Heart Attack Stories- Connie Birchall. We All Bleed Red.

Connie Birchall 2
Connie with her Husband.


Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ?

 Con Birchall, 52, Ontario Canada

 How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

 Big one at 45 but was misdiagnosed again another big one at 47.


 Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

I went to my family Dr in 2006 complaining of “chest pain”. It was always at rest when this would come on and never with activity. It would gradually ease if I moved around. I was sent for an echocardiogram and a stress test of which both showed unremarkable, plus I was only 43 yrs old not exactly high risk!  Because it was chest pain at rest relieved by activity I was diagnosed with GERD and given Nexium. That never sat right with me because it occurred so randomly, not after I ate a particular food etc. The chest pain continued and progressively over the years worsened. Every time I was in to see my GP I mentioned the increasing “chest pain” which still occurred randomly only at rest. I would wake at night with it, when sitting quietly at my desk, or watching t.v. I was working part time in nursing and as a full time dog walker and never once did I have it while walking my 6 hrs a day.

In 2008 I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible chest pain. Did my normal routine of taking an extra Nexium, Tums, Maalox, Gas-X…essentially anything I could get my hands on. The pain was crushing, radiating down my left arm, up into my jaw and mid back, I was sweating and felt like I was going to pass out. I was walking circles in the living room until it gradually passed. Wow that was a bad “stomach episode” I thought and set up another appointment with my GP. Again I was given reassurance it was not my heart…”angina occurs with activity and is not relieved by it”.

 The chest pain incidents continued.

December 14, 2010 as I was getting ready for work I had another “stomach episode” that was particularly bad. I did the usual routine and tried to suck it up. We were in the midst of a bad snowstorm. I went out and shovelled our 10 x 20 dog pen which helped ease the pain. Within minutes of stopping it was back. I told my husband my “stomach thing” was quite bad that morning and he commented I should stay home (we worked in the same office) I told him I would go in but he had to drive. Within 5 minutes of leaving the house I started feeling very lightheaded and nervous so I told my husband to pull over and call 911 as I was pretty sure something bad was happening. I then lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness my entire body was pins and needles.  I looked down at my hands and they were yellowish and waxy looking. I had been a nurse for 16 yrs and the only time I had seen skin that color was when someone died. My husband pulled off the highway and we saw the ambulance coming. They asked me a few questions and then asked me to walk to the ambulance as the snow was too deep.  They hooked me up to the ECG and looked pretty nervous.


Unfortunately EMT’s come in different levels. Mine could only give me an aspirin, no I.V. no nitro…just an aspirin.  I was brought to the closest hospital which unfortunately was in the opposite direction of the nearest cardiac hospital. The emerg dr explained I was having a “very serious heart attack” and things were going to happen very quickly. I was hooked up to an IV and the emerg dr kept asking me what my pain level was at.  It never change despite everything he did. After a few minutes he said he had only one final option which was a clot buster. He said he needed a verbal consent from me because I had a 30% chance of having a stroke after getting it. I said wow that’s not great. He said “If you don’t get it, you are going to die” Well 70% is good enough for me I said! But it did nothing, the pain was terrible still. Then the strangest thing happened, he started walking around my gurney mumbling “This is bad, this is really really bad”. I remember thinking well that’s really unprofessional lol. I grabbed his arm on the next lap and tried to reassure him. I said to him “It’s okay…I am going to be okay” He looked at me and said quietly “No…no I am sorry…you are not going to be okay, you have no idea how bad this is” That was the first time I realized how bad it was.   A decision was made to transport me to the closest cardiac hospital which in good weather is just over an hour away. The emerg dr and a nurse came with me in the ambulance with me. He told the nurse to just keep giving me boluses of morphine.

Because of the storm it took much longer to get there. Every so often he would ask me how I was. I told him each time I was the same. At one point he reached over and held my hands and said he couldn’t believe how stoic I was. I remember thinking hmmm…never remember being called stoic before lol. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the cardiac hospital finally a stent was put into my LAD in which I had a 99% blockage. During that procedure it was then determined that I had substantial scar tissue from previous heart attacks…I was only 47 yrs old. I was told later that I had the highest troponin levels they had seen. At least 50% of my heart has been damaged.

After my massive heart attack, I was sent home 4 days later unable to walk up more than 4 step without becoming very short of breath.  I was told by my internist (no cardiologist in my small town) to return to work after 4 weeks. It was awful 🙁  I was so tired and so short of breath and no one was offering up answers!  4 months later I got the call to start rehab at which point I was told I was a grade 3 heart failure so should only do very limited things and that perhaps a few months after I finished my rehab I might be able to return to work!! Ha! What a joke! I had already been back to work for 3 months. My EF was at 30% initially after my heart attack. 9 months later it still sat at 30% so the decision was made to implant an ICD to lessen the risk of sudden death due to low EF.


