Tag Archives: heart attack symptoms

The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Learning from Heart Disease

Parris McBride recalls the day she thought she was going to die.

“All I saw were the white lights of the cars ahead of us turning into one big light. And then it got darker – as if the lights were closing into a tunnel.”

Parris was in the passenger seat with her frantic sister and teenage daughter racing to Lexington Medical Center. She was cold, clammy, weak and nearly unconscious.

With severe chest pains and a terrible headache, the Batesburg mother was having a serious cardiac event. And she was only 41 years old. It was December 9, 2014.

Parrisi McBride

“I didn’t want to die. I have kids and I need to take care of them.”

Inside Lexington Medical Center, tests revealed severe blockages in her arteries. Parris needed open heart surgery to survive.

It was the pivotal moment for heart problems that began months before.

In October, Parris started having back, shoulder and neck pain – and, one night while working in the kitchen – another weird feeling.

“I thought, ‘My goodness, I’m having some bad indigestion.’” She chewed nearly a whole bottle of Tums® and it didn’t go away.

At first, she thought she was tired and stressed. Both of her parents had died recently, and she was a busy single mom of two daughters with a job as a salon manager.

But with a history of heart disease in her family – including a father having heart surgery in his ‘30s and a grandfather with a heart attack in his ‘50s, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a smoking habit, she went to Urgent Care. Tests revealed she had suffered a heart attack. She had two stents placed.

Soon, the symptoms came back.

“I couldn’t even walk up a flight of steps without not being able to breathe,” she said. “Even talking on the phone would make me out of breath.”

The chest pain continued – and got so bad that Parris was vomiting, too.

“It was like someone was stabbing a knife right between my heart and my esophagus,” she said. “It didn’t feel like an elephant on my chest, but it was the worst pain you could ever describe.”

It all led up to the day the symptoms became unbearable and her sister had to rush her to the hospital, where Parris learned that more arteries were blocked and she would need open heart surgery. Surgeons also needed to fix a blockage in her carotid artery.

“At first, I had a lot of fear and anxiety. I had some anger. But I also had hope that everything would go away and I’d be better.”

Stories of women such as Parris who have suffered from heart disease are a primary reason that Lexington Medical Center is focusing on educating women about their hearts in 2015.

Parris attended cardiac rehabilitation at Lexington Medical Center Lexington. She’s recovering from her bypass surgery and getting stronger every day.

For women like her, she has advice. “Be aware of what’s around you to be healthy. You can say every day that you’re going to quit smoking or eat right – but you have to commit to it.”

She also turns to her faith. Her late father was a pastor at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church in Lexington, where Parris grew up, graduating from Lexington High School.

“You ask yourself, ‘Why me, God? Why did you put this in my life?’ And for the first time in my life, I can finally say that I know why this experience has happened. It’s my calling to go around and make women more aware about heart health.”

She adds that her 8-year-old daughter asked her if what she had was contagious. She told her “No,” but that it can be hereditary. So, she’s working to get her family on a healthy path, too.

“I have two beautiful children. This is my third chance at life. I want to do it right this time.”

Father’s Heart Attack Is A Wake-up Call

In March, things turned upside down for Paul Shealy.

It was 4:30 a.m., and he was wide awake. Something about his heart just wasn’t right.

After a few regular beats, his heart felt like it paused–and then it began beating really hard, “like it was trying to start over,” Paul said. “I didn’t feel pain, and I wasn’t nervous, but I knew it was wrong.”

Paul Shealy, his wife Heather and their three children: Connor; 13; Braydon, 11; and Trisleigh, 7.

Paul walked around his house and got a drink of water, trying to work it out. After about 30 minutes, he woke up his wife and told her they should call an ambulance.

Paul was just 42 years old. He’s married to his high school sweetheart and they have three young children.

Paul had no family history of heart disease. But just a few months earlier, he had consulted with a doctor who urged him to quit using smokeless tobacco and to start taking medicine to control his high blood pressure. Paul took the medicine—at first.

“The side effects made me feel awful,” he said. “I’d go back to the doctor to have the medication adjusted, but after awhile I felt like I couldn’t go to the doctor again and say, ‘I need you to fix this medicine.’”

Paul did stop using smokeless tobacco, thinking that would be enough to improve his blood pressure.

After several check ups, Paul stopped seeing the doctor and stopped taking the medicine. He thought he had done enough to improve his blood pressure by quitting smokeless tobacco.

Paul isn’t alone. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure – also called hypertension — can damage the heart and arteries. Nearly half of Americans with high blood pressure don’t have it under control.

