Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of an unusual milestone in life that you may not be familiar with unless you, too, are a heart patient: it’s the Heart-iversary celebration that marks another year since the day you survived a cardiac event.
My own Heart-iversary is coming up on May 6th, but just recently Laura Haywood-Cory wrote about celebrating the seven year milestone since she survived a heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). With Laura’s permission, I’m running her reflections here on this celebration:
Seven years ago today, my husband Paul Cory and I were sitting in the ER at The University of North Carolina Hospital, wondering what in the world was going on with me. I’d woken up that morning with cold sweats, pain in my chest that was going down into my left arm and up into my neck, jaw, and ear, and I was about to throw up.
The rational part of my brain was ticking these symptoms off and concluding, “Hey, I’m having a heart attack,” while the rest of me was freaking out:
“I’m only 40 years old, I’m training for a triathlon, this is NOT a heart attack!”
At this point in many survivors’ stories there’s a hero – usually an EMT, paramedic, nurse, or ER doctor – someone who went beyond, who looked deeper, who didn’t brush off someone’s symptoms as “hysterical female stuff.”
That morning, I was my own hero. I saved my own life by recognizing my symptoms and getting to the hospital.
Once Paul and I got to the ER and I said “chest pain,” they took me back immediately. They gave me aspirin and a nitro patch, did EKGs and X-rays, and drew blood–all the while saying that it wasn’t my heart, that I was too young, too female, in good physical condition.
It would be another 12 hours before a pole-axed ER doc came into my room where I’d been admitted overnight for observation, “just in case,” looked me in the eye and said:
“I would’ve put your odds of having a heart attack at less than 1 in 100, but the cardiac enzymes don’t lie.”
Six stents, seven years, and one triathlon later, I say: Know the symptoms of a heart attack, and if you think you’re having one, don’t leave the treatment facility without a blood (troponin) test.*
It’s your story.
Be your own hero.
© 2016 Laura Haywood-Cory
* Troponin is a protein found in heart muscle that’s released into the blood when there is damage to the heart during a heart attack. There are also tests to detect other cardiac enzymes, but a blood test for troponin is the preferred criterion for a suspected heart attack because it’s more specific for heart injury than other tests – especially a high-sensitivity troponin test. Levels of troponin can become elevated in the blood within 3 or 4 hours after heart injury and may remain elevated for 10 to 14 days. When a series of blood tests is done over time showing elevated troponins, then it is likely that the patient has had a heart attack or some other form of damage to the heart muscle. For more information on complex cardiology terms, check my patient-friendly, no-jargon glossary.
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote more about what Laura talks about here in my new book “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease“ (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017)
Q: Have you shared Laura’s experience of being your own hero during a medical crisis?
See other posts written here by or about Laura Haywood-Cory:
- All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!” (The Wall Street Journal’s feature on Laura and Katherine Leon‘s success in convincing Mayo Clinic cardiologists to undertake SCAD research
- A zebra among horses
- “But what about the men?