 What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

 I had started having chest pain when I was about 40. It was like a wave that I could feel rising from my mid abdomen up to in my mid chest. It was like someone was squeezing my heart slowly. It was always at rest….never once did I have pain while doing anything strenuous, quite often I would be woken from a dead sleep with it. The pain would intensify then climb up to my jaw and down my left arm. I would become very short of breath during this time. Unfortunately it was alleviated by walking. I say unfortunately because that’s the reason it was misdiagnosed for years. Just before my heart attack (say the week before) I was extremely tired. So tired I was worried about being able to get my last minute Christmas things done.

As for pre existing issues, I had been diagnosed with very high cholesterol at 43. I was put on Crestor at that time and this did bring my levels into acceptable limits. I was also a pack a day smoker, at the time of my heart attack for 34 yrs.

Family history-My father had a 5 way bypass at age 60 after suffering a heart attack. My maternal grandmother had bypass surgery twice having suffered heart attacks from the age of about 50. My paternal grandmother had a stroke in her early 40’s followed by years of devastating heart attacks and strokes.
How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally? 

 Well physically because of the damage I sustained it’s meant I can’t physically do what I could do prior. I get sob quickly and tired much faster. My last angiogram showed my heart was starting to enlarge and the walls were starting to get thicker again due to the damage I sustained to my left ventricle.

Personally I have always had a good outlook on life. I am so grateful to be alive and I view everyday as a blessing. I stopped working 3 1/2 yrs after my ha because besides being stressful and demanding I was struggling to get done what I needed to get done. The problem was not having a desk job, it was the fact life goes on regardless of how you are feeling. I would be so tired and after working 40 hrs a week, my chicken coops still needed cleaning, groceries needed to be bought, clothes needed to be washed etc. Working and being able to function doing everyday things was impossible.
What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

 I am physically more active now than when I was working after my ha. I can pace myself and not feel the pressure of having to do certain things at certain times. I quit smoking the day of my ha (5+ yrs smoke free!) I really watch my salt intake because of my CHF related to the damage. I travel more because you never know when your time is up!

My struggles are still asking for help instead of trying to be superwoman. I get shit often from my family because I am too stubborn at times and will do things myself that I shouldn’t do instead of asking for help. I miss being able to do things with my grandkids because I get tired so easily.

Connie Birchall
Connie and her daughter Tess.

 Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

 1 stent in my LAD, several other smaller blockages that are 30-40% which they monitor. Yes I have an ICD due to low EF

 What do you fear now ?

 Being alone and having another heart attack, being unable to get help.


 What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?


  • Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t waste time on negative people, realizing you can’t fix stupid 🙂


  • Get a bucket list going, if anything this should show you never know if you will have tomorrow you need to do things, see things and not think you have next week or next year to do them.


  • Educate others! Heart attacks aren’t just for old people or men. There is no age or sex that this happens to exclusively.


Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

 Yes 4 months after my Heart Attack and 5 yrs later I am actually doing it again right now.

The hardest part was the crappy aftercare. They send you home and you have no idea what to expect. When I first came home I struggled so much. I had to sit down on my stairs 3 times to catch my breath just to get up them to bed. No one tells you it will get better!


 What are your new dreams ?

 I actually am very happy with my life. Just to not have my heart function decline too quickly. 


 What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

 Machu Picchu. My husband and I always said we would go. I can’t go now because of my heart failure. I can’t do the altitude 🙁


Who was there for you?

My husband has been amazing, and basically everyone in my life has been there for me.

 Did you lose many friends after your heart attack ?

 I lost none but that might be because I’ve always had a positive attitude. Too many folks feel bad for themselves after. I am responsible for my own life, I don’t blame anyone for what happened…shit happens lol…move on!

 What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

 “I guess after all this time your heart is fixed now right? Like its normal again?” ummm….no my heart was damaged it will never be normal again “You must be so relieved to have an ICD because now you never have to worry about having another heart attack” Well actually the ICD fixes electrical problems…a heart attack is a plumbing problem, my ICD is not going to stop me from having a heart attack…but hey if my heart stops I’ll get a kick start!

  Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

 Nope…that’s those negative people I don’t allow into my life thing 🙂


 If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

 Well I would follow my gut and insist there was a heart issue and not just listen to Drs telling me it was a stomach issue. I would have never smoked that first cigarette.

