I Had all the Symptoms of a Heart Attack but Didn’t Call...

I Had all the Symptoms of a Heart Attack but Didn’t Call an Ambulance

Emergency-Department-Heart-Attack

It was the middle of the night and I was in that DEEP sleep that all mums crave and savour. You know the one. The kind of sleep we need to refuel and repair and recharge before we face the onslaught of the relentless next day.

“Mum! I think I’ve got diarrhea!”

2.30am and this was my wake-up call.

I lay there, dazed. Warm and cocooned and groggy. I’ve never been the type that wakes up well.

“Ok. I’ll be there in a minute.” I call out in the dark house.

I give it another minute and then head to the boys’ bathroom to check on my eldest who is, in fact, sitting on the toilet with diarrhea. I stand there in the cold, bright bathroom and feel his forehead. No temp. He’s wincing as his tummy cramps so I rub his back, while he’s pooing, with soothing Mum sounds. And then a wave of nausea and sudden urge to poo overcomes me. I feel sweaty and dizzy.

“Oh God,” I think to myself. “I’ve got his bloody virus too.”

Out loud I say “Hang on buddy. I’m feeling a bit sick myself. I’m just going to go to my toilet and I’ll be right back.”

But as I urgently make my way back down the hall to my ensuite things get weird. I’m suddenly not in the hallway but instead in a very dark tunnel and I can’t walk properly. I’m buffeting from wall to wall as I stagger like I’m pissed. But I don’t stop because the urge to go to the toilet is overwhelming. I can hear my husband calling out to me from miles away. He can hear me stumbling and asks, repeatedly “What are you doing?”

I think I’m responding to him, but apparently I’m not. It’s very dark and I’m very dizzy and feeling very pissed despite only having two glasses of wine with my dinner 8 hours ago.

I open my eyes and I can see my son’s and my husband’s bare feet poking out from beneath their pjs. I’m wondering how I can see the bathroom floor from my bed, which I am laying in. My ears are ringing. I can’t speak.

“Are you ok Mum?”

I lift my eyes and see the worried face of my ten year old son as he’s shaking my arm. I realise I’m on the bathroom floor, slumped against the wall.

“Hon? Are you ok? What are you doing?”

I had blacked out. Not for very long but long enough. I reassuringly send my son back to bed and lay down flat on the bathroom floor while I try to listen to what my body is saying.

My ears are still ringing. I still feel dizzy. I feel nauseous. I feel sweat dripping down my forehead. My heart is pounding hard and very fast. I still have to poo.

As I sit on the toilet I look at myself in the mirror and can’t believe my eyes. There is no colour in my face. My skin is grey. I don’t look like me.

I finish my business and walk out to my husband.

“I’m really scared. I think I’m in trouble” I say and burst in to tears.

But then, you know what I did? Nothing.

I went back to bed and had a little cry and convinced my husband to Google ‘fainting’. About 45mins later my heart was still racing at a furious rate so I apologetically suggest that he maybe call a locum. I’m apologetic because he’s been up with me since 2.30am and I know he needs to go to work in the morning. I figure if we can get a doctor out then he can tell me I’m fine and we can all get some sleep. The problem is there aren’t any doctors available in my area at that time.

What to do? I know. Let’s THINK about it for a little while.

At 3.45am I have a lightbulb moment and suggest we call one of those 24 hour health lines and talk to a nurse about it. I speak to her myself but I can’t catch my breath properly. It’s like I’m talking to her while I’m sprinting down the road. She calmly and methodically takes me through a triage assessment and then drops the bomb.

“Based on your answers to my questions I’m recommending that you hang up and call an ambulance”

I’m sorry, what was that? I’m not THAT bad. Am I? No. That won’t do. I’ve got KIDS you know. What will they think if they see an ambulance turn up? And the expense! Ambulances are bloody expensive!

I thank her for her assistance and make the big call.

“I’m calling Mum.”

