Suffering In Silence

So... two weeks ago I went to the Dr. for anxiety following my mothers death on 09-17-12 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. They hook me up to an EEG, which I argued was unnecessary since I knew it was anxiety and the doc says so when did you have your heart attack? After speaking with my husband he recalled an incident a month earlier where I bolted upright in bed and fell right back to sleep. Next day it felt like I'd slept wrong and my jaw hurt. Lots of pain between my shoulder blades that I thought was from my chair being too low to computer at work... even bought a new chair. Stress test- doc said I did well. Still ordered an echo- referred me to cariologist-appt in Mid January. Still feel tightness in chest so trying to keep stress down. Husband doesn't want me sharing with anyone at work b/c of repurcussions. Found out a family history on dad's side of sister dying of massive heart attack at 42- I'm 40. Now on Lipitor and aspirin... just feels good to put into words the shock and fear I feel regularly.

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I hope they can find out what's going on with your heart. I also had a heart attack (another major one) 2 yrs prior to "the big one" lol. Mine was also during the night and so classic it was pathetic in hindsight. The heavy elephant on the chest, crushing pain. Up into my jaw, down my left arm...sweating...BUT I had been having milder episode like this for the previous 4 yrs at this point and had been cleared of heart problems. Had been told it was my stomach. The only thing that would ease the pain was movement. Again telling the dr's it was not my heart. Like they said if it was my heart I would have chest pain on exercise not only at rest. And angina gets worse with exercise not better. Well after my final massive heart attack 2 yrs ago, they could see other significant older damage and asked me the same "when was your last heart attack". Arrrghhh. Turns out that although most of my symptoms were classic the times they occured were not.
I'm in Canada and i know the legal system is quite different up here. They can't fire you or make any changes in what you do because of any type of medical condition or disability. We don't have "at will" employment in Canada. We have a very good disabilities act here. I work in the HR department in our company which is American owned. They constantly complain about how we "baby" our employees over here :) Actually funny story. They were asking about our random drug testing (which of course is not done in Canada other than in certain groups ie cross border truck drivers) So I explained that we don't do it here...ever. She asked why not... I explained that even if someone tested positive we couldn't do much with it because addiction is covered under the disablities act and it would be illegal to get rid of someone based on a positive drug test.
Just keep in mind that until your appointment you have any strange symptoms then get to the ER as soon as possible.

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DCATES1972~If they know/think you have had a heart attack, I wonder why they have not done an angiogram? Ask the cardiologist. Echo and stress tests miss some folks. I had both and they failed to find my heart problem (I ended up needing quadruple bypass surgery).

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Thank goodness I took the leap and signed up to Inspire. I will be sure to fight my instictive 'suck it up' urges and take action if things seem to be getting out of hand. Especially the pain in between my shoulder blades... which I've had for a long time and explained away. I will also reach out about the angiogram--> I do get the feeling that this is something that could easily get swept away if I do not take control of my own health, which I am not naturally inclined to do.
As far as work, I'm torn. I want to carry on as if nothing is happening- although something is happening. New developments could move me into more stressful situation instead of a situation I already understand and have a better chance of figuring out how to control the stress. Thanks again for a place to just talk instead of pretending everything is OK all the time. My husband and 2 girls are worried and I don't want to make it worse.
The fact that so many others are going through similar situations and surviving and in many cases thriving gives me hope. Thank you.

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Dear DCATES1972,
It took me forever to realize that your health comes first in your life. Your health is the most important aspect and enables you to work. Please put it first and foremost. I know from experience that trying to work with the stress involved was not the most brilliant decision I have made in my life. I risked my health and the future with my family. I'm sure you have sick days and if not there is the family medical leave act. Be your own advocate and fight to figure out what is wrong with you. We women are the world's worst in taking care of ourselves because we are naturally the caregivers in the family. Now it's your turn to take care of yourself. Best of luck in finding the answers and hopefully they are fixable. Fight for the heart cath which will give much valuable information for your cardiologist.

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There is a history of heart disease in my family, too - dad, uncle and brother all had bypass surgery. I had quadruple bypass surgery at the age of 58 in September. I had a mild heart attack first. When I went to the ER I expected that they would tell me I had reflux and send me home. Not! Someone decided to send me to a bigger hospital where they did the cath and then the surgery, thank goodness, or I would probably be dead of a massive heart attack by now or soon. Never thought I'd be grateful for a heart attack. My heart sustained almost no damage so now I have a second chance at life. I'm doing the cardiac rehab now.

HOPE1972 - I think you should tell your boss about what's happening with you and ask that you not be put into a situation of more stress. I'm retired now but my last year I endured a lot of stress that I think contributed to my heart problems. If you feel a lot of pain, go to the ER now and don't wait until January.