 What do you want more of in life ?

Honestly I like my life right now! Wait….grandkids…could use a few more 🙂

 Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?

Accepting my life was going to forever be different after Dec 14 2010.


 What makes you great ?

I have a positive attitude! I genuinely like myself 🙂


 What advice would you give to a healthy person who has never experienced something like a Heart Attack?

 If you feel something is wrong with your heart push the issue! Don’t assume because you don’t smoke, you eat well, you exercise you are bulletproof…no one is bulletproof!




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 Lisa Urban Dowling.



Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ?

I am Lisa Urban Dowling.  I am currently 48.  I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but have lived in St. Augustine, FL for the past 25 years

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

I was 46

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

I was at home, alone, while my 7 year old daughter spent the week with her dad and his girlfriend.  Since it was a holiday weekend (4th of July), I had asked if I could stop by and see her.  They decided that it would not be a good idea.  I let myself get pretty worked up about the situation.  I then decided that I would paint my great room.  While I was painting, I was talking to a friend of mine.  I all of a sudden felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest.  It was very strange and did not really go away.  I took my blood pressure (I have had high blood pressure previously during times of stress) and it was WAY high!  Like 260/150 high.  I decided that it was a faulty reading, and that I needed blood pressure medicine.  It was a Friday, so I found some old med in my medicine chest.  I had another round of pains two nights later (Sunday). I didn’t have a general practitioner, but I called one and was told that they couldn’t see me until Thursday.   I had pains again on Tuesday, but breathed through them and they seemed to lessen.  On Thursday, I went to the new doctor.  She checked me out, did an ekg in office, saw some abnormalities, called a cardiologist to see me the next day, and sent me to have blood work drawn.  That evening she called and said that I showed heart damage and needed to go straight to the hospital.  My ex grabbed my daughter, his girlfriend took me to the hospital, and I called my parents who lived out of state to come.


The next morning, I had a heart cath with attempt to stent.  My LAD is 100% blocked and could not be removed, but my EF is still at 55 – 58.  I have had a Mayo consult, and they agree that I should be medically managed at this point.  It was something called SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) – rare, most common in perimenipausal or post partum women.

What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

Not really – some slight hypertension.  I got too worked up, Elephant on chest.

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally? 

I was so tired on the medication, but being a single mom, I really didn’t take much time off.  I did cardiac rehab.  My cholesterol and everything is fine.  I watch what I eat, try to eat Mediterranean and try to stay active.  I also let a lot of things go so that I don’t stress.

What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

I am a little less type A.  I also live very in the moment, especially spending time with my daughter.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

None for now.  Part of my heart is dead – the distal apex.  But dead is dead, so not much that can be done.  Will need defib in future if it gives off faulty signals.

What do you fear now ?

Not being here for my daughter.


What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

My daughter, spending time with my family, leaving a positive impact on others.

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

I did and it was helpful.  The weight gain (caused by menopause or medication)

What are your new dreams ?

I want to work at becoming a life coach so that I can help others more.  (I taught high school and middle school English for 20 years, and now work as a service and sales rep for a great family owned photography company).

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

I want to travel more! Paris, Hawaii…

Who was there for you?

My family.  The friends I told.  My ex and his girlfriend.


Did you lose many people after ?

Several high school acquaintances have died due to heart attacks since mine.  

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

Not really.  I seem so healthy that it is a shock to most.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

I wouldn’t!  I have lived a great life and made a difference to many, which is how I measure.

What do you want more of in life ?

Peace, fun, time with my daughter, travel, love.


What makes you great ?

My positive, upbeat, helpful spirit.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

Love your kids, spend time with your loved ones.


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.

rachel 5

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.

rachel 3

 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 ?

Repeat MI

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).

rachel 6

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. 

rachel 4

Rachel Turner


Today Please meet Kristin Feeley .

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.




I guess I should start my story when I was 7.  My mother, while on the phone with the electric company, collapsed in our dining room.  My father, a fireman and the other firefighters “worked” on her as they waited for an ambulance that never showed.  They finally picked her up and put her in the squad car where she died on the way to the hospital.  She died at the age of 38 of what I was later told a “sticky mitral valve”.

Last year, at the age of 39, on March 8, 2014 on an unseasonably warm, sunny day, I had my step-mother up to my house so we could find her a dog at the shelters near me.   My daughter volunteered at a shelter and wanted her to check out a dog there, we visited 2 shelters and had picked out Arthur, a laid back Jack Russell and Chihuahua mix.  We hadn’t eaten all day and couldn’t stop somewhere with the dog in the car so we drove her and the dog over an hour to the house I grew up in.  When we got there we decided to order some take out from the pizza place,  we all had chicken parmesan dinners. 