Have you ever had to make an emergency call to your mum, who you KNOW is going to think the worst, at 4 o’clock in the morning? It’s not fun but it’s the lesser of two evils in my mind. And I need someone to look after the kids as I concede that I may actually need to go to hospital.

I’ve only previously been to emergency for my kids. The wait is usually long and tedious and very often ends with being sent home with an overtired baby and instructions to administer paracetamol every four hours.

When I presented myself at emergency they put a thing on my finger to take my pulse and rushed me straight through leaving my husband to fill in all the necessary paperwork. Within minutes I was behind a modesty curtain, had been stripped of ALL my upper clothing [hello boobs!] and stuck all over with monitoring pads which were hooked up to the loudest beeping machine in the world.

Shit’s getting real now.

The gorgeously kind nurses helped me into a hospital gown, covered me with heated blankets and asked me to recount, in great detail, the events that preceded my delivery to their care.

“The nurse on the phone should have instructed you to call an ambulance,” says the confused nurse.

“She did,” I confess.

“You should have!” she scolds me. “What if you had a heart attack on the way to hospital? What would your husband have done? That’s what the ambulance is for. So you can receive medical treatment IMMEDIATELY. Why didn’t you listen to her advice?”

And then it hits me. I’m one of THOSE women. You know the ones. You’re probably one too. I’m one of those women that thinks they’re too young to have heart problems. I’m healthy! I’m sort of fit! I’ll be alright. For God’s sake, I’m not going to DIE from a racing heart! It’s probably just stress. How bad can it be?

Well. It can be very bad. Scary bad. Death bad.

I am on a drip of magnesium and saline and the machine next to me is screaming an alarm. The new day has dawned and I know I need to let Bel, my partner in crime (and boss!) know that I won’t be on the tools that day. So I send her a pic of me in bed “Just in case you ever questioned my work ethic, I have been researching heart health since 2.30am… #committed”

The ED doctor appears at my bedside. My current resting heart rate is between 150-170 and it’s all over the place. According to the doctor, a 43 year old, fit, healthy woman that does not smoke, drink much or take any other medication should have a resting heart rate of between 60-70. I’m in a very dangerous zone. I am in danger. This does not help calm my heart down, just as an FYI.

“You have atrial fibrillation arrhythmia. You are at serious risk of heart attack and stroke. We MUST reset your heart rate as soon as possible”

Okaaaay… that sounds reasonable.

“There are three ways to do this but my recommendation is cardioversion which is basically electric shock therapy to the heart.”

THAT does NOT sound reasonable. That sounds extreme and intense and scary. I repeat, this is NOT helping my heart rate.

“What are the other options?”

He tells me I have the option of an iodine based medication which may reset my heart rhythm or a medication which will slowly reduce my heart rate which should then reset my heart rhythm. Of course, none of this may work but either way I need to make a decision soon because my heart has been at that accelerated rate for over six hours now. I start to cry. Again.

He gives me some time to discuss it with my husband and in the meantime calls a cardiologist for a quick phone consult and second opinion. My husband and I discuss and deliberate and discuss and debate and just as the doctor returns I have made the decision to go for the cardioversion. But as he proceeds to tell me what the cardiologist said and what our next step is, the strangest thing happens. My heart spontaneously RESETS ITSELF in front of his eyes.

Hallelujah! I am a self-healer!

So the pressure is off because I’ve returned to a sinus rhythm but my heart rate is still 100 which is still far too high. So the cardiologist comes to see me and makes arrangements to admit me to the cardiac ward so he can take some tests over the next couple of days to get to the bottom of all this.

And just like that, I am a 43 year old heart patient.

What the actual f*ck?

Heart-Attack-Tania

In case you missed it in the article I wrote just before I ended up in hospital with a heart emergency [no, the irony is NOT lost on me] Heart Disease is the number one killer of women in Australia. As a woman over 40 my chances of having a heart attack before the age of 70 is one in four.

