Today Please meet Rachel Turner .
In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.
Who are you ? Name, current age, where are you from ?
Rachel Turner, 38, Auckland New Zealand
How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?
35 Years Old
Where were you when it happened? Tell me your story. What were your signs and symptoms?
Started 2pm, July 20, 2011 with severe reflux and generalised body aches and lethargy (seriously thought I was coming down with flu or such).
I went to work 3-11pm shift at a local accident and medical. I had joked with my husband that if a pateint came in with these symptoms and was 10+ years older we would do ECG and refer them to hospital. But yeah, I thpught, nah, I must be over reacting. At work few people commented I looked a bit unwell, said I felt like getting flu. Discussed with senior nurse on duty but agreed ecg was probably over reacting. Walking to get dinner that night from subway felt like legs made of lead and short of breath just walking 50 m each way on flat. Finished shift went home. Next morning woke feeling even worse, dizzy when standing, nauseous, had vomiting and diarrhoea. At home alone with 2 year old son, husband at work and when phoned not able to come home. Rang few friends & neighbours but no one free and given hard time for wanting someone to drive me to drs or hospital for bag IV fluids. (Have birth defect in kidney so get dehydrated really quickly with d& v which i thought it was). Syptoms at this point, dizzy, reflux, d/v. Father in law agreed to come and pick up my son but not take me to hospital or dr.
Rang ambulance embarassed as not able to drive self safely just to get a bag of iv fluids. Ambulance and father in law arrived, had crawled out to lounge with son as he was too short to reach the handle on the door and open it. He was so cute he just sat by mummy until help came. I joked with ambulance staff as they were concerned about tracing of my heart, but in past due to kidney ecgs when i was dehydrated showed weird rythms. So i thought everyone overreacting. Got to hospital (lights no sirens) at 9am. Taken into cubicle, nurse took one look at me laying on stretcher and went ah no we are going around to resus ( at this point i’m thinking oh come on just give me a bag of fluids and send me home to bed). Sat up and they said okay cut clothes of, me no way they were my nice pj’s, so took them off thinking overreacting. TOP cardiac specilaist/ medical director of the whole hospital walks in. I knew him from my post grad nursing placement 13 years previously, so said hi Dr Hart (Seriously his name). Floored by his next comment, ” forget chest xray lets get her to angio” in my mind, ” f me it is a heart attack, bugger” still not freaked out. 2 hours later came out of angiography having had a stent put in main anterior left ascending artery, 100% blockage at spot called the widow maker. Saw husband by the trolley as I am wheeled up to the coronary ward, said to him “suppose this means no more babies” ” ah yes” his only reply.
Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?
Birth defect left kidney (benign), fluctuating hypertension thought to be due to kidney. Most family live to their 80s with some heart disease in late 70’s. Since my ha both parents have been found to have developed high cholesterol. My cholesterol was 5.4 at time of heart attack (NZ normal is <5). Had chest pain a few times previously and had seen my cardiologist and even had had an exercise test negative.
Did this affect your life? / ?
Yes but not really, hubby and I are really roll with the stuff life throws at you people, if you can’t prevent it accept it and get on with life. Kept in hospital for 5 days as staff were concerned we weren’t taking it seriously (we were but why cry over something no one saw coming). My cardiologist was in the angio room that day and didn’t realize it was me until when my husband rang him that night. He just thought there were 2 people with my name and age in Auckland.
Physically for a year had to watch energy levels, couldn’t walk up steep drives, hanging washing up was hard as everytime lifted arms above head all the blood drained out of them and i would start puffing. etc. Now I have resumed my normal activities and life I don’t do marathons but can jog if the need arises and walk neighbors puppy 20 mins twice a week. Work 2 partime nursing jobs 32 hours per week, have an energetic 5 year old, am on school commitee.
Personally We have decided not to have a second child purely due to fact IF I ran into heart issues we would have to immediately terminate and that in our mind is no way to enter a pregnancy. We have a wonderful little man and to us it is selfish to risk him having to grow up with no mummy or one with serious heart issues.
What lifestyle changes have you made ? 18 months ago changed job from 24 hour per week at a & E to working in community as a Parkinson’s community educator( Parkinson’s nurse in USA). We had worked out my angina triggers- poor sleep improved with son getting older and having his tonsils out. Working with certain people who increase my stress levels exponentially- changed job. Avoid certain people when not feeling at best (MIL), Low iron levels.
What are your struggles ?
Pacing myself and not taking on too much (I hate to disappoint people)
Stents/ Zipper or Defib ? What is your situation?
Stent x1 ejf 35%, Had 2nd angio at 6 months all clear stent good. HAd echo at 3 months back to normal EJF 55-65%, repeated at 3year mark normal and small patch of hypoplasticity visable on all echos, on some meds and 5 year recall to cardiologist and echo.
What do you fear now ?
What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?
Son, husband, living my life to fullest.
Did you do Cardiac Rehab? What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?
Yes I did Cardiac Rehab. The hardest part is the fact people don’t believe I had a full proper heart attack OR think i am broken somehow and unable to make own decisions rationally.
What are your new dreams ?
Grandchildren, retiring and travelling with husband in 20-30 years.
What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could? Eg: Skydiving.
Nothing, I hate heights, cold water and roller coasters.
Who was there for you?
My husband and son.
Did you lose many people after ?
No, everyone soon realized I was still me and not fragile.
What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?
Nothing was said that was funny.
Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?
A lot of people did not believe that i had actually had a heart attack or they thought i was over exaggerating the severity of it. Boss at a&e called me into a disciplinary meeting one year after my ha as i had had too much time off sick with my ha. (I was back at work part time 8 weeks after heart attack and back to normal 24 hours per week by 4 months, she had been a senior nurse until promoted @ 6 months after my heart attack).
If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?
Drink more, party more, not be afraid of life.
What do you want more of in life ?
Time with my husband and son and not have to work so much
Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?
Yes and no, yes as it held me back for a year and everyone fussed over me, and no not the most painful- prior to this had had 13 kidney stones and since have put lower back out that hurt more, and went thru 2 periods of abuse in late teens.
What makes you great ?
Sense of humor, desire to help others, my husband and son, without them I would just be mediocre.
What advice would you give to a healthy person?
Don’t smoke, have healthy weight, live life to the most.