 After dinner, I was sitting in the same room that my mother collapsed in and started to feel a horrible pain in the center of my chest.  At first I thought it may be indigestion,  I was hungry didn’t eat all day and maybe ate a little too quickly.  The longer I sat there the worse the pain seemed.  I asked my step-mother for an aspirin because the nagging thought in the back of my head was this is a heart attack.   She didn’t have an aspirin but had Aleve and so I took it just in case it had aspirin in it.  I sat for a couple of minutes and then I started to have trouble breathing.  I was starting to panic.  I turned to my husband and said “I am having chest pain and can’t breathe, we need to go”.   The phone rang and my step-mother picked up the phone and started talking to her son and all I could think is “I’m having a heart attack and she’s on the phone with her son?”  My husband was mad at her and said we’re going.  I got up and walked outside to our car.  I felt weak and prayed I could make it to the car.  My husband was trying to get my daughter to get in the car.  She was 14 and was freaking out and wanted to stay.  I opened the car door and got in the car and watched the two of them argue with each other and thought I can’t die now, they will kill each other.  I felt the tingling going down my right arm and then my left. I started to cry and yell to get in the car. 

 My husband drove me and my daughter to the closest emergency room, unfortunately well known for being a horrible hospital, but I had no choice.   On the way, I kept coughing as hard as I could because I had read it helps during a heart attack and asked my hubby to pound on my back, figuring if the coughing helped maybe the pounding would too. They were doing construction at the hospital, so my hubby dropped me off.   I walked to the front desk at the ER and told them I was having chest pain and couldn’t breathe.  They put me in triage pretty quickly, where the pain continued and I couldn’t catch my breath.  The nurse kept telling me I was having a panic attack and I was hyperventilating.  I knew I wasn’t.  The pain was unbearable and I couldn’t get comfortable in any position.  They hooked me up to an ekg and saw nothing.  They took me for x-rays and nothing.  They asked me for urine but I looked at the nurse like she was nuts, I couldn’t even stand up and she wanted me to pee in a cup.  They put me in a bed to wait for more results.  

 A male nurse, that seemed to be my angel, asked what he could do for me and I told him I was in pain.  He came and gave me some morphine, thankfully the pain let up a little.  My sister showed up, I guess my step-mother got off the phone long enough to call her.  The ER doctor came and said they couldn’t see anything but they would keep me for observation.  I was admitted and moved to a room.  I sent my sister home and my daughter and hubby back to my step-mother’s since we were an hour away from home. 

 As I was getting settled into my room, a nurse came in and said I tricked them.   I was like how???  The levels in my blood did indicate I was having a HA and they were still rising and I had some arrhythmia.  They would move me to CCU and do additional testing and probably catherization.  

 I was scared, I called my hubby and told him what was going on and they were moving me.  The doctor on that floor came in looking concerned and wanted me moved asap.   It was kind of nice in CCU,  I was by myself in a room and had a view of the NYC skyline.  The nurses were great there too and I felt like I was getting better. They did an echo and still saw nothing.  More EKGs and more blood work. I was in touch with my boss and seriously said to him, I’ll probably be back in a few days.  I remember posting on Facebook saying I may have had a “little heart attack” and my sister got so mad.  She was crying, which she never does and said it wasn’t little, stop down playing it. 

 That’s maybe when I realized I was in denial. 

 My step-mother called me and started saying this is too close to what happened to your mother, which got me get upset and set my machines off.  Hubby had to take her calls after that. Finally they decided to do a chemical stress.  They did the first part of the test that made my heart race and took pictures.  They said if that came out fine I would not have to do the at rest portion and could go home.  They took the pictures and wheeled me to the door to wait for the orderly.  They had the pictures on the screen and I could see one picture did not look like the rest.  I knew then, that there was a problem and would be back for the 2nd part.  When my sister came that day I said I saw something, she said maybe it wasn’t yours, but I knew. 

