This Is My Story
Do you remember the day when it had happened?
“Yes, it was Monday morning in October. I was making toasts for my daughter when I felt this burning kind of cramp in my left chest that radiated down my left shoulder and further into my left jaw. I knew that something wasn’t right because I felt a heartburn the night before which hadn’t eased up in the morning when I woke up. Within less than two hours the pain got worse and my husband called the ambulance so I was treated quickly. I was told it was a heart attack and ended up in hospital for a few days. I was surprised as had no previous medical problems, no symptoms at all and my parents are healthy.”
What would you like to share with others?
“I guess heart attack can hit anyone any time. I was lucky to recover fast. Since my recovery I am conscious of what we eat, we have less processed food, more fish and vegetables. I have also joined our community walking group. I would like to say: pay attention to your body, get help fast and most of all live healthy so it doesn’t happen to you!”
age 38, heart attack
age 41, high blood pressure
I developed high blood pressure when I was pregnant with my second son. When I was 32nd week of pregnancy I remember having a routine check up by my GP. She ran a few tests, took my blood pressure and said that I needed to pack up and go to hospital. My son was born three weeks early with no complications and after five days we were able to go home. I was lucky that my son was born healthy. From then on I had my blood pressure regularly monitored but it didn't return to normal even though I was taking my tables every day. It was a big problem for me because I knew I have to take these pills for the rest of my life. We wanted to have one more child and I decided to do as much as I could to lower my blood pressure before I get pregnant again.
I set about having a more healthy lifestyle: I was always quite an active person, because I work with children and go to the gym and always take the stairs instead of the lift. I have never smoked and don't drink much alcohol either, but my diet wasn’t healthy. Now I think a bit more about how and what I eat, I avoid salt and processed food, don’t eat sausages and crisps, I look at the labels when I buy food. I think its good for me and my whole family.
I also to get regular blood pressure checkups, because I know that having hypertension increases my risk of getting a heart attack or stroke.
age 56, heart attack
When did you have a heart attack?
“I had a heart attack 2 years ago at age 54. When I look back I see that my symptoms went on for at least one year before actually having the attack. I visited numerous doctors including a dentist because of my symptoms. Initially I thought that the pulling in my jaw maybe caused by unhealthy teeth, but then I felt the strain in my neck, my left arm got numb, and I even had a burning sensation my chest. The dentist said I was ok, and all the doctors could not find the cause of my symptoms. I had an various heart scans done including ECG and trade mill test and a blood test too, but I was told everything was fine. My symptoms continued until I had the heart attack. I was treated in a hospital with 2 stents and Im still on blood thinners and all sorts of medications.”
How has your life changed after recovery?
“I was a heavy smoker, I had a few beers per day and enjoyed a good meal. After my heart attack I quit smoking immediately! Yes, that was the first thing I did. Then my wife began to learn about healthy food and we try to eat more vegetables and less red meat and sugar. I also drink less alcohol, no more than a few beers per week. And we walk quite a lot.”
age 51, Tako Tsubo
I used to have a normal life. I was married with kids, had a proper job as a primary school teacher and thought everything was well. But I wasn’t happy. I felt frustrated with my job, my husband was depressed and a heavy smoker, actually we both smoked that time, my kids were not doing well at school and within a year or so I got really depressed. It was a nightmare, I had suicidal thoughts, bad dreams, felt hopeless, helpless and life was meaningless. Once day while at work, I felt a burning pain in my chest, I was sweating, feeling dizzy and eventually collapsed on my desk.
I woke up in a hospital and was told that it was a heart attack, but after having more scans done the doctors told me that I had a “broken heart syndrome” which was similar to a heart attack but not that damaging to the heart. I was told that I had a chance to recover fully. I burst into tears and committed myself to change my life for the better.
When I left hospital, I started using patches to quit smoking, I replaced coffee (I was drinking 10 cups per day) with decaf coffee and decaf tea, and reduced alcohol to a glass or two per week. I signed up for a gym, we bought a dog and my life started improving slowly. After almost a year my husband left us because we no longer shared this unhealthy life and I guess we just grew apart. Since then I have felt much better and have tried to rebuild my life. I have also quit my job and am looking for something more fulfilling and enjoyable now. I have stopped eating junk food and am taking a better care of myself. I feel very positive and optimistic about my future. I look better, eat better and live better. My kids are happier and I have met a nice man who is a yoga trainer. Yes, I am in a good place now!
My parents helped me get out of this situation and I appreciate their support. I could also rely on my friends and social workers who were visited me daily. It was very helpful that time and i will always be thankful for their help.
age 44, ventricular septal defect
I was born 9th December 1970 with ventricular septal defect and had surgery when I was 3 months old. A debanding procedure was later performed when I was 8 years old (1979). I have been on heart medication all my life attending routine regular appointments where the heart was being monitored by ECGs, echos or 24 hour tapes.
During such tests it was recommended in 2004 that I be fitted with a pacemaker as even though I generally had a slow heart rate it fell considerably whilst I was asleep. I soon began to get palpitations which grew stronger and more frequent, lasting longer than a few seconds, sometimes my heart would speed up whilst I was at rest which as well as very uncomfortable was also scary. I assumed these sudden bouts of stronger palpitations were due to the recently fitted pacemaker and therefore one day I walked into The Heart Hospital Pacing Clinic to be seen.
Once monitored, they advised that I could not go home that night as they would have to take me into theatre for a cardio version as my heart had got stuck in atrial fibrillation and was beating at over 200. Thankfully after the procedure it did revert back to a sinus rhythm and normal appointments were resumed. Until 2012 when it was discovered in yet more routine tests that the heart had again gone back into atrial fibrillation and another cardio version was required.
age 58, heart attack
How would you describe your symptoms?
“Well, I suffer from acid reflux. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol level a few years ago and Im on pills. We went to my brother’s birthday party on Saturday evening and when we arrived I suddenly felt as if someone had punched me in the chest. I also had a headache. I didn’t tell anyone and took a paracetamol, but the pain didn’t go away. The next day I took myself to the doctor who told me that my blood pressure was high, my ECG was negative and I was sent for blood tests. I was told that my blood enzymes were elevated so I had a heart attack and needed a heart catheterisation. I was taken by ambulance to a hospital and had this scan done. There was a blockage in one of the biggest arteries in the heart and I had a stent placed there.”
How do you feel now and what would you tell others based on your experience?
“Its been 3 months now since my heart attack and Im recovering well. We are very thankful. Im taking all sorts of prescribed medications and we have a new lifestyle - we relax more, walk more, eat less and we are closer with our family. My advice would be: Don’t play around! Have a new lifestyle before you have a heart attack and go to the doctor even if you think it’s only an acid reflux or a headache.”
age 44, heart attack
Do you remember how it all began?
“My pain started suddenly - it was a burning sensation across my chest and down my right arm. It was unusual, not as kind of indigestion burning, more like the burn from an intensive gym workout. I thought there was no way I could have a heart attack at my age, but when I began to feel really bad I got scared.
I asked my friend I shared office with to bring me a glass of water and I told her I wasn’t feeling well. It was a lunch time and I was lucky that we were together. Her mother had a fatal heart attack and she knew the symptoms and called 911 immediately. I was really scared, but now I know how much she did for me.”
What advice would you give others?
“My advice is this: pay attention to your body, know the symptoms of a heart attack, be aware that the symptoms change extremely fast, focus on how you feel. Don’t wait, call 911 if the pain is progressing or go and get checked out by a doctor when you feel that something isn’t right.”