Taking care of your heart (all aspects of it) and living a heart-healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Regardless of whether you have a family history of heart disease or have experienced heart attack symptoms, educating yourself, your family and your friends on what to look for and what lifestyle changes can be made could save your life. Whether you are a man or a women, heart disease can affect anyone. Just ask Barb Grosch.
“Every year we go to Mt. Lassen just before Christmas and cut our own Christmas tree. I usually look forward to it, but in December of 2008 I was just out of energy and tired. I had pain in my right shoulder that just wouldn’t go away,” said Grosch.
“I thought this was unusual because I work out regularly and getting Christmas trees is fun. The pain in my shoulder continued until one day it hurt so badly I couldn’t eat. Because I saw the Go Red for Women’s Heart Health ads on TV and in the paper, I knew that my shoulder pain could be a symptom in women experiencing a heart attack. I made an appointment with my cardiologist,” said Grosch.
In the office of her cardiologist, Grosch took a heart stress test on the treadmill. Because she does take care of her body, completing the exercise was not a problem, but her shoulder pain continued. She expressed her concerns about the pain in her shoulder to her cardiologist. Grosch then underwent the same treadmill test but with a harmless dye inserted in her body that would allow doctors to see how her heart was reacting under the stress of the exercise. “After the test, my cardiologist told me not to go home but to go straight to Mercy and that I would need to have a cardiac catheterization,” said Grosch.
A cardiac catheterization is “a procedure to examine blood flow to the heart and test how well the heart is pumping. A doctor inserts a thin plastic tube (catheter) into an artery or vein in the arm or leg.” (American Heart Association).
“The tests revealed that the feelings I had about my symptoms were true. I had three 90% blockages in my arteries, including a main artery. I underwent bypass surgery the next day. I am so thankful I knew what to look for. My doctor later told me that if I hadn’t reached out for help, I would have most likely suffered a heart attack in three to six months,” said Grosch.
- Chest discomfort
- Chest or abdominal discomfort or pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, arm or jaw
- Dizziness or fainting
- Sense of impending doom
Common signs of heart attack include:
- Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Indigestion or gas-like pain
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
Additional symptoms common to women:
Following her surgery, Grosch underwent Cardiac Rehabilitation at Mercy Medical Center Redding (MMCR), where she exercised wearing a heart monitor and under the supervision of registered nurses. “After you complete all your rehab sessions, you can choose to stay and work out with other heart attack and heart disease survivors on a regular basis. It’s like going to the gym, but everyone is a heart patient. That’s what you want most when you are going through something difficult, to talk to someone that has gone through the same thing and to see that they are OK,” said Grosch.
Today Grosch is a Mended Hearts volunteer at MMCR. She visits heart patients after they have had surgery. She is there to let them know that they are not alone and it is possible for them to return to their normal lives. “I look forward to our ‘survivor’ breakfasts, where we meet at a different restaurant each month, often with our spouses and friends in tow, because they too were there for the rehabilitation process,” Grosch said. “We’ve become friends and we hope to help others — and especially women, because their symptoms aren’t as strong — avoid experiencing a heart attack.”
If you are interested in becoming a Mended Hearts volunteer or would like more information on the Mercy Heart Center visit redding.mercy.org/heart.
Photos by: Michael Burke, Media and Marketing Coordinator
Megan Loveless is Mercy Medical Center’s public relations coordinator. She can be reached at Megan.Loveless@chw.edu. For more information about the Mercy Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine Center, call (530) 245-4801 or visit redding.mercy.org.