What an Event! The Tale of a Strong Heart
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What an Event! The Tale of a Strong Heart

You probably read "From the Desk of Charlaine" last week to find out I was in the hospital. My plan was to continue the "Strong" series with different areas of the body to help readers with the results they are looking for. With my recent adventure, I decided to share more details with you about what happened and explain a few important details about the heart you might not consider-- mostly because it isn't common knowledge. Hopefully it helps you or someone you know.

NOTE: This is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. It is for informational purposes only.

Here's the scoop:

I took my shower for the day and was getting dressed so I could take my mom to the store after lunch. I used hair gel (it is rare for me to find one I can use) and began to put hair clips in my hair when I suddenly had tightness in my chest (upper portion) and the lower part of my throat. It seemed like an allergic reaction to the hair gel which I began using during the past month. I quickly took a Benedryl, which did nothing. I used an Epipen and called a friend to take me to the hospital. On the way, I called my allergist to find out if I should take the second Epipen. She said yes, I could. So I did. The tightness not only didn't go away, it got worse. It turned to pain. My breathing was very difficult. By the time I arrived at the Emergency Room, I was definitely having a cardiac event. Pain radiated up my neck to my jaw and I began to vomit. Sorry, so graphic, but it's important for people to understand what it can be like to have a heart attack.

During the entire time of my exam, they made the assumption I had plaque build-up in my arteries, led a sedentary lifestyle, and ate junk. That was very frustrating because the treatment may not fit the situation. You know what assumptions do, don't you? They transferred me by ambulance to a hospital that could do heart catheterization. Not pleasant! Riding in an ambulance, on a gurney, zipping through traffic while nauseated is not my idea of an amusement ride. I must have passed out during the prep for the heart cath because I don't remember it at all. I woke up in ICU afterward.

As the medical staff tested and evaluated me, they determined that I had a coronary artery spasm. The level of cardiac enzymes found in my blood qualified it as a heart attack.  The EKG, X-rays, heart cath, and ultrasound all showed my heart and arteries were in excellent condition. That is where healthy living really made a big difference! Most people who have a heart attack do so because a blood clot dislodges clogging an artery in the heart which caused damage to the heart muscle. Plaque build-up can also break loose and do the same thing. The narrowing of arteries from plaque also causes high blood pressure making a heart attack an even bigger event for the victim. Mine was simply a spasm of the artery at the front of the heart which constricted blood flow for quite a while. The Epipen probably increased the severity and duration of the spasm. All in all, even healthy people can have a heart attack.

Here is where things get strange.

When I was released from the hospital, I felt fine. The only things bothering me were the entry site of the heart catheter and where the I.V.s had been. All in all I felt great, ready to get back to normal. I discovered the heart cath site is very touchy! I had to do the one-step up steps sideways- sort of like a fiddler crab. UGH! I also discovered how bad sitting with my legs bent could be. What I didn't expect was how tired I was. I had to recover from the whole ordeal. My body went through more than I thought. My hubby and daughter could see that being in good physical shape can be a detriment to recovery. I lost 4 pounds, by the way. Not a good plan to lose weight. All the I.V. fluids and steroids made me puffy, so my clothing was tight. I tried to squat down to get into the bottom drawer of a night stand and discovered the puffiness limited my range of motion. My feet didn't look like mine. Not one bit. We were certainly curious about the "Why?" of it all.

Why did this happen?

Curiosity drove us to try to figure out why this could happen. So, we did some digging. Although it is more common in those prone for heart disease due to lifestyle, it is rare. It also affects:

  • Spasms in other arteries, causing conditions such as migraine or Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Thyrotoxicosis (excessive thyroid hormone)
  • Chronic allergic conditions such as Samter’s Triad (asthma, nasal polyps and aspirin allergy)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Some chemotherapy drugs
  • Low magnesium
  • Type A personality
  • Some medication interactions
  • Cold

Coronary Artery Spasms can simply be considered angina because they only cause minor narrowing blood restriction, but are classified as heart attacks with significant restriction for longer time. They occur during rest instead of stress or activity. People who are prone to muscle spasms may have a coronary artery spasm and not realize what it is nor it's seriousness. People who have heart attacks from coronary artery spasm do sometimes have damage to the heart muscle or die. There are troponins (cardiac enzymes) found in the blood of those considered significant for heart attack.

Mine was considered heart attack because the troponin levels were around 13, over the .056 top end of the range. There was no damage to the heart muscle. It may have been amplified by the Epipen. My own magnesium levels are barely in the normal range, but I supplement. Since I have fibromyalgia, I am already prone to muscle spasms and migraines. I am cold sensitive, so you won't see me enjoy outdoor winter exercise. Also, a medication interaction may have played a part in the problem. I am also a type A personality. There are several factors which may have led to my episode.

Since that episode, we have been praising God for His goodness. I had the right person taking me to the hospital. She is a retired nurse. I had good prompt care. If they had treated me only for allergic reaction, my outcome may not have been good. If there is another problem lurking in the shadows, it will be brought to light now rather than later when it could cause more harm. The Lord's protective Hand was definitely on me. Thank you for your prayers and concern.

So, yes, healthy people can have heart attacks. My guess is you are at greater risk of being hit by a vehicle in your grocery store parking lot than having this happen to you. Just a guess. Regardless of healthy or not, if someone is experiencing heart attack symptoms, call 911 to get them to emergency care as soon as possible.Doing so promptly may save a life. Learn CPR. It may be critical to someone surviving a heart attack.

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