February is National Heart Month, so how appropriate that it happened to be the month that I thought I was having a heart attack.
It all started one Friday evening when I just felt unusually tired–OK, exhausted. I thought I just need a good night’s sleep and I’ll feel so much better in the morning. Morning came and I could barely get out of bed, but I did, because I had a dog to walk, a house to clean, an afternoon birthday party to attend, and a group of friends coming over for games and appetizers that night. But after walking the dog, I went back to bed. telling myself I would sleep a couple more hours and feel better by the time I needed to go to the birthday party.
By the time I needed to leave for the birthday party, I was still feeling exhausted, slightly nauseous, out of breath, and weak. So I lay down on the couch for a couple more hours, telling myself I would be OK for company in a few more hours. I never made it to the birthday party. I made some tea instead. I felt a little better, so I cleaned the parts of the house where people would be. I went to the grocery to get ingredients for appetizers. I walked the dog again. Now it was time for to get ready for my guests and I was feeling lousy again–really short of breath, slightly nauseous, light-headed, clammy. I thought maybe I had a bug and I should call all my guests and tell them not to come, but my “inner voice” was telling me my symptoms were not a bug. So I pressed on. I made a spread of appetizers, opened a nice bottle of wine and welcomed my friends.
We all had a wonderful night, laughing and playing games and enjoying food, even though I barely ate a thing. I just wasn’t hungry. None of my friends really noticed I wasn’t feeling quite right. I wanted them to have a good time and not worry about me, but I was glad when everyone left so I could just go to bed. I told myself that I would feel better in the morning.
Sunday came and I felt even worse, with a pounding heart, shortness of breath, slight nausea, exhaustion. No amount of homemade ginger tea, or Tums, or rest was helping. I stayed on the couch in my pajamas all day, wishing myself well. I went to bed that night hoping that on Monday I would be back to normal.
In the middle of the night, I woke up in a sweat and I couldn’t breathe. So, I did some deep-breathing exercises that seemed to help put me back to sleep. But when I came into work on Monday I felt worse than ever. I looked up symptoms of heart attack in women. Yeah. My boss told me to go to Urgent Care ASAP.
I went to an Urgent Care close to work that I thought accepted my insurance. I went immediately to the window and told them I was having symptoms of a heart attack. They instructed me to first go to the initial check-in window before they could admit me to Urgent Care.
WHAT? I just told you I was having heart-attack symptoms and you told me to go check in at another window first? OK. Fine. At the next window, I was told I was at the wrong Urgent Care for my insurance and I needed to drive to a location downtown. I’m thinking, I might be having a heart attack and you tell me I need to drive 20 minutes to another location for help? OK. Fine. I drove myself to the Urgent Care location downtown. I checked in and when the nurse called my name, she's none other than Magic 98’s Sue Peterson! What a surprise that was. Sue took good care of me as they gave me an EKG, blood work, and x-rays.
My EKG showed I was NOT having a heart attack. I WAS having PVCs. It’s a condition I have that causes an irregular heartbeat and can cause mock heart-attack symptoms. I have known about this condition for years and I rarely have issues with it, but for whatever reason, this time it decided to give me a lot of distress for a lot of days.
Why did I wait so long to go see a doctor? Why did it take until my symptoms got really scary? I think it’s because I thought my symptoms really would go away or get better. It’s because I’m a busy woman and I have things to do, things I need to take care of. But that inner voice was talking to me, telling me something just wasn’t right. I should have listened sooner.
During National Heart Month, I’m here to tell you that heart disease is still the number-one killer of women in the United States. Educate yourself about the symptoms of a heart attack and LISTEN to your inner voice when you’re not feeling quite right. Get yourself to an Urgent Care or ER right away. Even if you’re not having a heart attack, you might discover something else about your heart in the process.
I’m taking care of myself. You take care of yourself too. Don’t be like Elizabeth Banks (or me) in this funny video about heart attacks in women.