 The next day I went back for the 2nd part and was then told they were switching me to a different hospital for catherization. I am overweight so they didn’t want to risk doing a catherization at that hospital.  They wanted me to see a special cardiologist there who did many of these procedures a day.   On March 13, 2014 an ambulance came to transfer me to Hackensack University Medical Center.  My husband and my brother met me at the hospital and I was prepped to wait for the procedure. I remember not feeling nervous, just wanted to get in and get it done.   I was brought into the cath lab a little while later and given pain meds.  They moved the machine around me and explained they would go through my wrist and if they saw anything they would stent me.  I felt the wire going through and it hurt and I said it hurt and they gave me a little more pain meds.  I then heard a tech say, “here comes the BMW” and I am normally a smart ass so I said, “but I like Volvos better”.  That is the last thing I remember.  According to my current cardiologist “all hell broke loose”.  

 From what I am told, I had another heart attack and blood clots had blocked my LAD.  They tried unsuccessfully 3 times to stent me, but they couldn’t.  The doctors came out and talked to my husband and brother and told them I needed an emergency bypass.  If it wasn’t done, I would just continue to have heart attacks and damage my heart.  So, they moved me from the cath lab to the OR, they let my husband and brother talk to me before the surgery.  They said I was crying and talking, but I do not remember any of it.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I had a third HA. 

 Next thing I remember is I waking up in the ICU, tubes down my throat and thinking “what the hell happened”?  This is not a stent.  The nurse stopped me from pulling out the tubes in my throat and talked to me and told me what happened.  I was in a haze the next couple of days. I was then moved from ICU to the “heart” wing.  I slept in the reclining chair mostly and tried to move myself around.  A physical therapist came once but didn’t again so I walked myself.  I was released 5 days later. 

 Coming home and doing the stairs were tough but I did it.  I had a nurse come a couple of days a week and my mother in law stayed a week.  A week after coming home, I developed an infection in the wound on my chest.  I had to go on antibiotics and the surgeon had to cut the dead skin, leaving me with a hole in the middle of my chest that I had to dress and clean with my husband’s help for the next few months.  At first, I would cry at the sight of it, but now I wear my scar with pride.  It is my proof of overcoming something much bigger than I ever thought I could. 

 I attended cardiac rehab for about 2 months, wish I could have done the entire program, but I had to get back to work.  Work for me was my return to normalcy, now I wonder why I was pushing to come back, LOL. 

 I still can’t believe this happened without more of a warning.  I had hereditary high cholesterol since I was 15, but otherwise I was pretty healthy.  Don’t smoke, don’t drink much, and yes my weight probably is not the best, but my doctor’s don’t feel it was the cause.  I know my cardiologist wishes he had more info on my mother’s condition as he feels our events are related.  I went through a lot of ups and downs and still do.  I get anxious sometimes and my sleeping has never been the same.  My cardiologist feels I have some PTSD.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining.  I know I am so lucky that I have this second chance. 

 My daughter said to me months later that she was mad at her father not letting her be there on cath day, and I asked why? She said ” what happens if it was worse and it couldn’t be fixed?  I wouldn’t have had the chance to say good-bye”.  I cry every time I think of that.  I feel horrible that I had to put her through that and I know I could have been my mother who missed watching her child(ren) grow up. 

The bright spot is that this has made my amazing husband and daughter and me so much closer and stronger.  I also see that my sister and brother, even though they won’t always say it, would do anything for their baby sister.   If it wasn’t for these wonderful people supporting and taking care of me, I don’t think I would have made it through.


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.

Terri Pisczek


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 Ondra Eldridge.


Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ? 

Ondra Eldridge  50  from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

 Just turned 50 in Sept 2014

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

 In Feb 2014 I had lost my job and after 30 years of working I became really stressed trying to find another job.  My last job was also stressful and I couldn’t handle the stress.  After losing my job I began looking everywhere and was really hard to find one with my experience and pay.  The days before the heart attack I realize now that,  I was really tired and having issues with heart burn.  I just shook it off and was eating the wrong foods.

On October 8, 2014 I was going over to my best friends to do my hair and spend some time with her.  We had just colored my hair and she was cutting hair when I realize I was getting pain in my chest and arms, then my back and jaws starting hurting really bad.  I told my friend something wrong and told her to get me some Aspirin.  I started not being able to breath and pain was getting worse.  My friend’s husband called  911 and luckily the fire station was down the street.  She told me they got there within 5 minutes and started working on me.

 I don’t remember a whole lot but they tried to put equipment on me to see what was going on but the  wires wouldn’t stay on me.  EMS showed up and started working on me and told my friend I was having a heart attack.  They then put me in ambulance and ran hot to Oklahoma Heart Hospital.  I was semi alert until I got to the hospital and then I passed out and don’t remember much after that.  I did come to after they put stent in and asked if I was alive.  Everyone was looking at me when I finally got to recovery.  I felt no more pain by then and was so thankful.

