Too busy for a heart attack: a working woman’s epiphany

SusanHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancer,  Susan Smith.

Susan’s signs

Susan Smith wasn’t feeling her usual energetic self.

She’d been increasingly fatigued in the previous few days, but like many busy women, was juggling so many things – including an upcoming speech – that it was easier to just brush off her symptoms.

As she launched into her speech, she began to have palpitations. Could it be anxiety? She began to run short of breath. Had she been holding her breath? She broke out in a cold sweat. Menopausal symptoms?

“There I was, standing in front of 40 people and feeling like I was going to faint, but refusing to fall down in front of all of them,” said Susan, who moved to Tucson 42 years ago. She completed her presentation, sat down and drank some water. The symptoms subsided.

The next day found her in a cardiologist’s office, hooked up to an EKG. She was in the midst of a heart attack and her doctor informed her she would be going to the Emergency Department.

“I don’t have time to go to the Emergency Department,” she remembered protesting. “I have to teach a class tomorrow at 8 a.m.!”

“I went right to TMC and it was an experience I will never forget,” she recalled. Her cardiologist had called ahead and within seconds she was on a gurney, blood was being drawn, tests were underway. “I didn’t know if I should be terrified or just glad I was in such good hands,” she said.

Dancing to recovery

Five weeks after her stent was placed, she was feeling well enough to dance in a TMC commercial, but still practicing resting. “That’s a tall order. I have to remind myself to do things more slowly and with more patience. Instead of putting 25 things on a to-do list, I might do five.”

Yes, women have heart attacks

“Women in particular have a lot on their plates and a lot of times they’re so busy taking care of their family, they don’t have the time to recognize the symptoms in their own body,” she said, noting women often have different symptoms than men do.

Like men women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

“The main thing I learned and am telling my friends: If something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait. Check it out. It’s not worth taking the chance.”

In need of a cardiologist? Find a doctor who specializes in the heart here.

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