Anyone who watches movies or TV shows knows when an actor is feigning a heart attack. We've seen it so often that we expect all heart attacks to produce those same immediate, animated, debilitating symptoms. Sometimes that may be so but often, it doesn't begin so dramatically. Peggy's episode didn't.

I'm definitely not qualified to give medical advice but I can tell you what hapened to Peggy and I can point you to some good qualified medical advice. A quick Internet search about Heart Attack will point you to a wealth of information. Two well known, much used Web sites are listed below.

The first article is about Coronary Artery Disease in general and the second article explains that the heart attack symptoms in men can be dramatically different than heart attack symptoms in women and it gives a good discription of what to watch for. 

Coronary Artery Disease

"Coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease, or simply, heart disease, is the No. 1 killer in America, affecting more than 13 million Americans."

I don't know anyone who enjoys Christmas more than Peggy. She begins preparing weeks ahead by shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking - doing all that good stuff, preparing to meet all the family with loads of Christmas goodies. This year was no exception. If she was sick, she certainly didn't know it or show it. On Christmas eve we loaded all the goodies into the van and headed to her daughter's home, about 125 miles north of us. The plan was to spend Christmas eve with her family, then head south on Christmas day to visit my family. We planned to make a brief stop at our house to shower and change clothes on the way south, so we didn't take any personal things with us.   
Christmas eve went as planned: big family all gathered together, lots of food, pretty packages, many gifts, happy children, lots of excitement and mamma Peggy was right in the middle of it all until the crowd dispersed before midnight. There was nothing unusual about Peggy that evening.

On Christmas morning, we were up at about 8:00A.M. Peggy and I were the only smokers in the house, so we took our cup of coffee and went into the attached garage to have our usual morning 'eye opener'. After a few sips of coffee, Peggy said that she didn't feel well and she wanted to go lie down for a few minutes. I looked at my watch; it was 8:30. I followed her upstairs, asking her if she needed anything. She wanted an aspirin. I went downstairs to get her an aspirin and a glass of water. Meanwhile, Vicki, Peggy's daughter, had entered the bedroom and she was questioning Peggy about, 'what hurts?'

By the time I got back upstairs (which couldn't have been more than two minutes) Peggy was explaining that there was discomfort in her chest, her forehead felt clammy, and both arms and hands were tingling. Vicki told her to quickly get some street clothes on for a trip to a satellite hospital which is only about three minutes away, and quicker than calling an ambulance on Christmas morning. Peggy didn't object.  

Vicki headed outside to get the car. Only a few minutes had passed from the onset of vague symptoms but by the time we got her into the car, she didn't feel like sitting up anymore. It was Christmas morning. There was no traffic. Vicki zipped along the empty streets and up to the emergency entrance of the hospital. Peggy was taken immediately to a treatment room and clot busting drugs were administered successfully. After a few hours, she was stabilized Then she was moved to the main hospital downtown where she was monitored until the next day. (This is not an encouragement for anyone to drive someone to the hospital when they have the symptoms of a heart attack. In all but the most favorable of circumstances, the proper thing would be to call 911 and get professional help. EMT's are trained to handle such emergencies.)

After all the testing was finished, the vascular surgeon said that Peggy had a massive blockage in a coronary artery located behind her heart and stents would be inserted to open the artery. Peggy was awake during the entire procedure. It required three stents to open the artery. After another night in the hospital, she was ready to go home. There was no damage to her heart because all the right things were done within the right time frame.

It was supposed to be a quick Christmas trip, so we weren't prepared for more than a one night stay. I had enough of my several medications with me to last two days. When I knew Peggy was ok, I loaded 
our two dogs and headed home to get my medicines, feed Mac the cat and Oscar the fish. Vicki brought Peggy home the next day and guess what they did? After resting for a few minutes, Vicki and Peggy went to Wal-mart. Then, I knew Peggy was back to almost normal, ha.

It's been almost a month and a half since our most memorable Christmas and Peggy is completely normal.
There are no restrictions on her activities. Her orders are to have regular check-ups, take her handful of pills daily and don't smoke. We can truly say, "All things considered, in 2006 we had a very Merry Christmas."

Divine Intervention? I don't know that for a fact but I do know this: were it not for us celebrating the birthday of Jesus on a day known as Christmas, we would not have been in that place at that time and the outcome would have been a disaster.

Below are pictures of Peggy's blocked coronary artery, before stents and after stent placement.

When they took Peggy for testing, several of us sat in the waiting room with other families who were also waiting for news. We heard MD's give reports of catastrophic events and impending drastic surgeries, to other families of heart patients, which made us fear the worst. I heard one report of a person who needed the Widow Maker procedure. That was chilling.

Peggy's Heart Attack
 December 25,  2006

Please Note: The following account is not an encouragement for anyone to drive someone to the hospital when they have the symptoms of a heart attack. In all but the most favorable of circumstances, the proper thing is to call 911 and get professional help. EMT's are trained to handle such emergencies.

Women Heart Attack Symptoms

NOTE: I have no qualifications that equip me to speak of anything medical other than my own experiences and
comments from other people.

Update, seven months after Peggy's attack: A day or so after the stents were inserted, Peggy was back to her old self doing housecleaning, working in the yard, shopping, and daily walking for exercise as if nothing had happened. Her quick recovery was like a miracle. But slowly over a period of weeks, these activities dwindled down to her doing only the necessary things. She began complaining about always being tired, occasional dizziness, constant weakness, back pain, muscle pain and a variety of other nagging physical problems. Her usual comment to me was and is: "Why?"

Physically and mentally she was totally normal the evening before the attack; she was totally normal as soon as she came home from the hospital - she even went shopping that same day. She was totally normal for a few weeks as if the attack had never happened. So why this gradual slipping into a state of limited physical activities and 
complaints of feeling worse than the day she came home from the hospital?  

I've had considerable experience with medications. I've taken pills for high blood pressure, prostate problems and so on for a several years. I explained to Peggy that all of her complaints were probably a result of her medications. To prove that, I went to an Internet Search Engine and typed in, "prescription side effects."  I read to her some of the complaints that many other users had written. Now she understands. Her many 'problems' are not caused by her arteries, age, physical condition, food or any other condition that she can control. Her daily fight is against the side effects of her medications.

We have a younger gentleman friend who lives in another state. He had an attack like Peggy's a few days after Peggy's attack. It was the same blocked artery as Peggy's and he received the same medical attention and medications. He wrote to us that he doesn't understand why he is feeling so weak and unable to do anything constructive. Peggy wrote back to him to do an Internet search for side effects of his medications (the same meds that Peggy takes) and he would find the cause of his complaints.

Peggy is doing much better now. Her surgeon changed some medications and adjusted the dosage of others. She
still has side affects - and so do I - but we've learned to live with them. 

Perhaps then, the cost of staying alive is more than the financial cost of medical attention but also to suffer the various side effects of our medications. 

There is an important update at the bottom of this page, July 23, 2007.
NEW: May 19, 2010. If you reached this page while searching for Medical Information, I've recently
been made aware of a free Web site that is absolutely loaded with information. I thought it would be a good
idea to add a link to the site. Note: I have no affiliation with the listed site and I have spent only a little
time searching it. What I did see is impressive.  
Quote from source:  "... it contains PubMed/MedLine data, plus journals and a collection of theses
and dissertations that are not available anywhere else for free,  making it the most comprehensive
free search on the web."