I found out that my triponon count was over 200 and I had to stay in Hospital for 4 days.  My doctor told my  family that If I didn’t think quick like I did I wouldn’t be here.  I found this out after.   My LAD was 99.9 blocked and I had Widowmaker Heart Attack.  It’ been 4 months since my Heart Attack and I am  feeling better every day.  Thank goodness for the knowledge of Doctor who said I had a horrible heart attack but easy fix.  I am thankful for everyday that I get to see family and friends.  Very thankful for my best friend and EMS and firefighter and doctor for saving my life.

What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

Heart burn and really tired for three days before.  No Family history

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally?

I have a harder time getting around like I used to but it gets better every day.  I haven’t really absorbed that I had a heart attack and I take one day at a time.

What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

 Eating better and trying to get back to my new normal.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

 I have a stent now.  Unable to work at this time but ready to work again.

What is most important in your post heart attack life?

Living better

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

I had no insurance for rehab.

What are your new dreams ?

To get healthy again.

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

 I have done a lot in my life.  Don’t really have any wishes except to live longer.

Who was there for you?

 My best friend.

Did you lose many people after ?


What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

Did it hurt…lol.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

 Yes, I’d take meds better.

What do you want more of in life ?

Health and happiness.

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?

 Losing my job.

What makes you great ?

My positive attitude.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

Stay healthy and keep it up.



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.



Heart Attack Stories- Gregory Curry. We All Bleed Red.

Hello.  My name is Greg Curry.  I’m 47 now, from West “by God” Virginia.

In June of 2009, at 42 years old, I had a widow maker heart attack.
I had a history of high cholesterol, and was supposed to be taking medication, but I let my prescription run out and never did refill it.

I am 6’1” and at the time about 210 pounds.  I didn’t really watch what I ate that much, exercised pretty regularly, used smokeless tobacco, and drank a good bit.


greg (3)

I am married with two girls, and at the time they were 1 and 5 years old.

Unfortunately, most of my story I had to hear from other people.   I work at a National Guard base, and we are allotted time during the day to exercise.  From what I hear, I was pretty flustered that day, and told people I was going to run before I went home.  I normally ran a couple miles a day at work.  People said my face was real red and I was agitated, but hell, I’m like that most days at work.  Anyway, I pretty much finished my run and stopped to talk to a co worker before running back down to my building.  The guy I was talking to said that I didn’t look unusual for a guy that had just finished running on a hot late June day.  I guess sometime on the way back down the hill to my building I collapsed.

 I was found by the road unresponsive by a contractor that just happened to forget something where he was working and was headed back up to pick it up.  Our base has a Fire Dept. with EMTs and they responded in just a minute or so once called.  They had to shock me a few times to get my heart started again, and I guess I flat-lined a couple more times on the way to the hospital.  I was in a coma for a week and they couldn’t get my heart to beat normally.  They had already told my wife to prepare for the worst.  The doctorssaid that I probably wouldn’t make it  and if I did, I would have severe brain damage.

  I know that they were checking the surveillance cameras on base to see how long I was down.  One of the doctors decided to try cold therapy.  They lowered my body temp trying to shock my heart into beating right.  I guess it worked, because my heart started beating right and I woke up.  They had to keep me drugged up because I was trying to do all kinds of crazy stuff, tearing the IVs out, yelling at people, all kinds of things before my brain started working right again. 

The next steps were to do a heart cath and found the blockages.  Luckily, the cardiac nurse was a friend of the family.  She said that the options were stents, or bi-pass.  She told me if I got stents I would be on blood thinner and other meds, and it was likely that I would be back in for more work in a few more years, so I decided to go with a double bi-pass.  Someone somewhere pulled some strings, because the Dr. scheduled to do my open heart was changed, and I got the premier heart surgeon in the region.  So they cracked me open, did the surgery, and sent me home a few days later.  No evident brain or heart damage, although there is about a four week period that I have no memory of whatsoever.

I did go through cardiac rehab, and I highly recommend it to everyone.  If nothing else, it gives you the confidence to push yourself more.  I was bound and determine to get back to my old self, so I was probably doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing (I’m stubborn like that).  I was off of work for over three months.  I tried to slowly go back to doing the same physical things that I did before, and have pretty much succeeded.  Today, I run 3 or 4 miles at a time, and the only problem I have is with my knees.  Physically, I’m in better shape than I was before the HA.  I had to go through a medical board to keep my job, but I did fine.

