I am not a person that loves to frequent doctors’ rooms or dentists’ surgeries. I have a prayer that I utter once in a while; “Lord, when you know I am about to kill myself, please rush me to the doctor! Amen”. It is a very silly prayer but I thank God, my Father for His faithfulness even when we are downright stupid. So, by the grace of God, in the month of October I surprised myself by voluntarily going for a very long overdue dental visit.
After that visit, I decided to go for another long overdue Pap smear test (a test that detects cervical cancer). It was when I went for the Pap smear results that I happened to mention to my doctor that I seemed to be drinking far too much water especially at night. I was waking up every two hours to use the bathroom and drink about three glasses of water. I would get so thirsty that my heart felt like it had a wound in it. The doctor proceeded to take a reading of my blood sugar level. The reading was at 28mM, five times higher than normal! I had to be hospitalized immediately.
The warning signs had been there for a full week and even months before, though at a lower scale. I just kept ignoring them. Since I am already hypertensive, I kept telling myself that I do not want to be diabetic as well. So in my own naive way, I tried to deal with a problem that badly needed the doctor’s professional and urgent attention.
The article I have attached below encouraged me to tell others about listening to ill-health warning signs.
Stats show that five South Africans have a heart attack every hour. Worryingly, some don’t even realise it. Priscilla Chandro, 42, was one of them.
“As I tucked my daughter Anusha, then four, into bed that evening, I couldn’t wait for a bit of downtime and an early night. But, when I went to bed, I just couldn’t settle. I had a nasty aching pain in my head. It wasn’t like a normal headache, and it wasn’t just my head that hurt – my arms were aching, too.
After an hour of tossing and turning, I decided to take some painkillers. I felt a wave of heat go through my body, so I lay on the couch before going into the kitchen. It was only Anusha and me in the house, as I’m separated from her father. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. I don’t know how long I was out for, but I was certain I had fainted. Although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, I knew something was very wrong.
I managed to get up and call my parents, who are both retired nurses and live nearby. My dad came round immediately and called an ambulance. By then, I was cold and shivery, and the paramedics suggested I had flu. I didn’t really agree with them, but I didn’t argue. They didn’t do an ECG (a test that measures the electrical activity and rhythm of the heart), although they did offer to take me to hospital. But I didn’t want to be a nuisance, so I refused.
The next morning, I woke up with a dull ache in the middle of my chest. As it was one of my days off from my part-time admin job, I went to see my GP, who carried out an ECG. When she saw the tracings of my heart’s activity, I could tell she was worried, especially as she then called the local hospital. However, they didn’t seem too concerned, so she sent me home, advising me to go to the emergency room if I still felt bad.
That weekend, Anusha went to her dad’s. On the Saturday night, I had planned to go dancing with friends. The ache in my chest was still there but, as I’d seen my doctor, I tried to ignore it. But, when it hadn’t gone by Sunday lunchtime, I became really anxious and went to the emergency room. They ran more tests, and then the cardiologist came into the cubicle I was in, looking serious. I can’t describe the shock I felt when I heard that I’d had a massive heart attack on the Thursday night and was lucky to be alive. I burst into tears.
Surely I would have known? Where were the typical symptoms, like crushing chest pain and breathlessness? An angiogram (an X-ray test using dyes and a camera to show blood-flow through the arteries and veins) showed a total blockage in one of my coronary arteries. The cardiologist then told me that my heart looked as though it had been repeatedly damaged for years. Two days later, I had an operation to have a stent (a small wire-mesh tube) fitted to open up the blocked artery. I spent the night in hospital, and went home two days later.
Now, five years later, I’m enjoying a normal life. I don’t do formal exercise, but I’m active and enjoy nothing better than a few hours on the dance floor. I have a healthy diet and take my medication, which consists of aspirin, a statin, a beta-blocker and fish-oil tablets. I also have regular check-ups.
My heart attack put me on a life-changing journey. I followed my passion and set up my own karaoke business, and trained to be an energy healer, too. I now volunteer regularly to raise awareness about issues that can lead to the misdiagnosis of a heart attack.
Like me, many women imagine that crippling chest pain is the main symptom of a heart attack. I want every woman to know that their symptoms might be different (see right), and that if they experience them or feel anything’s wrong, to seek medical help immediately”.
womanandhomemagazine.co.za - September 2014 issue