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.
Today Please meet Terri Pisczek .
My name is Terri Pisczek and I’m in my late 50’s I’m from Sunny Florida. I was 39 years young when I had a heart attack.
I woke up one morning and within a few minutes I knew something was wrong by the way I felt. I experienced a sudden thick heavy feeling in my chest. Something that made me think… hmm. The day before I was feeling great, enjoying life. I leashed my dog then we headed out for our normal late morning scenic walk. While walking I noticed the thick heavy feeling becoming worse. Halfway into the walk I felt short of breath a little weak. I’d never felt this before. I decided to turn around and head back home and call the doctor.
I called the doctor’s office it was closed and would reopen at 1pm. I left a detailed message with his answering service, I was promised they could call back. I had made a veterinary appointment the day before, so, off I went. While in the veterinarians office I felt really bad and couldn’t wait to return home. I sucked it up and made it through the pet’s doctor appointment.
When I got home I call the doctor again. I spoke with his nurse and explained my symptoms. By this time the pressure had increased and turned into pain going down both arms and out the middle of my back between my shoulder blades. I asked if I could be seen by the doctor. She said I’ll give him the message. I asked her when will he return the call, she said by 2;00pm. By 2:00pm, they had not returned my call, so I called again. The nurse said she discussed my symptoms with the doctor and he said the pain I was having was either muscular or skeletal and he prescribed taking Advil. I drove up to the store and bought Advil. I took as he prescribed, but my symptoms stayed the same. At 4:00 PM the pain began to get worse and increased into something that felt like a painful attack in my chest with increased pain going down both arms and into my fingertips. The pain was in my chest, coming out the center of my back with painful pins and needles shooting up to the collar bone and neck area. Very painful, I wasn’t comfortable sitting or laying down. I had to go outside and sit on a bench because I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. I need fresh air. By this time my chest area, arms and back felt extremely sore as if I had been punched in the chest and back, sorta like I just took beating. The pain begins to worsen while I was outside so I went back inside. My husband arrived home from work and I ask him to get the doctor on the phone. I was feeling too weak and drained and confused.
At 4:50, my husband did reach the doctor on the phone and he told the doctor I was in really bad pain. The doctor then asks if I could come to the phone. My husband handed me the phone, I proceeded to tell the doctor again everything I had experienced since I last called him. He told me that I was having an esophagus spasm and he recommend I take some liquid antacid. I question why I would be having an esophagus spasm, and if so, would the pain be this great? He assured me that esophagus pain is extremely painful and resembles a heart attack. I ask him if I could be having a heart attack and he said NO because, for one, I have pain in both arms. His other reasons were that I was a young woman and there was no sweating or vomiting involved. He said, to trust him and assured me this was not a heart attack because I had no risk factors and he therefore had no reason to believe it heart related.
He clearly stated that if I was a man he would have reason to be concerned.
Back to the store for liquid antacid and took as he prescribed. My pain was not alleviated by taking the antacid. At 7:00 PM, I was still in pain, sore and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the antacid to take effect. The Doctors office had closed and I called something called ” Ask a Nurse.” I explained to the nurse the pain I was experiencing all day. I told her I had spoken with my doctor regarding this. She advised me to follow my doctor’s advice first, and if the symptoms persisted, go to the ER. I then tried taking more antacid, but still I had no relief. All of the symptoms continued and by 8:00pm my husband drove me to the ER.
The Front desk nurse said to forget the usual paperwork and felt I needed immediate attention. After explaining my symptoms to the ER doctors, They said I was describing a heart attack and they needed to run some tests immediately. They confirmed that I had and was possibly still having one. My blood work had come back positive for Triponen. They said I needed medication immediately and which time I was administered TPA, they suspected I had a blood clot. I was also given others medication and was told that my heart was responding. This confirmed their diagnosis. They said that my EKG was abnormal due to the heart attack. As a result, I had two cardiac caths, angioplasty and I was diagnosed with aggressive coronary artery disease. I underwent triple bypass. Over the years, I’ve had 8 re stenoses, blood clots that required stenting. I’ve had 8 stents.
