The reason I am doing this is NOT to seek sympathy, but to actually remind my family and friends that we are mortal, and to be mindful of the signals out bodies send us.
My heart attack did not follow the false Hollywood scenario - clutching the chest, pain in the left arm, etc. Instead, it followed a different path that luckily someone else who had a heart attack shared with me and probably saved my life. To him, I am eternally grateful.
My heart attack began as a sharp pain in the middle of my chest. It felt like someone was using a bony finger and poking me hard in my sternum. The pain did not let up no matter how much I rubbed the area. I thought I was having gas pains (as I had not eaten dinner yet) and felt it would go away. Then I began having cold sweats...and the words of my friend rang in my ears. There was no feeling as if an elephant was sitting on my chest. There was no numbness in my left arm. There was no clutching my left side shouting "Elizabeth, I'm coming Elizabeth!'
The cold sweats convinced me that something felt very wrong and I called 9-1-1. Even after the paramedics arrived I still was in denial - telling them I think it's just gas pains. They took me in the ambulance, strapped me up to an EKG machines, and then rushed my denying ass to the emergency room where a stent was place in my blocked artery. Later I found out I have what they called the 'Widow Maker' heart attack and if I hadn't acted when I did....would have died during the night.
I'm sharing this only to share with my friends as together we approach the half-century mark.
We're not immortal. We're vulnerable. Please be vigilant. If something feels wrong please get it checked out ASAP.
Below is text from the American Heart Association website on the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Learn about the warning signs of heart attack in women.
Watch this animation of a heart attack (opens in new window)Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don't wait - call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number. Watch this animation of a heart attack.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.