This post is not about books or writing, but it IS about a topic very important to me right now, and which I want everyone to know about.
See, this week, I almost lost someone very dear to me, to a heart attack. Before I continue, I’ll let you know that she is fine. After an angiogram and the insertion of two stents to remove blockages and maintain blood flow, she is at home and in reasonable health.
But she nearly wasn’t. And that’s why I’m writing this post – with her permission.
Because my amazing mother-in-law, who has worked most of her life as a healthcare professional, didn’t recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, and as a result delayed taking action.
She’d had a few health issues this year, and had seen a cardiologist as well as her GP, and had a stress test and other investigations. Then she had felt off-colour for the last few weeks and so on Monday she booked an appointment to see her GP – whose first available appointment was Wednesday. No rush, so that was fine.
On Wednesday, she got up and went about life as normal. But after she’d pegged a load of washing on the back line, she felt a slight chest pain and a little bit of pressure. Nothing major, and she wondered if it might be some muscle soreness from the repetitive action of reaching up to the line.
Back inside, she felt a little light headed and breathless, but she’d had this before, so she sat down for a few minutes to let it pass, then got ready to go to her doctor’s appointment. While she was getting ready she had a few small pains up the side of her neck, and into her jaw and ear – but again, nothing major.
As she was leaving home to go to her appointment, my father in law arrived home, and offered to go with her, but she thought she was fine, and the surgery was only a few minutes’ drive away. So she drove herself, noticing though that now she had a bit of pain in her right arm.
At this point she started to wonder if something more sinister was happening. She parked at the surgery, went in and took a seat to wait for the doctor. Although she broke out in a sweat, she waited her turn. When she was called she went into the room, and asked the doctor if she wanted to hear what had led her to book the appointment, or about what was happening today. The doctor suggested she start with today.
When she explained how she felt, the doctor sprung into action and called an ambulance, recognising instantly that her patient was experiencing a ‘cardiac incident’ (ie a heart attack).
The rest, of course, is a good story: she got promptly to an emergency department where they were able to assess and stabilise her, before she had an angiogram next day and two stents inserted. And, as I said, was then released home to resume life.
BUT if she had not have that GP appointment booked, the result could have been a whole lot worse, because at home she may have waited longer before calling an ambulance. The reason: each symptom was isolated, and none seemed as dramatic or major as she had expected a heart attack to be. And, as I said, she was a nurse and midwife for many many years.
So, here are my questions:
Do YOU know the symptoms of a heart attack?
Do YOU know that they may be different for women, and that women are generally slower to get help?
Do YOU know what to do if you are experiencing a heart attack?
Do YOU know what to do if someone near you seems to be having a heart attack?
If not, and even if you think you do, please take a few moments to read up on heart attack symptoms.
Here’s a link to the Heart Foundation’s site, which is an easy, straightforward read. Know the signs, and know when and how to take action. Please.
And please, feel free to share this story. Widely. The more people know, the more ‘lucky’ stories of survival there will be. As the Heart Foundation says – don’t be scared of calling for help in case you are wrong.
Love to you all, and thanks in advance for sharing. Oh, and hug the people you love.