My signs and signs and symptoms were heavy feeling in my chest, pain in my chest coming shooting through by back between my shoulder blades, pins and needles, shooting pains in my collar bone and neck area, shooting pains down BOTH arms and ending in my fingertips. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol but my doctor never seemed concerned, so I wasn’t.
This crushed my world. I felt broken, I was traumatized, I stopped living and started worrying. Fear took over my life followed by deep depression. I hated my life, I no longer felt joy. I had no desire to think or plan for the future. I didn’t think I’d have a future. While others laughed and planned future events I sat slightly in emotional pain. Physically I couldn’t do the things I once did. I couldn’t work it was too stressful. I loved working in the yard, couldn’t do that, riding bikes, shopping, running with a group of friends all of this ended that day. Angina took over and the medications side effects took it’s toll.
I have to wear the ugly scars that come with open heart surgery. I live in Florida and always wore cute little shorts. That ended because of the scar. I hated the scar on my leg. I loved wearing T-Shirts. I stopped because of the scar on my chest.
I definitely made lifestyle choices after. I do not eat fast foods, canned foods, snack foods like chips, donuts, breads, white rice, white potatoes, sodas, iced tea, very little red meat. I exercise more, avoid stress, removed toxic people from my life. What are your I do struggle with willpower due to lifestyle changes.
Here is me: Triple bypass, 8 stent implants. They have placed 8 stents in my bypass grafts. One graft closed. What do you fear now? Geez, one of my bypass grafts is a vein and it’s 20 years old. Brittle, filled with stents. Recent PET scan was abnormal. Lack of blood flow to the heart muscle in the area where the old graft filled with stents supplies. This is like driving on bald tires. Not sure how many more stents can fit in this graft. If they Cath me and make one little oops, I fear it could have a heart attack or death.
The things that are important to me are my little ones they were and are my life. I love my pets and they need me. Being happy and helping others. My husband and mother in law were there for me, she did all of the work.
After my Heart Attack, I lost everyone. I was a young 39-year-old and enjoyed life like I was 25 years old, now, I couldn’t keep up with the 70-year olds.
I attended Cardiac Rehab as a part of my recovery and I recommend it to others. I do have dreams and goals, a big one is to live another 20 years. I also wish to travel, live
One of the funniest things that happened to me after was…..I was walking with an ex friend and she said if you pass out or have a heart attack I’m not doing CPR on you. lol. NOT funny since she knew I was having symptoms at the time. If I could go back I would live my life more FOR ME!!!!! I wish and hope to have more TIME in life. Having my Heart Attack is the hardest thing that has ever happened to me.
I would advise others to exercise more and watch your blood pressure, cholesterol and diet. I am a person who can do things for others with a smile on my face while I am suffering.
The bay area newspaper did an article on me after I had my heart attack. I’m not sure who contacted them. They called and ask if I would tell my story and offered to come to the hospital. Of course, I said no I can’t. I’m recovering from a heart attack. They ask maybe at a later date. I said yes/maybe. After I started rehab they contacted me and wanted to take a picture and post my story in the newspaper. I made the front page news. and a side page. The purpose was to bring awareness to women and the medical field that women are at risk of suffering a heart attack and it’s not a just a male disease. the inside article read as follows.
Heart disease kills more women than anything else, but not many people know it. Public perception and some doctors still consider heart disease a male illness, even though for the past 10 years it’s killed more women than men.
Terri Pisczek knows. The 39-year-old mother experienced “crushing tightness” in her chest when she took her dog for a walk. The discomfort caused her to turn back. Throughout the day she called her doctor as the “squeezing pain” continued to the middle of her back, between her shoulders and down both arms. She recalls her doctor telling her, I assure you it’s not your heart. Finally, Pisczek called ask-a-nurse service. They advised her to follow her doctors advice but to head to the ER if it continued. She learned it was a heart attack, but because so much time had elapsed before she was treated, Pisczek suffered irreversible muscle damage. Cardiovascular disease killed 478,179 women in 1990, the most recent year statistics are available from the National Center for health statistic and the American Heart Association The disease struck down 447,900 men that year.
More to this story. But I wanted to say, Nothing has changed in the awareness of heart disease.