"Verizon Lifestyle Blogger"
Around 6 PM Sunday evening I started to feel a heavy, painful pressure in my chest. Having experienced something similar before, I wasn't too concerned, but as it grew stronger and more difficult to ignore, and as the pain radiated to my jaw, I started to worry.
Google is my friend. Typing in keywords "heart attack symptoms in women," I scanned the list and recognized some of the signs. I walked into the kitchen and popped an aspirin. My husband and son were there and I let them know what was happening. My husband suggested I call the consulting nurse, so I did.
The consulting nurse quickly came to the conclusion I needed to call 9-1-1. So I hung up and dialed, then waited.
Within a few minutes I could hear a distant siren that grew louder and louder until it stopped in front of our house. Moments later I found a dozen people of all colors, ages and genders in my living room, including firemen, medics, paramedics-in-training and a doctor. It was like a party had arrived, but as a team, they sprang into action, hooking me up to monitors, taking vital signs, taking down information and keeping me informed along the way of what they were doing and why.
As a social media junkie, it occurred to me I should somehow capture the pandemonium, so I took the iPhone clutched in my hand, and gave it to one of my rescuers, asking, could he please take some shots of what was going on?
While all of this was happening, the pain had subsided, but they insisted on taking me to my hospital of choice, Virginia Mason Medical Center here in Seattle.
I'd never ridden in an ambulance before. It was like watching a movie. The I.V. tube swayed as the vehicle took corners and it seemed I felt every bump in the road. The medic asked me to describe my pain on a scale of 1-10. He then placed a small tablet of nitroglycerin beneath my tongue.
After arriving at Virginia Mason's state-of-the-art emergency department, more monitoring continued. The compassionate and competent staff filled me with the belief I was receiving the best care on earth.
Several times during the course of this odyssey, I felt as though I was putting a lot of people to an awful lot of trouble, and I felt embarrassed to have so much attention directed toward me.
Twenty-one hours later, I was waiting in my room to discuss the results of the stress test I underwent this morning. I was really lucky. I'm fine. But too often I think women, especially, don't want to put anyone out, or even admit they could be experiencing a heart attack.
As it turned out, I hadn't. But if I had, calling 9-1-1 quickly would have been one of the most important calls of my life.
I hope this can serve as a reminder to women AND men—when they experience symptoms such as those listed below, to suck it up and get past any fear or potential embarrassment, and simply make the call. It could be the difference between living and dying.
To the dedicated emergency services workers and professionals at Medic One and Virginia Mason — my heartfelt thanks.
From Virginia Mason
Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. However, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
If you or someone you're with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don't wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 or get to a hospital right away.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. If you're the one having symptoms, don't drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.
From the American Heart Association
Heart Attack Signs in Women
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
If you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.