want to emphasize how important your health is. We woman tend to ignore most symptoms, unless they hit us over the head. We are so dedicated to the people in our lives, and we are such good care-takers. But we are generally lousy about caring for ourselves. We need to pay more attention, so we can be there for our families, and not short-change ourselves. Remember to be good to yourself. Life is very short, and time speeds up after you reach 60.