Heart Disease is the number one killer of women in Australia. As a woman over 40 my chances of having a heart attack before the age of 70 is one in four.

These statistics are nuts but what’s even crazier is that very few women, including me, understand that they are at risk of dying. 11 women a day are dying across Australia and fools just like me are not acknowledging the warning signs.

A recent study has shown that 40% of women can experience a heart attack without chest pain.

Instead women may experience other warning signs such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, back pain or just unexplained tiredness and fatigue. (No wonder that nurse told me to call an ambulance! I had every symptom except back pain.) Women (me!) often think that these warning signs are less life threatening conditions such as indigestion (or in my case just being tired) and don’t take prompt action to call Triple Zero (000).

So where am I at now? I’m waiting. They ran the full gamut of tests while I was on the cardiac ward. I had three ECGs, an echocardiogram and was monitored around the clock via a monitor I wore. They ran blood tests for infection, virus and troponin [which would indicate if I had experienced a heart attack at any time recently]. They checked my cholesterol and my thyroid function. Everything came up fine. But that doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods yet.

I’ve got a few more hoops to jump through before I get the all clear but I can tell you I won’t make the same mistake twice.

I absolutely DO NOT want to become another statistic and I don’t want YOU to either so PLEASE learn from my experience. GO THIS WEEK for your heart health check. Understand the warning signs and listen to them. Better to turn up to hospital on a false alarm than dead.

And remember, your heart matters.

Tan x

DIVIDER

If you need support or information you can call the Heart Foundation’s Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.

Tania Pradun
Tania’s love language is ‘feeding people’. With a strong European heritage, her love of mixing flavors and quality, gourmet food coupled with her intense need to feed people en masse was bound to lead her to the catering game. Amazing Grazers is her latest baby which she manages to run while parenting two very busy tween-aged sons. When she’s not rolling salami in the kitchen she can be found with her head in a good glass of wine and a book in her hand. Or something like that.
  • mandymoo84

    I’ve had this on and off with no diagnosis since I was 24. Just had a recent episode after 6 yrs free of AF and thought I was free. Contact me if you’d like 🙂 we can chat abut our magnesium. I’ve had and cardioversion, painfree and quick way of fixing things

  • Kylie Embury

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I had a similar (but not so serious) situation in January. I rang Mum and my husband before letting Mum convince me to ring an ambulance. Next time it will be ambulance first. Thanks for the reminder to put ourselves and our health first.

  • BeeQueen

    My mum was one of those statistics. She died of a heart attack at the age of 42. I had just turned 16, my brother was 19, my sister was 17 and my little brother only 7. I turn 42 in a few months time. It is strange to think that soon I will have lived longer than she did. As I have gotten older I realise how sad it was for her to have died so young. She had so much living left to do. Nearly 26 years later I still miss her. The pain is still there, still as intense, just not as frequent. Days like Mother’s Day bring it all back. Thank you for the timely reminder to put my health first!

    • Bec Bradshaw

      I feel the same.. The pain never goes away.

  • Belinda Lock

    Far out Tania… your story/experience is scary!! At first it sounded like a panic attack to me (which I would have passed it off as if it where happening to me!) But its a lesson for women, a lesson that we need to stop trying to be invincible and understand that ‘real shit’ can actually happen to the youngest and most healthy of us! (even if we are too proud to think so)
    Thanks for sharing your experience…. hope you are ok now.
    Love Belinda (Samaras mum)

  • Lis Martion

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience (not that this is a good one in any way). I really hope you recover fully soon. I will be sure to share this on my page. Slow down and take care. xo

