Stockbridge, Ga. (February 26, 2014) – Henry County resident Jennifer Haraway, 44, will have more than one reason to celebrate this Valentine’s Day as it marks the second anniversary of the day she survived one of the deadliest forms of a heart attack: the widow maker.
“I feel really lucky to be alive,” said Haraway, who spent the day after Valentine’s Day 2012 in Piedmont Henry Hospital. “Before this happened, I was always tired. I thought it was because of my extreme chronic fatigue. I never thought it could be from my heart.”
Haraway was at the gym on Valentine’s Day two years ago, taking a class similar to kick boxing. When she went home that night and experienced a burning sensation in her shoulders, she originally dismissed the pain as an aftereffect of the class. When the pain persisted and shot down her left arm, Haraway called her cardiologist the next morning who suggested she go to Piedmont Henry immediately.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned from this is to pay attention to your body,” said Haraway. “The doctors said my heart issues were hereditary and there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent them. I was only 42 years old but I went to my doctor when it happened and that was the best decision I made.”
Initially, Haraway’s tests results were normal. A Piedmont Henry physician suggested she spend the night at the hospital so she could be monitored and have a stress test the next morning. Further testing indicated Haraway’s cardiac enzymes were extremely elevated. A stent was placed inside her left main coronary artery to keep it open and two weeks later, Haraway underwent open heart surgery at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.
“A ‘widow maker’ heart attack like Jennifer had is a severe form of cardiac failure in which the main artery becomes abruptly and fully blocked, often leading to sudden death,” said Meryl Braunstein, M.D., Haraway’s cardiologist at Piedmont Henry. “Jennifer sought help once she realized something was not right. This is so important because when it comes to matters of the heart, time lost is muscle lost.”
Someone suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds, according to the American Heart Association. Warning signs include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, discomfort or pain in one or both arms, neck, back, stomach or jaw. Women should also look out for a feeling of pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest.
“If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, it is important to dial 9-1-1 immediately,” said Dr. Braunstein. “Don’t wait and do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Those valuable minutes en route to the hospital can be lifesaving. Today, many ambulances are equipped to transmit EKGs wirelessly – allowing us to begin intervention at the hospital immediately upon arrival.”
For more information or to assess your risk for heart disease with a simple quiz, visit piedmontheart.org.