Atlanta, Ga. (September 20, 2012) – On average, 27 women die from heart disease and stroke in Georgia every day, according to the American Heart Association. On July 7, 2012, 41-year-old Atlanta resident Sarah Batts chose not to become a statistic and sought help from a friend, who recognized Batts was at risk for a cardiac event and insisted on taking her to the ER, just hours before Batts would suffer a massive heart attack.
“I was second-guessing myself the whole way to the ER,” said Batts, who maintained a relatively normal diet and exercise routine and had just started training for a 5k race. “I kept asking myself, ‘Is this real?’ I felt silly going to the ER - especially on a holiday weekend. My only symptom was severe jaw pain.”
When Batts arrived at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, an accredited Heart Failure and Chest Pain Center, she was admitted right away. Doctors discovered she had a strong family history of heart disease and though she wasn’t experiencing any chest pains, decided to run some tests. Her EKG came back normal and there were no signs Batts had a heart attack.
“I was convinced it was something else,” said Batts. “I wanted to go home but the doctor said no. He said if I left, it would be against medical advice and so, I stayed and they took me back to the cardiac observation unit.”
“Even though we got the tests back negative, that didn’t mean she didn’t have coronary artery disease,” said Jeffery Oyler, M.D., who treated Batts while she was in the emergency room at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “The most important thing is the patient’s story. It didn’t take long into her story for me to realize I wasn’t discharging her anytime soon. If she had gone home, she could have died. Her situation was that serious.”
Not long after she was taken to the cardiac observation unit, Batts had a heart attack. In the care of the Piedmont Heart team, Batts was quickly brought to the catheterization lab where Chuck Ballard, M.D., inserted a stent, a hollow, flexible metal mesh tube used to keep arteries open.
“At the time of her procedure, Sarah’s artery was 99 to 100 percent blocked,” said Dr. Ballard. “…comments on the case…”
Batts’ recovery is ongoing. She participates in cardiac rehabilitation at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, is followed by a nutritionist and Dr. Ballard, an interventional cardiologist, and attends support groups. Her experience has left her an advocate for heart health and she urges women to pay attention to their bodies and know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
“You always hear about the elephant sitting on the chest but I never experienced that,” said Batts. “I only felt pain on the left side of my jaw and it was just awful. I do remember feeling fatigued in the weeks prior to my heart attack, but I attributed it to other things, like most women would. That’s probably why more women die of heart disease than men – we assume our symptoms are due to stress, hormones, etc.”
Since her heart attack, Batts says she values her time more and sets boundaries to avoid stress. A firm believer in the saying, “Life is too short,” she now focuses more energy on meditation, laughing and prayer.