Dr. Mitchell Jacocks

“Unfortunately, hypertension doesn’t cause symptoms, and sometimes the treatment can produce side effects and make patients question whether it’s worthwhile to take the medication they’re prescribed to control it,” said Mitchell W. Jacocks, MD, of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“Paul felt fine, and at his age, he probably felt like ‘nothing can happen to me.’ It’s a common misconception and unfortunately, can lead to dire consequences,” Dr. Jacocks said.

When Paul arrived at Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department, clinicians confirmed his blood pressure was very high. Medication failed to bring his blood pressure under control, so clinicians admitted him to the hospital where tests confirmed that one of Paul’s arteries was seriously blocked. In the cardiac catheterization lab, doctors with
Lexington Cardiology inserted a stent in the artery to restore the normal flow of blood. Paul stayed in the hospital for five days.

Today, Paul takes a new blood pressure medicine and follows up with Dr. Jacocks regularly.

According to Dr. Jacocks, Paul is now a model patient. “There are few things that motivate a person like a cardiac event. Sometimes it’s the wakeup call people need to get them to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Jacocks.

Looking back, Paul recognizes the warning signs he ignored—when climbing a flight of stairs seemed to take his breath away, or when his wife noticed he was more tired, and how his breathing at night wasn’t right.

Dr. Jacocks said patients often ignore symptoms or put off treatment that could save their lives. “It’s important to listen to your loved ones,” he said. “They may notice something that you may not notice or be denying that could be signs of potential problems.”

“I completely learned my lesson,” Paul said. “It’s my responsibility, as a father, to be here. Now I take responsibility for my own health.”

Know the Symptoms of A Heart Attack

Radio Host’s Prompt Response Saves His Life

Brent Johnson’s name may be familiar. And you’ve likely heard his voice. The Columbia man co-hosts the morning radio show on B106.7 and calls plays during University of South Carolina football games on the Gamecock Radio Network.

But his best work in 2016 didn’t involve lively repartee on the morning airwaves or thrilling play-by-play Gamecock broadcasts. It was paying attention to his heart.

The award-winning radio personality tends to ignore things like occasional cold symptoms. “I’m a walk-it-off kind of guy,” he said. “But I knew something wasn’t right.”

It was Memorial Day, and Johnson came home after a work day that started at 5:00 a.m. A new kind of pain had his full attention.

“Not only was I having pain and tightness in my chest, I felt like someone was pushing on my chest from behind — the pain was coming through my back,” he said. “I had numbness in my shoulder that didn’t feel right to me.”

Brent told his wife. “She knew something was up when I said ‘I really feel like I have to go to the emergency room.’”

She took him to Lexington Medical Center immediately.

“As a broadcaster, I’m involved with a lot of public awareness campaigns, including heart month. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t go to the hospital, with as many times as I’ve said over the years, ‘If you have heart pain, don’t take any chances.’”

At Lexington Medical Center, Brent immediately went to an exam room for an electrocardiogram to check for problems with electrical activity in the heart. But the report said his heart was normal and healthy.

“I was still in pain,” he said. “They didn’t let me go home.” Further testing, including a cardiac catheterization, revealed a clogged artery.

R. Taylor Williams, MD, FACC

“The staff made me feel confident, not panicked. They consulted with my other doctors on my medications. And when they say ‘You need a heart catheterization,’ they’ll tell you how fast you’ll be in and out. They really know what they’re doing.”

Cardiac catheterization involves threading a long, thin tube through the blood vessels to the heart. It can both diagnose and treat heart problems. Johnson’s procedure indicated he had suffered a heart attack. An artery at the back of the heart was blocked completely, explaining his mysterious back pain. The team used a stent — a tube-shaped device that opens the artery —to allow blood to circulate again.

“Brent had no major risk factors for coronary artery disease, yet he was appropriately concerned enough to go to the Emergency department when he developed symptoms that suggested a heart problem,” said R. Taylor Williams, MD, FACC, of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Dr. Williams performed the stent procedure. “Brent deserves the credit for the good outcome.”

Brent was back at the microphone within a week. He takes medicine to prevent another blockage, and says he’s doing great.

“I have a family history of heart disease, but my heart has always been healthy. My vitals were fine — no high blood pressure — and I’ve always had a good stress test,” he said. “I didn’t have a reason to suspect heart problems.”

His intuition helped save his life.

To test your knowledge of heart attack symptoms, take a quiz at LexMed.com/Know