Today Please meet Ginny.
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 ?
Ginny, Age 52, Southern Maryland
How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?
Where were you when it happened? Tell me your story.
My 20 year old daughter and I had decided to go to Disney World for New Year’s Eve (really bad idea, don’t ever do it) We rode rides, ate dinners and had an over all good time. We returned from Disney on Jan 2. She returned to college on Jan 3. I went to work on Jan 4 and had a typical day. I was rushed all day and didn’t get a chance to eat so I grabbed a Subway sandwich on the way home and ate it in my car in a rush.
When I got home the indigestion started – this is not the least bit unusual. I have it all the time. That evening a girlfriend called and said her daughter was going back to college the next day and did I want to come over to say good bye. I said of course I do, but I had a terrible upset stomach and would not be staying long. After the good byes I sat on the couch with my friend laughing about how getting old sucks. One turkey Subway sandwich is sending my stomach into fits. (And I was taking Tums and acid reflux pills by the handful and nothing was relieving the symptoms)
So I went to bed that night with a very upset stomach. It was so upset, I knew I’d never fall asleep like that so I took a sleeping pill (God protects the stupid)
Next morning I woke up with the same nausea and wondered what I had done to my stomach to get this. I assumed it was some bug and not just general indigestion. (This was like no indigestion I have ever had) But I started to do my normal Saturday chores. The next symptom was pressure in my chest. (Women will understand this – it was like wearing a bra 3 sizes too small.) Again, I chalked it up to whatever bug I had picked up.
Next, I was carrying a bucket of clean clothes upstairs to put away. I got about halfway up my stairs, and was so out of breath, I couldn’t breathe. I started to sweat and was cold and clammy. (Still thought it was all bug related) But at this point, I decided whatever I had, I should sit down and rest. This was no time to be doing chores.
So I went back down stairs to sit on the couch and I started coughing. Not a sore throat cough or a tickle or anything else. I think of it like someone was pressing a cough button and my throat reacted. At that point I said to myself, “what the hell is going on”
This is where WEBMD saved me. I literally went onto WEBMD and did a search of symptoms of a women’s heart attack, and all the things I’ve described were like a checklist – each and every one of them. So I drove myself to the hospital. I sat in the hospital parking lot with smart angel and dumb angel on my shoulders. Dumb angel was telling me I was a wimp and I needed to go home and do my chores. (There were leaves to be raked) Smart angel said, you’re here. Go in. You have good insurance. Let the kind doctors tell you that you are a wimp.
So I went into the emergency room at about noon on a Saturday afternoon. Fortunately all the drunks and car accidents weren’t in yet when I said I was having chest pains, they took me right back. Blood pressure was off the charts. Not sure what the EKG showed, but some enzyme showed up in my blood work that said I was having a heart attack.
I went to a small rural hospital and they do not have a cardiac area, so I had to be sent up to DC to be treated. It’s about 80 miles away, so there was discussion about a helicopter ride up vs an ambulance. But after some aspirin, nitro and morphine, I was stable. I actually stayed in my local emergency room for about 12 hours waiting for a bed to open up in the city. But as I said, I was stable.
So I got up to the hospital in the middle of the night. Was checked in on Saturday and I was still stable and still on morphine so they decided I didn’t have to be done under emergency procedures and my stent was planned for Monday morning. They found an 80% blockage. Put in the stent and I was home by Wednesday.
What were your signs and symptoms? Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?
Symptoms are above and I have a ton of family history. My oldest brother died of a heart attack when he was 39. My Dad and his brother both had young hear attacks. My Mother’s father died of a heart attack young.
How did this affect your life? Physically/ Personally?
I’m not really sure. At first I jumped right back into my life. Gym, every morning. Didn’t think a thing about it. I even ran my first half marathon (I use the term ran loosely here) in October. But about a year and a half after it all, I’ve been getting very, very tired and I’m not sure why. My doctor did the stress test and I passed with flying colors. I just seem out of sorts. Every twinge in my chest sends me into a panic. I’ve gone to the hospital with a really upset stomach because I thought it was happening again. I’m more scared now and I’ve never been like that.
What lifestyle changes have you made ? What are your struggles ?
I’ve never had an issue with going to the gym. I love the gym. I struggle with it now because I’m tired a lot, but I’ve recently recommitted myself to it. I can’t control what I eat. I see people eating a salad at lunch and can’t imagine why they would choose a salad over a yummy sandwich. My vegetable and fruit intake is almost nill. I know I’m the only one who can fix this, but I truly don’t know how.
Stents/ Zipper or Defib ? What is your situation?
Only a stent.
What do you fear now ?
Little pains. Every tweak in my chest makes me jump. I have trouble concentrating and have terrible memory issues, but I’m not sure if that’s just the 50 stupids or it’s a result of med or just an occurrence after it happens.
What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?
- Being around for my daughter for a very long time. I want to be at her wedding. I want to play with my grandchildren
- My job. I have a lot of responsibility and my employer deserves my full attention and I don’t know if I can give it
- Enjoying the rest of my life. I use to be a get out of the house person, but not anymore. I sit around a lot and I want to reclaim who I was
Did you do Cardiac Rehab? What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?
I did not do Cardiac rehab. My dimwitted first doctor didn’t even tell me about it. That is was something I could/should do. I changed cardiologist, about a year after and she said it’s never too late to do it. So I went to an appointment and was told that I had to pay an insurance deductible so It would be $20, three times a week for 12 weeks. All they have in the room are treadmills and bicycles. They provided no other information other than physical rehab. No nutritional counseling. So it would have cost me over $700 for a 3 month gym membership. And I was already going to the gym, on the treadmill for 45 minutes a day. There didn’t seem to be an upsize.
The hardest part is the lack of information. First doctors treat women (especially younger women) with heart issues differently. I can’t tell you the number of times I was asked “Why did you have a heart attack?”. What an amazingly stupid question. To this day, thinking about that question raises my blood pressure. I was told the female hormones are supposed to protect the heart so it shouldn’t have happened. I swear some just didn’t believe it happened.
What are your new dreams ?
Hmmmmmmm??? If I figure some out, I’ll let you know.
What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?
I’m not much of a regrets person. Not sure there is anything
Who was there for you?
My sister from another mister. BFF – Wanda.
Did you lose many people after ?
Not a single one.
What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?
WHY – and it’s not the least bit funny
Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?
Nope – not a one. I have one sister who is getting me heath magazines and such for presents, but it’s done in love
If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?
I wish my Mom had forced me to eat my vegetables.
What do you want more of in life ?
I want to be more outgoing. I want to take more personnel risks with my heart.
Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?
Not even close. I didn’t believe it was happening up until they told me in the hospital. At that point I was on morphine. They made me comfortable. (Deliver an 11 pound baby and we can talk hard things. Find pictures of your ex having sex with another woman and that’s hard.) This was a blip
What makes you great ?
I’m very kind and very funny. I can find the good/great in anything. I enjoy giving to those who need it. We are only on this earth once and we are here to take care of our brothers and sisters who can’t take care of themselves.
What advice would you give to a healthy person?
Find the good. There’s a great line in “Pretty Woman” where Julia Roberts says “Ever notice how it’s easier to believe the bad things” Find the good, get rid of negative people, Surround yourself with people who are proud of you and can find the good in every bad situation.