  • Emma Drew

    Wow. That’s scary stuff but I know it all too well. My Mum at the age of 57 just had a heart attack in February which required emergency surgery for a triple bypass. She just happened to be volunteering and in an office with someone when she started feeling a bit sick. Then she got pins and needles in her jaw and arm. Next, she said it felt like someone was standing on her jaw trying to break it and she sweated like she’s never sweated before. She was rushed to hospital and I had to give the verbal ok over the phone for her surgery which may have failed anyway. Thankfully she pulled through but it was touch and go for about a week after the operation while they balanced out the various medications she needed. She is now fit and healthy and does not have any pain from her operations. The scariest thing about this all is she had the warning signs for 3-4 years before the actual heart attack but her GP dismissed it as asthma (she would get short of breath after a few steps of walking and would get pins and needles in her jaw and face). So ladies, fellas, everyone, do not dismiss these symptoms regardless of your age. I’m 31 and having a variety of tests on my heart as heart disease runs in my family (my Mum’s Dad died at 64 of a heart attack and my Dad’s Dad at 46 of a heart attack too)

  • That is so scary and you’re right – most women would not even think that those symptoms would be heart related and just pass it off as some sort of bug.

  • Bec Bradshaw

    My mum had a heart attack 3 years ago and died after we had to turn her life support after 4 days on every machine possible and double the amount of drugs to keep her alive until all her organs shut down. My beautiful mum was that woman who when she felt unwell would ‘rest’ it off. She would go and lay down. This is what she did. Hours later she called me, quiet, out of breathe and asked me to come to her as she didn’t feel well. I left work and rushed to her house where I found her in a very bad state, barely able to speak and cold… So cold! I’ll never forget how cold. All I could get out of her when I asked her how long she had felt sick was “11”. It was now 1.30pm. She waited hours! I called 000. That was the last time I spoke to my mum. She died 4 days later. 🙁
    If only she recognised the signs and didn’t think to ‘sleep it off’ like she usually does.

  • Bec Bradshaw

    My mum had a heart attack 3 years ago and died after we had to turn her life support after 4 days on every machine possible and double the amount of drugs to keep her alive until all her organs shut down. My beautiful mum was that woman who when she felt unwell would ‘rest’ it off. She would go and lay down. This is what she did. Hours later she called me, quiet, out of breathe and asked me to come to her as she didn’t feel well. I left work and rushed to her house where I found her in a very bad state, barely able to speak and cold… So cold! I’ll never forget how cold. All I could get out of her when I asked her how long she had felt sick was “11”. It was now 1.30pm. She waited hours! I called 000. That was the last time I spoke to my mum. She died 4 days later. 🙁
    If only she recognised the signs and didn’t think to ‘sleep it off’ like she usually does.

    • Sarah Sez

      Bec Bradshaw, I cried while reading your words… Nothing could comfort someone who has lost their mum like that, but I promise, after reading your story I will NEVER rest it off.. x <3 x #inhonorofyourmum

  • Juanita Thorn

    Wow….I’m so glad you’re OK Tania…..that was a scary story and one that did make me think. I suffer with GERD and now and then the indigestion is so bad, it sends pain from my chest up to my neck and jaw and sometimes I think I’m having a heart attack….and I’m the same as you, I talk myself out of ringing anyone….in my case it was nothing but how do you tell. I don’t want to call an ambulance every time I get bad indigestion …
    I also went through a period last year where I would get rapid heart beat, my heart rate would be at 170 when I was laying in bed trying to sleep, I did go to emergency approximately 4 times, thinking I was having a heart attack, I had so many ECG’s and wore a heart monitor for 4 weeks and had an ultrasound done on my heart but everything came back normal….after 5 months of suffering this fast heart rate I was diagnosed with Anxiety and was placed on a medication….Thank God! Immediately after starting the medication the heart rate thing ceased and I’ve not had an episode in 8 months ….
    Thank you so much for sharing your story because I do think women have a tendency to put themselves behind their family’s needs all the time and we never think we’re that important….what we have to realise is that women are the glue that keeps society and family together and we have to be healthy to do that, so we need to take care of ourselves and listen to our bodies.