Heartburn or a Heart Attack?

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Two Weeks of Symptoms

From there, a friend drove me to the hospital. They got me right in when I said "heart attack." We did all the tests. I was there for five hours, but believe it or not, everything came back normal. The ER doctor said, "Well you're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home, see your family doctor and you'll get a prescription for antacids." So I went home. I was so embarrassed because I felt I just wasted five hours of their very valuable time while truly sick people were lined up in the waiting room.

But three days later, I had exactly the same episode. Only this time, I wasn't even moving. I was sitting at my desk at work, when suddenly the same thing happened: crushing chest pains, nausea, sweating and that pain down my left arm. But this time, I knew it wasn't my heart because this man with the letters M.D. after his name had told me quite clearly, "It is not your heart." This went on for two weeks.

LHJ: You dealt with heart attack symptoms for two weeks? That's unbelievable.

CT: Yes. There was just no way I was going to go back to the ER after that first time. I didn't want to make a fuss. But I remember being so surprised at how horrible this "acid reflux" was. It was so brutal. For two weeks, I'd have these episodes off and on, but they kept getting closer and closer together. I had an appointment with my family doctor, but I was so busy. I flew to Ottawa for my mother's 80th birthday during all this, and it wasn't until I was on the plane home that I decided to go back to the ER. And it sounds insane now, but even then I didn't think I was going back to the ER for my heart. I thought I needed serious drugs to make this reflux stop. I couldn't even walk from the gate to the baggage carousel (I had to have the flight attendant arrange for a wheelchair), but somehow I was able to drive myself home. [Editor's note: Holy cow! If you have symptoms like hers, don't drive yourself; please call 911.]

When I finally went back to the hospital the next morning, I could tell by the looks on the faces of the staff that something was very, very different this time. They called a cardiologist in immediately. When he said the words "heart disease," I was shocked. I was taken from the ER to the operating room for an emergency angioplasty. I had a little stainless-steel stent implanted in one of my major coronary arteries, which was 99 percent blocked.

Continued on page 3:  Family History


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