I was 44 and healthy when I had a heart attack: what it taught me

After teaching my morning classes at CycleBar, where I’ve been an instructor for years, I went home in the afternoon and took a nap. Then I went back to the studio to teach my lessons for the evening. I continued to experience constant pressure on my chest for the rest of the day.

The next morning I had no pain. I just felt tired. I decided to take it easy for the next two days, but went back to teaching on Saturday. During my first class of the day, I immediately felt an explosion of pain in my chest, as if someone had hit me. Then I realized I couldn’t feel my arm or grab anything – it was completely numb and tingling.

At first I thought my blood sugar might be low, so I left class to grab a snack. I had only a few steps down the hall when I collapsed. I was shaking, freezing and it was hard to breathe. I didn’t feel my body.

Luckily there were a lot of people in the studio who saw what happened and I was sent straight to the hospital. I later learned that I had suffered a “widowmaker heart attack,” which is what happens when you have a blockage in the heart’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery. In my case it was 100% blocked.

Prior to this event, I never had heart problems and had no precursors to a heart attack (hypertension, diabetes, etc.). I was 44, very active and generally healthy. So it was easy to ignore or justify any discomfort I felt. However, if I had gone to the doctor on Wednesday, when I first started having symptoms, I wonder if it might have prevented this traumatic health experience.

Nevertheless, I am so thankful to be alive, and I believe my active lifestyle really trained my body for when I needed it most.

After my heart attack, I spent a few days in the cardiac intensive care unit so doctors could check my heart. When I was finally released from the hospital, I had to wear a vest that served as a portable defibrillator all day, every day for the next six months. Because my heart attack was so severe it damaged my heart significantly and now I live with congestive heart failure.

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