A longtime Mayo Clinic cardiology nurse was surprised when she had a heart attack, but, according to an article on the clinic's website, the most important thing she learned from the experience was to take severe pains and signs of illness seriously, no matter how healthy you think you are.
Kristin O'Meara had been a cardiology nurse for over 30 years at Mayo Clinic. She was in great shape and exercised regularly. But one day when she was running at the gym, she felt aches and pains in her chest. She didn't want to accept that it might be a heart attack.
"My first thought was that it was just one of the aches and pains of aging," O'Meara, 57, said in the article.
She continued running and began feeling the pain in her back and shoulder. O'Meara then began to feel nauseous and wondered if she was having a gallbladder attack or an esophageal spasm. But instead of going to the hospital, she ran an errand and went home, the article said. When her symptoms got worse, she called her husband at work and asked him to take her to the emergency room.
O'Meara went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and underwent a CT scan, which revealed that she was suffering from a "dissection of the coronary artery," the article said. She then went into surgery to have the obstructed artery opened with balloon angioplasty.
After the surgery, O'Meary stayed in the hospital for four nights to recover and went through three months of cardiac rehabilitation. Though she is not as fast as she once was, she is now back to exercising and running.
"I was so blessed to receive the care I did," O'Meara said in the article. "Everyone I encountered was so kind. I've always been very proud to work at Mayo Clinic and have always believed we give outstanding care. But I have a new understanding of that now."
O'Meara wants women to know that no matter what your lifestyle is, it's important to pay attention to signs that something may be wrong.
"I knew something wasn't right," O'Meara said in the article. "But denial is a very strong emotion. I thought I was healthy. I thought I was invincible. But we are not invincible. Anything can happen to anyone. I want to tell women to listen to their bodies."