Posted by: Steve | March 9, 2012

‘Something was very wrong’

Donna’s story

Donna Wilburn

Six years ago, at 5:10 on a Monday morning, I awoke feeling different than I ever had before. Something was very wrong. My hands were numb, and I had pain radiating down my arms, jaw line, shoulders and back. It was a pain that I had never experienced. I knew almost immediately I was having a heart attack. How I knew, I don’t know. But I just knew that’s what it was. I woke my husband, and I said, “Honey, I’m having a heart attack.” He flew out of bed and ran to get our self-care health book with a checklist of symptoms to tell if you are having a heart attack.

As he started to read off symptoms, I began experiencing them. It started out with the numbness, and then a cold sweat came over my entire body. I was still able to walk to the car, so he gave me an aspirin and drove me to the emergency room. Luckily, we were only about a mile from the hospital, so we got there in no time. I walked in and told them, “You know, I think I’m having a heart attack.” 

I went through triage and then was taken to the emergency room. And sure enough, I had an irregular EKG, and my blood test showed that I had enzymes in my blood. For heart attacks, measuring the levels of cardiac enzymes in the blood is a common test for the diagnosis of a heart attack and the amount the damage done to the heart. I was admitted to the hospital and went through the CATH lab. They found I had blockage of 70, 90 and 99 percent in my LAD, which is the left anterior descending artery. I have three stents now and I’m doing great.

That was my introduction to heart disease, and like many women, I discovered I had coronary artery disease the hard way. Unfortunately, there are women not as lucky as I was in surviving a first heart attack. Because of the fast treatment I received, I was able to recover with minimal damage to my heart and am now taking medication to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure.

I hope that everyone realizes that there is no quick fix for heart disease. The good news is that heart disease can be prevented or controlled by making lifestyle changes, in most cases, by taking medication. My mission is to make sure that other women don’t have to experience what I did.  Now I work as an advocate educating women about heart disease and the importance of early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

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