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What does a heart attack feel like?

January 23, 2013

It has been almost a year since I published my post What Does It Feel Like to Have a Heart Attack.  In that time this post has been viewed over 2400 times.  Most of these views are coming from search terms in google such as “what does a heart attack feel like.”  I would like to start a series of posts in which different people describe in their own words what their heart attack felt like.

The first comes from my friend Julie Crowe.  She suffered her heart attack in December 2010, just a few weeks after I had mine.  The video following her narrative was made for the Go Red for Women campaign this last year.

Hello, my name is Julie and on December 30, 2010 at the age of 52, I had a major heart attack.  For weeks prior to the actual heart attack I had been experiencing severe jaw pain and a feeling someone was pressing on my throat.  I also had some shoulder pain….however, no chest pain…at least not until the day of the actual heart attack.  My Mother had her heart attack at age 50 and I had remembered what she told me about it.  As I said, for weeks, I had this jaw pain and I was extremely tired all the time.  Finally on Christmas Eve 2010 I told my husband to take me to the ER because I could not stand the pain any more and I knew something was wrong.  We got there and they took me right in.  All tests were fine so they sent me home and told me to follow up with my primary care doctor and if I had any more problems to come back in.  I did as they said and after Christmas met with my doctor who decided it was time for a thalium stress test since it had been over 3 years.  On Dec 30, 2010 I went in for the stress test and my blood pressure was so high they got permission to use the chemical to get my heart rate up as well as me walking level on the treadmill.  I handled it well…no symptoms, etc.  However, while they were doing the EKG afterwards, the nurse kept commenting that something had her bothered so I asked what it was and she said, “oh, it probably isn’t anything….we will have the techs take some extra pictures.”  After all the pictures were taken they just sent me home.  I told my husband on the way home that something was wrong.  We got home and in no less than 10 minutes my chest began hurting like nothing I had ever felt before and I could not sit still.  I went and got 4 baby aspirin and chewed them.  Right then the phone rang and it was my doctor’s office calling to say that my stress test showed I had had a heart attack.  I told the nurse how I was feeling and she said to go back to the ER.  My husband drove me to the ER and as soon as they hooked me up…everything happened so fast.  My husband said that it was less than 1 hour from the time we go to the ER until they brought me out of the cath lab into ICU.  I had to have one stent put in the LAD (well known as the “widow maker.”)  The doctor said on my EKG, I was “tomb stoning” and was very lucky because this could have taken me out.  Knowing about the aspirin and being no further away that we were from the hospital attributed to me surviving.  We should have called 911 but I don’t think either of us really knew what was happening.  I got into cardiac rehab, which I highly recommend to everyone and I even stayed in it for over a year at my choice because of how good it made me feel and the confidence it gave me in myself.  No matter what, listen to your body…you know it better than anyone else does.  If something feels wrong, get it checked out.  If you doctor will not listen to you or take your concerns seriously, keep going until you find one that will.  The medical professionals are getting better about listening to women, but there is still a ways to go.  I was lucky and trust me when I say….if I have any doubts, I go get it checked out.  It is better to hear someone tell you that you are ok, than to no go and not be ok.

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