submitted by Louise Arsenault
I was compelled to write about my own experience after hearing the news about the lady from Cape Breton, NS a few weeks ago, who died after waiting in the ER for 7 hours and had called her husband to pick her up and then went home. Within an hour, her symptoms increased and he took her back to the hospital but they couldn’t revive her, she suffered a Myocardial Infarction, “Heart Attack”. A week or so later, the family came forward in the media, hoping their experience could save others who might experience similar symptoms. Her symptoms were severe arm pain and jaw pain. She had NO chest pain or shortness of breath. She showed symptoms that some women can present with, along with a few others I will list later. I can’t remember if she had any blood work done when they first took her history. There is a blood test they do in the ER which will confirm there is a cardiac problem.
In the last months of 2018, I gradually noticed a left side jaw pain which radiated along the left side of my nose. It wasn’t severe, but I had it checked out at my dentist and that was negative. In the days that followed, I would feel a “sort of heavy feeling” in my left arm, as well as the jaw discomfort. Both things may have lasted a few minutes. It was not a severe pain, so I didn’t get alarmed. As the weather got cooler and I was out walking to an exercise group, I noticed it more, but once inside, it disappeared. I mentioned it to my doctor who ordered me an ECG the next morning, which was negative. She also suggested I go to Emergency at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital if these symptoms lasted longer than 15 minutes. On a Friday morning, I felt these symptoms for about 2 hours, again not severe, but I went to the ER and said my Doctor sent me. You would never know I had a problem looking at me and my ECG showed nothing. They did the blood work, which takes about 4 hours to get the first result, and they said we would do the same blood work again. After another 4 hours it was confirmed, so I was admitted while I waited for an appointment at the Ottawa Heart Institute. They do an Angiogram, which shows them heart arteries and vessels. There were actually three places that I had some blockage. One was 95% blocked, so it was cleared and a Stent inserted. The other two had only 50% and 30% blockages, and they don’t Stent unless the blockage is at least 70-80%. That might have even changed over the past 4 years. I’ll not go into the details of how it’s done, but you are not put under an aesthetic, just a relaxant, and they ask you not to move. If you wish, you can watch on the very large screen that the Doctor uses while doing the procedure. A nurse will watch you in the recovery room for 3-4 hours and then you can go home. I didn’t feel any discomfort whatsoever after, and the symptoms were gone.
We need to inform the general public about these not so obvious symptoms that some women exhibit.
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the centre 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 may experience other symptoms that typically are less associated with heart attack, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back arm or jaw pain.
Notice next time when you see an ad on TV about Heart Attacks, take note— no mention about women who can experience the above symptoms. I had never heard of these other symptoms four years ago. We need to spread the word, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.