An email detailing a woman’s heart attack has been circulating recently and, although we don’t know who the author is, we thought it was worth sharing with you, as personal accounts can often be easier to remember than a list of symptoms. Women usually experience different heart attack symptoms to men. They are less likely to have chest pain, and more likely to experience nausea.
If you think you may be having a heart attack it is important you call an ambulance on 000 as quickly as possible. Do not research your heart attack, do not wait for the symptoms to subside and, most importantly, do not drive yourself to the hospital. Getting help quickly is the best way to increase your chances of making a full recovery, and it is much better to call an ambulance on a false alarm than to risk ignoring a life-threatening heart attack.
This is one woman’s account of her heart attack, edited to include Australian terminology.
I had a heart attack at about 10.30pm with no prior exertion, or emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly and warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, ‘A-A-h, this is the life, all cosy and warm in my soft, cushy recliner with my feet propped up.’
A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water. That hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball which goes down the oesophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation. The only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5pm.
After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my spine (hindsight, it was probably my aorta spasming), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).
This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into my jaw on both sides. Now I stopped puzzling about what was happening – we have all read or heard about pain in the jaw being one of the signals of a heart attack happening, haven’t we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, ‘Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack!’
I lowered the footrest, dumped the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, ‘If this is a heart attack, I shouldn’t be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else. But, on the other hand, if I don’t, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up.’
I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialled the paramedics. I told the operator I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaw. I didn’t feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to unbolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.
I ended up having two stents installed in my coronary artery, and I am making a full recovery.
I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps four to five minutes before the call. Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand.
Whether this is a real account, or simply a piece written by a health professional, it has some important lessons which are worth taking in. Were you aware that female heart attacks could have different symptoms to male heart attacks? Do you think you would recognise a heart attack if you were having one?