One day Bonnie got up to see her daughter off to school and later returned to bed feeling ill. She assumed she was coming down with the flu.
Unable to get comfortable, she called a friend. After hearing Bonnie describe chest pain, headache and pressure, the friend urged her to call the doctor’s office, where she was told to hang up and dial 911 immediately. She began to feel pain in her left arm, excruciating pain in her jaw and the sensation of a balloon in her chest about to explode.
Fortunately, the EMTs arrived quickly and began interventions on the way to the hospital. Her symptoms were relieved by aspirin, oxygen and nitroglycerin, and she arrived at Meriter’s Emergency Department symptom-free. Bonnie later learned she had a heart attack and experienced classic symptoms. During consultation, she informed the doctor of a family history of heart attack, including two brothers who had died as a result.
Bonnie remained in the hospital Thanksgiving Day, and on Friday her health care team recommended a heart catheterization. While in the catheterization lab, two stents were placed, but the development of a blood clot required an emergency triple bypass.
Afterward, she participated in cardiac rehabilitation at the Meriter Wellness Center, something she considers an integral part of regaining her physical strength and relearning her capacity for exercise. “As a woman, it is very important to have activities in your life that support you and that you can come back to once something has happened,” says Bonnie. “You need to have something just for you that will sustain you and feed your soul.” She has since resumed biking and focuses on her mind-body connection by practicing meditation and yoga.
Prior to her heart attack, Bonnie experienced anxiety, shortness of breath and recurring thoughts of impending death. She didn’t recognize these as symptoms of heart disease, though. She assumed they were a result of stress. Nor did she think her brothers’ deaths increased her risk because they were male.
What separates Bonnie from other people, she says, is that she doesn’t ask, “Why did this happen to me?” She had a necessary and life-saving procedure and has accepted it as a moment of truth. She is healthier now than before her heart attack and feels she has her whole life to live.