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My Story - Pam Gaines

by Pamela M. on Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pam Gaines Nebraska

When heart disease strikes, it does not differentiate between sex, age, or severity. It can be devastating both emotionally and physically. I can tell you that it can be a life changing event and that it should be taken seriously. I am a nurse and a heart attack survivor, and I have a story to tell you.

 When I turned 40, my husband threw a surprise party for me, complete with the typical “not so healthy choices” on the menu.   Turns out, my party would set the stage for my coronary event. 

 The next day, I woke up with an anxious feeling and indigestion. I thought I just needed some air and took an antacid to relieve the indigestion.  While I was getting ready for work, I realized that I had some left elbow discomfort.  I started to evaluate my symptoms and risk factors and I decided I should get this checked out. 

 My initial EKG at the hospital was negative as well as my cardiac enzymes. The ER physician was preparing me for discharge and for outpatient follow-up with my PCP for an ortho evaluation but I did not agree with this diagnosis knowing that this was just “different.”  Trusting my instincts, I asked for my PCP or my cardiologist to be called prior to being discharged.

 In the meantime, my chest pressure persisted and was becoming worse as was my elbow pain and now the indigestion had turned to nausea. The cardiac enzymes were now positive, EKG showing changes and I was actually having a heart attack right then!  I received the clot buster medication TPN (used at that time) to open to blockage, and I was transferred to the coronary care unit.  Later that day, I was taken to the cath lab for a PTCA (balloon dilation) of a blockage.

 The next 11 days were pretty stressful as well. I had a total of 3 trips to the cath lab with 3 subsequent trips back to the coronary care unit. I had great support and care during my stay, and this event has changed my life. 

 My cardiac event had a dramatic effect on both me and my family.  Over the next 18 months, I would have 9 hospital admits with various symptoms from chest pain to orthopedic issues. 

With the help of my cardiologist and the support of my family, I joined a life style modification program.  I have since then achieved cardiac reversal of my coronary artery disease. 

 Because of my experience, I have been able to help others with heart disease.  I am fortunate to be a survivor and my goal is to try and help as many folks as possible by telling my story.  It has been 16 years since my heart attack, and I now call it my gift. I could have been a statistic, but instead, I looked at my risk factors, took an active role in my health care and I am a different person now!