I suffered a heart attack at age 52 while teaching a class. At the time, I didn’t recognize what was happening to me, but I do remember thinking, “This can’t be a heart attack!” As a precaution, I asked a colleague if she had an aspirin because I’d recently read about taking an aspirin if you suspect cardiac trouble. Of course, we found several other pain relievers around the office, but no aspirin.

I told my colleagues that it was not necessary to call 911 and agreed to go to the campus clinic. But by the time I walked downstairs, I didn’t argue when my friend said she was taking me directly to the hospital ER. I was feeling weaker by the moment. Luckily, I was at the trauma center when my heart stopped. The doctors were able to quickly resuscitate my heartbeat, wheel me directly to the cath lab, and insert a stent. I was sent home a day and a half later. A single branch of one coronary artery was 100% blocked, but the rest were normal.

Most people who heard that I had a heart attack couldn’t believe it: “Not Jane! She doesn’t eat red meat! She walks! She’s not fat!” But for several years I’d been treated for elevated blood pressure and complained about chronic sinus infections. Now I understand how much I was in denial about my symptoms. My shortness of breath should have been a red flag, but since I’d always been so healthy, I blamed it on sinusitis, allergies, stress, kids, and age. Heart disease progresses gradually, and in hindsight, I saw lots of warning signs that I didn’t recognize. I realize now that I had felt physically poor for a very long time; I had just gotten accustomed to that low level of well-being.

I’m glad I took advantage of the 12 weeks of cardiac rehab, which included stress-reduction classes and nutrition instruction. Rehab helped me regain my confidence. I have followed through with my previous intention to get a massage every month. That has been enormously helpful because I have learned to recognize where muscle discomfort originates and how to relax. In the past year and a half, I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds and have greatly increased the amount of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in my diet. I make time for exercise and fitness; I now practice yoga and stretch nearly every morning. Both are tremendous energy boosters and are great for my breathing and flexibility.

I’m committed to learning more about my own heart condition and doing what it takes to stay healthy. I hope my life experience will help other women recognize and prevent heart disease, because experience is definitely not the best way to learn.


Filed in One Woman's Story > One Woman's Story