The one thing that I had to overcome, and cardiac rehab helped with that, is the intense realization of your heart beating.  When I started running again, my heart would beat hard, (I’m sure it beat hard before, but I just wasn’t as aware of it) and it would really scare me, but I counted the beats and told myself it was alright.  That goes for everything.  I am very aware of my heart beat and every little ache or pain that comes from the chest area (those of you who had open heart know there are several aches and pains that have more to do with splitting your chest open than actually with your heart).  Also, and I don’t know if it’s just me or it is heart related, but I hate the cold now.  I can take the hot weather, but not the cold.

My biggest fear is, not knowing or not remembering what my symptoms or signs were.   What if it happens again and I don’t realize it?  My wife is constantly worried about me, and if I am 10 minutes late for home, I start getting phone calls.   I don’t want to go through all of this and then still die a (relatively) young man.

My family and work and friends were very supportive, so I have no complaints about that.  My wife and mother are a little over protective, but I guess that is normal.  My dream is to live old enough to be a dirty old man and to see my kids grow up and have families of their own.   My philosophy is that God let me live for a purpose, and try not to let Him or my family down. 

There is very little in this world that is worth stressing yourself to death over.  I had and still do have some issues spiritually like,  why me, why did my family have to go through this, but there isn’t anything that can be gained by dwelling on the “Why’s”.

So if you ask me, the best things you can do is stay active, and try to find something that you really enjoy doing.  A healthy hobby or activity that not only keeps you active, but helps clear your mind and reduce your stress levels.  Also, take advantage of your “second chance” to help others.  And never take anything too seriously.

Greg Curry

Heart Attack Stories- Donna Diaz. We All Bleed Red.

Today Please meet Donna Diaz.

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?

Donna Diaz, age 49, Cedar Grove, NJ

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

48 Years Old

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.  What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history?

We were on a mini vacation Easter weekend (4/19/2014) at The Revel Casino, Atlantic City, NJ.

Seven months earlier went to hospital with indigestion. I was admitted. EKG a little off and mildly elevation troponin level. Had catheterization–showed two 20-30% lesions. Really nothing. Couple of weeks before HA, was tired, felt a little lousy when exercising. Thought it was dehydration. Morning of HA, felt sense of doom. I knew something was wrong. Sweat started to pour off of me. Then severe pain in chest and arms went numb.

Was brought to cath lab right from emergency room. Dr. saw blood clot and 70 blockage. She said they would administer meds to break up clot and scheduled another cath two days later. That morning started to have severe chest pain. LAD had become 100% occluded. I coded and needed to be cardio inverted and resuscitated. They brought me back to cath lab and put in two stents where lesions were.

I had no pre-existing conditions. All my “numbers” were good—blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Exercised daily. Ate organic paleo diet—lots of green veggies, etc. 5 feet tall 120 pounds. No family history. Only major work stress.

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally?

It has hit me in a major way and truly taken a toll on me. Feel like my body let me down. I did everything right. I live in constant fear that it is going to happen again when I least expect it. In seven months I went from happy and healthy to a train wreck.

What lifestyle changes have you made?  What are your struggles?

I have made no lifestyle changes, except not eating paleo. I now eat wheat again, oats and grains. I have no dietary restrictions. Lots of emotional issues and PTSD.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

Two stents LAD

What do you fear now?

Everything except death. When I was being resuscitated, I was in a place of great serenity and peace. It was probably a lack of oxygen to my brain, but it was surreal-calm and just so peaceful.

What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

  1. My faith—I would not be here doing this well without it.
  2. Want to live life and do everything and not put anything off.
  3. My family


Did you do Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab was alright. Met lots of nice people. Staff would not let me do much though.

What are your new dreams?

Just to enjoy life as much as possible and live every moment.

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

Ironically, I want to try everything (ok, maybe not sky diving).

Who was there for you?

My sister and my aunt. My husband and my kids were okay, but my aunt and sis really helped me. I posted a mini blog on Facebook about what happened, as a sort of therapy I guess. The outpouring of love and support I received from people I hadn’t seen in years was amazing. It made me feel very loved.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my dog, Nellie. She sat next to me day in and day out and never left my side.

What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

Most people do not believe me. They said I was one of the healthiest people they ever knew.

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

No. I am harder on myself than anyone would ever be.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

I wouldn’t. We learn from our past. It is who I am.

What do you want more of in life?

Free time.

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced?


What makes you great ?

I am easy going and empathetic. I love people and try to please everyone and love to make everyone smile.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

You never know.



Heart Attack Stories- Sue Thomas. We All Bleed Red.

