I knew the symptoms of heart disease and what I was having was nothing like what I had been taught

Bonnie Birdsall , Bronson Employee

I was only 42 years old, there is no way I would have believed when my symptoms started that I was having a heart attack. I knew the symptoms of heart disease and what I was having was nothing like what I had been taught. One day I left work and was quite short of breathe by the time I reached my car, I had to sit in my car for a few minutes to catch my breath before I could even start it (I smoked back then so I blamed it on smoking). I said to myself I really need to quit smoking!

My right arm at that time had a little pressure around my upper arm that would come and go. This went on for 2 days. By the third day the pressure in my right arm felt like a rubber band was around it. I told my husband my right arm was achy and getting worse but I was sure I simply pulled a muscle as we had a lot of patient’s that required lifting during that time. He said you need to go to ER so I let him talk me into going.

When we got to ER my blood pressure was elevated to 186/120. I was sure it was simply from being so uncomfortable over the last 3 days and nervous about even going into ER, but I also wondered if something more wasn’t going on due to my shortness of breath. I was placed on a monitor, which showed sinus tach at 110. They did perform a STAT 12-lead and drew cardiac enzymes because the doctor who was caring for me in ER had just been to a conference on women and heart disease (thank goodness!).

My EKG was perfectly normal so the doctor ordered Vicodin for the arm pressure and sent me to x-ray of that arm. The pressure in my arm was a small band that felt like that part of my right arm was in a vice grip and someone was turning the handle making it tighter and tighter. That was the only symptom I had besides shortness of breath on exertion. The Vicodin did not touch the pain. All of a sudden everyone came rushing back into my room as the doctor informed me my cardiac enzymes were positive and I was having a myocardial infarction. I thought this was some kind of joke or mistake. I did not have the crushing chest pain that went down my arm or up into my neck.

I was only 42 and a women. I was told women did not have heart attacks or at least not until they became menopausal. I had a very small area of pressure in my right upper arm-like I said earlier it was like there was a small rubber band on my arm, it was not crushing chest pressure that went anywhere- as you would often witness on TV men grabbing their chest, I was not nauseated, I was not sweating, I was not anything except having a very small band of pressure around my right arm. I could not have been more wrong at that time. I was having a heart attack and I went to open heart surgery and had 3 vessels repaired. That was 18 years ago.