The unforgettable diagnosis: “You’re having a heart attack!”

by Carolyn Thomas 

Jennifer Donelan was a 36-year old television news reporter for ABC News 7 in Washington, DC, covering a dramatic story one day about a local 4-month old baby girl who had been found in her crib, unresponsive. After her live shot on the 5 o’clock newscast, Jennifer was waiting near her car when she started to feel a very strange pain in her chest. We pick up her dramatic story there, as told in Jennifer’s own words:

“I remember looking at my car and thinking: ‘I need to go home and lay down.’ Then the pain started to worsen. I took a few steps and my left arm went numb.  Continue reading “The unforgettable diagnosis: “You’re having a heart attack!””

A zebra among horses

A guest post by Laura Haywood-Cory – to help celebrate Rare Disease Awareness Day, 2/29/12

“Almost three years ago, I had a heart attack at the age of 40, with no family history or elevated risk factors. I’m not diabetic, I don’t smoke, my arteries aren’t clogged, and at the time, I was training for a triathlon.

“I was in shock to wake up one morning with textbook heart attack symptoms — pain in the center of my chest that radiated down my left arm and up into my neck and jaw, I had cold sweats, I felt nauseated.

“My husband drove us to the hospital, where they treated me as if I were having a heart attack–they gave me a nitro patch, an aspirin, drew blood, did a chest X-ray and an EKG–all the while telling me that it wasn’t my heart, because I was too young and too female.   Continue reading “A zebra among horses”

Misdiagnosis: the perils of “unwarranted certainty”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Until being misdiagnosed with indigestion in mid-heart attack, I generally trusted that all people with the letters M.D. after their names knew what they were talking about when diagnosing serious medical problems. That was long before I tracked down a study(1) reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that women under the age of 55 who are experiencing a heart attack are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and sent home from the E.R. compared to their male counterparts presenting with identical symptoms.

And that’s why I now find Dr. Jerome Groopman’s landmark book, How Doctors Think, so illuminating.  It should be required reading for all med school students.  Continue reading “Misdiagnosis: the perils of “unwarranted certainty””

“All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!”

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Heart attack survivor Laura Haywood-Cory, one of my heart sisters and a fellow “graduate” of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic, emailed me with great excitement last week:

“The Wall Street Journal interview with Katherine, me and Dr. Hayes is now live!!”

This WSJ piece tells the inspiring story of how heart attack survivor  Katherine Leon, with Laura’s help, convinced a world-famous hospital to launch research on the rare and deadly heart condition they had each survived: spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. (See also: When Your Artery Tears).  

Continue reading ““All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!””

TV reporter Jennifer Donelan survives heart attack at age 36

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥ @HeartSisters

Television news reporter Jennifer Donelan was just 36 years old when she had a heart attack near the end of a busy day at work last September. Five months after surviving this horrific cardiac event, she’s now back at ABC 7 News in Washington, DC, where she hosted a three-part Heart Month series on women living with heart disease. She explained:  Continue reading “TV reporter Jennifer Donelan survives heart attack at age 36”

When your artery tears – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

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Laura, a 40-year old American heart attack survivor, told me this story of her own cardiac event:

“I was asleep and my symptoms woke me up. I had several simultaneous symptoms, but the first one seemed to be chest pain in the centre-left, somewhat under my left breast area. I’d never felt anything like it, so sometimes it’s hard to describe – it wasn’t sharp or crushing or burning, more like a dull pressure. I also had pain down the inside of my left arm that radiated up into the left side of my jaw and my left ear.

“I was very overheated, and I felt like I was going to throw up. The nausea and overheating faded, but the pain – chest, arm, jaw – stayed. In hospital, I was diagnosed with a heart attack caused by SCAD – spontaneous coronary artery dissection, treated with six stents.”

It used to be, and sadly remains in almost 70% of cases, a deadly condition often only correctly identified post-mortem during autopsy.   Continue reading “When your artery tears – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection”