Heart Matters Blogimony: I thought it was a just a cold...

Last January, my 59 (and 6 days) year old Momma came to Atlanta to attend my ministerial ordination. She was excited and I was nervous...but other than that it seemed like a normal visit. A few days into the trip, she got sick with what seemed like a cold or maybe an upper respiratory infection. Momma has sinus trouble and asthma, so it was not so unusual for her to be fighting off a little bug. As the days went by, the "cold" seemed to get worse. By day three, Momma was pretty much bedridden. I thought she had the flu...it was January...and the symptoms seemed to match. I was a bit concerned, but thought that she would get better after a few days of rest. She mustered up the strength to attend my ordination and spend time with our friends and family...no biggie. I thought she was better.

Fast forward three days...Momma has returned home. She calls me to let me know that she had gone to the ER because her symptoms had gotten worse. She was hardly able to stand because she was so weak and tired. She knew that something was wrong with her body...and it wasn't just a cold. The ER physician, after running a few tests...EKG (electrocardiogram), x-rays, and blood work, admitted her to the hospital's cardiac care unit (CCU) for further testing and observation.

Something was wrong with her heart. 

After two days in CCU, the cardiologist told Momma that she had MULTIPLE blockages in the principal blood vessels connected to her heart. This condition is known as CHD or coronary heart disease. Some people call it CAD or coronary artery disease. If left untreated, she would have a heart attack. 

To say that we were in shock about this diagnosis...would be the biggest understatement ever made. We were stunned...confused...and then scared out of our minds. ..At least...I was. This was my Momma and she was way too young to have heart trouble!

I had so many questions...the biggest one being..."how had we missed this?"  I mean, there were no signs of heart trouble...were there? Momma hadn't experienced any sharp chest pains...no pain in her arm or stomach. She had none of the symptoms that we knew to look for.

Well, it turns out that we only knew the “Hollywood” version of heart attack symptoms (you know...sharp chest pain and dramatic collapse to the ground while gripping their chest or arm...like on TV). These symptoms, however, were based on descriptions of heart attacks that occurred in men. Heart attack symptoms in women can be different...more subtle...and easy to miss.

I later learned that my Momma actually had 6 of the 7 main symptoms of a woman on the brink of  or actually having a heart attack:
  1. Chest pain or discomfort--YES
  2. Unusual upper body discomfort (chest, back, neck, etc.)--YES
  3. Shortness of breath--YES
  4. Cold sweats--YES
  5. Unusual or unexplained fatigue--YES
  6. Lightheadedness or dizziness--YES
  7. Nausea--NO

I am so grateful to still have my Momma with me. I know that it could have gone another way. I thank God for his grace and mercy towards us. We have more time...

Ladies...what we don’t know about heart health and heart attack symptoms in women could be devastating to us. Don't let ignorance or lack of knowledge be your excuse. Take some time to learn a little more about this important issue. For more information about this, check out the Office of Women’s Health website: http://www.womenshealth.gov/heartattack/.

Love ya much!

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