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Hi Hope,

So many things any of us can share ~ if you have questions, specific ones, general ones, just ask. It's very hard when your Mom passes, as yours did recently. I lost my Dad to lung cancer 8 years ago...

You are wise to not ignore what your senses are telling take a look at this and notice. Start with a detailed lipid panel through your MD; the VAP is the most common - the Berkeley Heart Labs panel, even better. This is a small thing, but a good baseline. What you need to know there are lipid particle subfractions and LP(a) in particular. LDL and HDL and Triglycerides can look fine, but the behind the curtain stuff can certainly have an effect.

If it's possible that an MI occurred during the night, I would also check into having a sleep study. Sleep apnea and hypopnea (shallow breathing) can trigger heart issues. Sleep issues are highly correlated to endothelial dysfunction and heart problem progression. Best to not ignore. I let mine go for at least 7 or 8 years because I was "mild to moderate" and they said I was borderline and not to worry. I eventually progressed in the wrong way.

The goal is generally, know your risks, employ any positive changes you can, have a positive frame of mind. If symptoms are persisting, then you will need to pursue. Keep notes of any symptoms in a calendar/diary. This will become your reality check for days/weeks, to see if there is a pattern.

If you feel you'd prefer lesser stress, heed your instincts. One other idea - look on the web for the Upledger Institute and/or The Barrel Institute. These are specially trained bodywork people who focus on myofascial and visceral tightness - the gut, back, chest, belly. You've been through a lot with your mother's passing. Heartache, chest tightness, heartbreak, no doubt. I recently did a couple of sessions with such a person and the knife came out of my back that had been lodged there for years. The body and cells hold tension and emotion..release that and you will find it easier to discern what is what in your body. Accumulated ischemia can also bring unreleased tightness. Now I can better distinguish one from the other.

Here's to a better new year, Hope!
xoxo Mary

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I do get chest tightness when exercising but not short of breath, is that angina? It would feel like my bra is too tight, that is best the way I can describe it. Now that I'm back sitting at a desk for several hours a day my ankle puffs up too. I didn't have that when walking and working out.

I hope you all have a blessed New Year,


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Dear Hope,

I was 50 when I had my heart attack. I worked more than full time as a hospice RN, and found it a matter of pride that I could do just about anything hurled my way. I found that after my heart attack, it was near impossible to keep up the work load AND be OK. The stress involved proved to be far too much. I ended up quitting, and my heart disease rapidly progressed to the point where, a year later, I needed a triple bypass. Following the CABG, I have developed microvascular disease, which mostly manifests as frequent angina which is now best controlled by a spinal cord stimulator. I still get really really tired, and crap out around 5 or 6 every evening. I can't really predict when I'll be able to keep appointments, let alone be predictable for a work day. So I don't work.
I'm on disability-- for the time being.
I dream of a time that I'll be able to craft a new way of being a nurse, perhaps something much more independent than working for a huge organization that seems to have no tolerance for folks with disabilities....

I wish you the best of health and the rest it may take to get back on your feet. It is true, what we say here-- that after heart disease, we reach "new normal", and our lives take on new shape and color.


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Hi, Just wanted to tell you of my experience with pain between shoulder blades.Turns out I had a complete blockage in the LAD artery which caused my heart attack on November 18,2011 while at work. I was care flighted to FT. Wayne ,Ind. My wonderful cardiologist saved my life that day. I cannot work now,but I'm lucky to be alive.

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Thank you all for taking the time to share your stories and tips...tomorrow is my long awaited cardiologist appointment.

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Wow, Hope. I am eager to hear how the appointment went.

I don't know who was more surprised by my heart attack, me or the doctors. At the ER, the triage nurse brushed me off as an anxiety case. When the labs came back, the tune changed; however, it was not until the MRI that they really suspected damage. They found it during the Cath and put in two stents. This was two weeks ago. I am still reeling. Mine presented as severe pain down both arms to the elbow. I thought it was a pinched nerve or something I had done picking up my kids. In retrospect there had been fatigue and heartburn for the previous few weeks.

Keep the faith and keep advocating for yourself. I know that is the hardest part.

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I am confused. The cardiologist basically brushed me off. It was my doctor that referred me but he made me feel like I was wasting his time. My husband is relieved... but... I'm like...what? really?

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If you read my bio, you'd get why your cardiologist brushed you off. That's why we direct women here to centers of heart excellence where they see people (women) who don't fit the profile of traditional heart disease. Men get it too, but there is a bias that women don't get it, so men are taken far more seriously.

xoxo Mary

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