My family history of heart disease and early death should have been enough of a mental intervention to supersede any feeling of immortality that I had.   At 53, I was a strong woman…. a mother, a wife, and a business owner.  I was very fit and an avid exerciser, even though admittedly in the last few years stress was taking its toll and I had let some pounds pile on while slacking on my exercise.  I had been diagnosed with high blood pressure in my twenties, but as they say “there’s a pill for that”, and on I went, thinking that my life would continue as per usual.

Sue Thomas Photo

My world started to change with a strange feeling in my throat.  It felt like something was stuck and I couldn’t swallow it down.  For the next 19 hours, as my body was telling me that something was terribly wrong, my mind let fear and denial take over and freeze any intelligent action.  From the tightness in my throat, to pressure in my chest, to shortness of breath, to not being able to lie flat, to jaw soreness and a tingling down my left arm, my symptoms continued to mount.  It wasn’t until I felt an excruciating burning pain in my chest that I decided that “yes, this was happening to me”, and I should go to the hospital.

I now don’t let a minute go by without being thankful that I survived a nearly fatal heart attack.  My LAD artery (the widow maker), had two blockages; one at 99% and one at 80%.  Four days in ICU and 2 stents later, I was sent home.  While still in the hospital, the reality of what had happened to me was sinking in fast, and I knew that I had to take control of my health.   I was told that my genetics were an outstanding factor in my heart health, which to me was another strike against me that perhaps others in my situation didn’t have.  It wasn’t something I could control.  But what I could control was my lifestyle.  My second chance at life was gifted with an enormous sense of empowerment, neither of which I will ever take for granted again.

The advice I got in the hospital on nutrition was to cut my sodium intake and to cut out the mayo and French fries.  Ok, I could do that, but with my genetics I felt I had to do more to save me from being one in the 23% of women who don’t make it within a year of having a heart attack. I also had the personal implantation of watching my father die of his second heart attack within a year of his first , which was a huge driver in my mission to live. I dove into researching everything I could find about heart health and nutrition. By the time I had my first follow up visit to my cardiologist, I had committed to eating a plant based diet, which consisted of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.  I cut out all meat (except for a piece of salmon twice a month), all dairy, eggs, oil and processed foods.  My doctors were a bit shocked but very pleased with my commitment and especially pleased with my weight loss.

One month after my heart attack, I began suffering from shortness of breath, extreme exhaustion and terrible chest pain.  I would notice a pattern of these symptoms coming just hours after my exertion in cardiac rehab.  After much testing which all came back normal, it was decided I should have another angiogram to make sure that there were no other major blockages and that my stents were still open.  My doctor decided to stent a 50% blockage in the mid diagonal artery, which had been noticed in the first angiogram but thought too minor to cause me any problem.   Everything else looked great.

 Unfortunately, the symptoms still persisted, and 3 months later, I was diagnosed with Coronary Microvascular Disease.   The hearts microvessels  assist blood and oxygen transportation that our hearts require when placed under the extra burden of exercise or stress.  Our vessels are lined with endothelial cells which produce nitric oxide to open them when needed. Because of my endothelial dysfunction  the microvessels were not opening, thus causing the pain, exhaustion and shortness of breath. I began to make sense of why I was having such a hard time jumping back into life, let alone jumping at all.

 I knew that my plant based eating was helping to reverse my Coronary Artery Disease, but after more research, learned it was also helping to heal my endothelial cells.  I believe I am also reversing my Microvascular Disease, as I continue to get better, not worse as predicted.

The way I now live my life to the fullest is to first accept responsibility for my health.  My heart was ailing, and even though some of that was not in my control, there was a lot that is. Taking control of how I feed my body, managing stress, and maintaining a positive attitude are huge.

 I might not be able to live the exact life I had before, but I have been given the opportunity to make a different one, a better one.  I have readjusted my goals and my mental energy and now spend time helping others with heart disease with my voluntary project called Heart Hungry.  Through talking to others via online heart support groups, doctors and insurance case workers, I learned that many people who suffer from heart disease don’t have the time, energy, resource or willpower to take control of what they can.   For two years now, I have been gathering information focused on plant based nutrition and heart disease, collecting and trying recipes, and share it all on my Heart Hungry social media pages.   

Knowing that I might be helping someone with this information does my heart good.  One beat at a time!

Please check out her blog at  :  https://www.facebook.com/HeartHungry?ref=bookmarks and her  Heart Hungry pinterest page, where I have over 1000 heart healthy recipes (all plant based, low sodium, no fat, little or no oil) I test and try: https://www.pinterest.com/hearthungry/.


Sue Thomas.

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