My heart attack story in Ladies Home Journal

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I have to admit this: it was pretty exciting to be interviewed on the subject of surviving a heart attack by magazine writer Amelia Harnish for Ladies Home Journal’s special Heart Month online edition.  You can read her article called Heartburn or Heart Attack?  – see what you think! But first, an embarrassed warning: remember when your parents wagged their fingers at you and said: “Do like I say, not like I do!”  Keep that counsel in mind when you read my heart attack story. Example: do not, under any circumstances, get into your car and drive yourself anywhere while you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.  

Nor should you ask anybody else to drive you to the E.R. (as I did, too).  There are very good reasons to call 911 and have ambulance paramedics attend to you as soon as possible. 

When it comes to surviving a cardiac event, “TIME EQUALS MUSCLE”, as cardiologists like to say. The faster you can get to the E.R. (within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms is ideal) the sooner life-saving treatments can be started.

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19 thoughts on “My heart attack story in Ladies Home Journal

  1. I just found this web site and it’s wonderful!

    I can’t believe reading you’re story how close it resembles mine. I was 38 and just assumed the pain I was having was from an ulcer. I had a trip planned to Arizona (from Portland, OR) and spent 10 days there. On the plane ride home I had the worst chest pains. I’m not sure how I made it to the pick-up area, where my friend picked me up.

    I waited until the next morning before going to the hospital. It took the ER doctors 3 hours before they came in and told me I was in the process of having a heart attack. I should have known and gone to the hospital immediately since my brother and father had just had heart attacks in the 6 months previous.


    1. Hello Kristen and thanks for sharing your story here. Denial is an amazingly powerful defense mechanism, even with your very recent family history of heart disease in mind! Hope you are doing well these days.


  2. Hello, I was reading your story and I found it very interesting. My name is Erika. Last year I had my baby boy who is 11 months now. Ten days after I had my baby I suffered a massive heart attack. During my post partum, I developed very bad anemia, I was having palpitations, dizzines, and nausea; my doctor told me it was due to the anemia, but it wasn’t the reason. I had a clot and a tear in one of my arteries.

    One night I put my baby to bed and was ready to go to sleep and a few minutes later I had the pain in my chest, and felt like I had gas and burping, pain in my jaw and down my arm. I ended up in the ER, stayed in intensive care for two days.

    I am so happy and blessed to be alive, taking care of my baby boy and my two daughters. My life changed completely forever. I really wish that there will be an article to educate pregnant ladies on heart attacks.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to tell your story here. Sounds like what you survived was Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). We now think that as many as 30% of SCAD cases might be seen in post-partum women. I’ve written about SCAD here and here.

      Have you applied yet to participate in two Mayo Clinic research studies on SCAD? Please check this out if you haven’t done so already.

      Good luck to you, Erika, and enjoy those precious little children of yours!


      1. Thank you very much for the information. I Didn’t know about the SCAD, I will read more about this heart disease. I also want to know how to apply for the Mayo Clinic research. Can you please provide me more information? Thank you very much for reading my story.


    2. Erika, wow what an event to have to go thru with having such a tiny baby to have to take care of, not to mention your other babies. Its sad to think just how many women go thru something as dangerous and life changing as a heart attack (or anything as life threatening). I feel the same, it would be nice to hear that we arent alone in our challenges….


  3. I worked in Interventional Cardiology and it might surprise you to know that smokers have a higher rate of surviving a major blockage than non smokers. This is related to The fact that smokers have much better Collateral circulation.

    This is due to years of lowered O2 saturation. Most cardiologists would claim that the cigarette is what gave them the blockage. But it has been my experience that these patients had many other contributing factors.


    1. Hello John. This is the so-called “smoker’s paradox” theory. But as scientists like to remind us: “Correlation does not equal causation”. For example, the theory has also been attributed to the younger age, lower co-morbidity, more aggressive treatment, and lower risk profile of the smoker. A recent BioMedCentral journal review (August 2011) reported that the “smoker’s paradox” had been observed in some studies of acute myocardial infarction patients in the pre-thrombolytic and thrombolytic (clot-busting drug) era, whereas “no studies of a contemporary population with acute coronary syndrome have found evidence for such a paradox.”

      On the other hand, if you Google “benefits of smoking”, you’ll find approximately 185 million search results. Go figure . . .


  4. Carolyn, thanks again for sharing your story with me! It really blew my mind that you were having symptoms for two weeks. It was eye-opening to have all of my misconceptions about heart attacks blown out of the water, and I hope our readers feel the same.


    1. Thanks for leaving a comment here, Amelia. You did a skillful job editing my (long-winded!) telephone responses to your interview questions in such a concise fashion for your Ladies Home Journal readers.


  5. That’s great that you were published in a magazine that will reach people who aren’t ‘actively’ searching for heart attack stories. It will put that seed into their minds and hopefully prevent a death.

    You wrote:

    “I was there for five hours, but believe it or not, everything came back normal”

    What other tests besides the EKG, treadmill tests did they do? For instance what blood or other tests? (If that’s too personal to answer, please excuse me.) It would be nice to know just WHAT a person should expect to be tested for ‘in case’ they’re in the ER with pains in the chest.

    What do you think of the Framington Heart Study?


    1. Hi Cave – two cardiac enzyme blood samples taken one hour apart showed “normal” troponin levels during my first visit to the E.R. (“false negative” findings are not uncommon in women heart attack survivors, by the way, particularly for those of us with single vessel disease like mine = more common in female patients than in our male counterparts).

      Framingham? Since 1948, it’s been considered the granddaddy of all big longterm cardiac studies, but it may have limitations in accurately predicting women’s cardiovascular disease risks.

      For example, in a December 2005 study reported in the American Heart Journal, 98% of asymptomatic women whose sisters under the age of 60 had suffered a premature cardiac event were, according to the standard Framingham Risk Estimate, considered at “low risk” but 32% of these “low risk” women actually turned out to have coronary artery blockages.

      For women, there are also considerable sex-based risk factors that are entirely missing from Framingham’s focus, like family history, pregnancy complications (preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, low birthweight babies, preterm delivery), chronic stress, or sleep breathing disorders. And consider the mostly-female and mostly-deadly diagnosis of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection that tends to strike young, healthy women with few if any cardiac risk factors. Framingham would have ‘passed’ these women entirely.


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