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The Heart of Life

Updated on August 1, 2012

It was November 8, 2003 my world was peaceful for the most part, I had been having some family problems but that was common, so for my world, peace was a word I could use. My mother called that evening rambling about some things that had been going on between us recently. I heard the first few words of the message on my cell phone and promptly deleted it as was my habit depending on the subject matter. There were only so many times I thought I could listen to the same old story.

Little did I know that at approximately 1 am, my phone would ring and it would be my brother calling to say my mother had called the ambulance for herself.Apparently, she had been feeling unwell all day and I would find out later that she had talked to another of my brothers and he had told her to call if she was concerned.She had said she was afraid it would be the last time they spoke.He thought she was exaggerating.I did not go into the hospital that evening as my father said not to worry that she was in good hands and they were trying to find out what was going on.Come Sunday morning the 9th I called my parents and my father was at church and my brother told me where I could call to reach her.I called and got her on the phone she said she thought that maybe she had a heart attack but did not seem sure.As we talked, she said the doctor came in and that she had in fact had a heart attack.They would be transferring her to a nearby hospital to do a heart catherization to see what damage had been done and the extent of the blockage.I told her I would meet her there, where she would be placed in the cardiac intensive care.

I spent the day with her along with my father while she awaited the heart catherization.Her sugar was lingering between 350-600 and they were trying to get it to come down before the procedure.She complained a lot but not of chest discomfort, but she definitely did not feel well.I sat and read and we talked occasionally, she then went into surgery, so Dad and I got dinner.We felt comforted that all would be well.We waited for some time for the Doctor to come out, but he said she was a very sick lady, that her blockage was extensive and that her chances were 50/50.For some reason that did not deter us having faith, although it did concern us so I called my brothers.She came out of surgery and gave us a thumbs-up.We felt sure she would likely be ok although she was very weak and out of it due to the surgery.They had done angioplasty and said we would wait and see.I felt I needed to get my father home as he had been up since the day before and slept only two hours.So we said our good-byes told her we loved her, to rest and get better, we were not sure she heard us, but then suddenly, she said, “I love you both.Please remember to call my brother.”Those were the last words we heard her speak. We left and my husband and I drove Dad home.I got back to my place, called close relatives and let them know the situation, checked my email and went to bed.

At 3 am, I received a call from the hospital the nurse said mom was very unstable and that I should contact everyone and come down.I called my brother and he got my dad up to come down.They let me go in the room briefly with my husband and I told mom in her ear that I loved her and to please fight.About an hour later (November 10, 2003 at 4:29am), they came out to say she had passed on that her heart had been too weakened by the initial heart attack.My father was in shock as he had had heart problems for almost 20 years or more and assumed he would be the one to pass on first, he had two quadruple bypasses along with approximately seven heart attacks, the last surgery in 1998. I notified mom’s brother who told me that my aunt’s mother had passed away just 6 hours before and was shocked to learn of his sister’s, death as I had told him she seemed to come out of surgery well. While we all made our final visits and arrangements were made with the hospital, they received her blood work done earlier in the day.Her doctor said her cholesterol count was completely normal.

Life has been difficult this past year, many changes go with losing someone you love.For one I really had wished I had not deleted her message on my cell phone, as it was the last message to me.I had some regrets about things, but at least we had said the most important thing before she passed.Some days I am still in shock over one year later.Some questions have come to mind.One of them is, if cholesterol is so important in this disease why did not my mom have high cholesterol.

Facts about heart diseases in women are becoming more wide spread but in my opinion, not quite enough.Diabetes can cause heart disease; I personally did not know this.This appears to be what caused my mothers heart problems.My mother did not take care to watch her diabetes and took her pill most of the time and did not cut back on sugar consumption.

Symptoms of heart disease in women can also be difficult for some to recognize, as the symptoms can be common for many other things.I believe this may have eluded my mom when she felt the symptoms.We believe she had the attack well before calling the ambulance.I have done some research on the web and this is what I have found.

“Experts estimate that one in two women will die of heart disease or stroke, and statistics reveal significant differences between men and women in survival following a heart attack. Research shows that women may not be diagnosed or treated as aggressively as men, and their symptoms may be very different from those of men having a heart attack.” Emergency room doctors miss diagnosing about 2 percent of patients with heart attacks or unstable angina because they do not have chest pain or other symptoms typically associated with a heart attack. When these patients are mistakenly sent home from the ER, they are twice as likely to die from their heart problems as similar patients who are admitted to the hospital. The patients in this study who were misdiagnosed tended to be women under the age of 55 or minorities who reported shortness of breath as their chief symptom, instead of chest pain, and/or to have apparently normal electrocardiograms. (http://www.ahcpr.gov/research/womheart.htm)

“Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in American women. It is estimated that almost 1 in 3 women will eventually die of heart disease or stroke. In a 2003 AHA poll, only 13% of American women considered heart disease their greatest health risk. After menopause, women begin to develop and die of heart disease at a rate equal to that of men. 38% of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared to 25% of men. 63% of women who die from coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Many women and their doctors do not recognize the early signs of a heart attack. Some diagnostic tests and procedures, including the exercise stress test, or stress ECG, might be less accurate in women.” (http://www.guidant.com/women/)

These above facts concern me and I am certain other women as well.How are we to know what symptoms are real, and what symptoms are just other minor ones?It is a good question and one I hope they are able to answer very soon.I have read all the symptoms, and having Ebstein-barr virus, Panic Disorder, and Fibromyalgia wonder if the symptoms at times are heart related although the doctor says I check out ok and not to worry.I have concern now even more so since both of my parents have or had heart disease. The doctor has good reason for saying I am fine as all my tests would lead him to believe that.

The relation of sugar diabetes is also of concern, as my mother had diabetes where she only took a pill.However, sugar diabetes seems to have played a large part in the cause of her heart attack.As I mentioned above she did not care properly for her diabetes. Here is a bit of information I found relating to diabetes and heart disease.

“People who have diabetes that goes undetected and untreated face an increased risk for heart disease because may occur at earlier-than-expected ages and more severe in diabetics. People who have diabetes-related atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries sometimes suffer what is called “silent ischemia” or silent heart attack. Silent, in this case, means without typical pain because neuropathy or nerve damage, is a result of uncontrolled diabetes.These people will not feel many sensations of touch, vibration, heat, cold or pain, and this may also include the expected pain of a heart attack. The resulting vague -- instead of acute -- symptoms may be ignored, or passed off as indigestion or stomach upset. When there is damage to the autonomic nervous system, signals that should be sent to the brain to regulate heart rate and blood pressure are blocked.” (http://www.yourfamilyshealth.com/cardiology/diabetes/)

The warning signs for a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association, are:

· Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes.

· Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms

· Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath

Less common warning signs of heart attack are:

· Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.

· Nausea or dizziness

· Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

· Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue

· Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness

Women's most common heart attack symptoms:

Ø chest pain or discomfort

Ø shortness of breath

Ø nausea/vomiting

Ø back or jaw pain

I cannot change what happened to my mother. However, if this article makes anyone, even one person take notice and start to find out where they are with regards to heart disease it was worth the pain of writing it.

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