My Heart Attack  Was Silent

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August 11, 2006
"I Had a Silent Heart Attack"
By Elizabeth Garrett

"You know how in life, there is a saying that the squeaky wheel
gets all the oil.  That was what I thought. That the loud people
in the room, the loud sounds are the ones that matter. The loud
voices are the ones to listen to.  Now, after what happened to
me, I no longer just hear the loud voices. Now I hear also listen
to those who whisper.

'I was a nurse at a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. I had
always been overweight. All my life, people would say of me,
"Liz is so pretty " but their eyes would share a rebuke "too bad
she is so fat".

Still, I usually had a big smile and a laugh for everyone I met.
When the floor nurse needed someone to work with a difficult
patient, she always sent me.  I never said no. I liked being the
one who could be relied upon.  

So, one day, when the floor nurse needed someone to talk to a
man named Mr. Carter, she called for me. He was in recovery for
prostate surgery, and he wouldn't eat.  She called for me.  It
was nothing unusual. Nothing I had not done a thousand times

But as I hurried  down the white linoleum hallways, I remember
thinking, "I feel tired today".

When I got to Mr. Carter, I talked to him. People are always
telling me my voice is musical. I guess I do know how to talk to
people. After about 10 minutes of talking about his life and how
he was feeling, Mr.Carter decided he would try his dinner.  I felt
good about doing my job.  

I turned away from Mr. Carter to go back to tell the floor nurse
when I felt a little weak. That's all. I told myself, "Girl, you need
to lose some weight."  I  sat back down on the edge of Mr.
Carter's bed.  I sat there for what seemed like only a minute or
two. But when I looked at my watch, 15 minutes had passed.  

Mr. Carter asked me if something was wrong.  I told him no, but
I was just a little tired.  Then, after about 3 minutes more, I got
up and left.  

I went on doing my job for the rest of the shift. I get off at 11
PM.  I went to the garage level 3 where I always park. When I
got in my car, I felt suddenly tired again.  Like I hadn't slept in a
while. But that was the thing, I always sleep pretty well. I had
not lost any sleep lately.

The next two days I felt myself again. On Saturday, when I was
due to work a late shift for a co-worker who had called off, I
dressed around 10PM to get there by 11.  Then
BAM! A horrible
shooting pain in my back in the middle. It was not in my chest.  
But there was something different about the pain that made me
reach for the phone. Not to call 911. But to call my daughter
who lives in Texas.  I told her my back hurt and she asked me
what I had lifted. I couldn't remember lifting anything. My
daughter is detail-oriented. She has a habit of scribbling down
as she listens and I could tell she was taking notes.  I told her
about feeling tired 3 days before, about sitting down at the foot
of Mr._Carter's be. And that was the last thing I remember.

My daughter says that I suddenly passed out. She called 911.
They routed her to 911 Kansas City. She gave them my address.
The ER broke down the front door, and because of my weight,
they tell me that 3 men had to lift me onto the gurney and into
the ambulance.

When I awoke with IV's in my arm, the Doctor told me I had
had a heart attack.  In fact, he told me I had had
2 heart
attacks. The first one, the one I should have acted upon
immediately had happened 3 days before the one that finally
knocked me out.

The first one was a Silent Heart Attack.  That is what they call it.
A Silent Heart Attack.

I am writing this because I was a nurse and I didn't know that
people could have heart attacks and not even know it. I know
that if I didn't know, a lot of people out there may not know
either.  Heart attacks do not always knock you out. But they are
just as damaging to your heart. Heart attacks always kill some
tissue in your heart. The heart does not get enough oxygen due
to some blockage and part of it dies.

I just wish that I had taken better care of myself. That all those
years I was running around for other people, that I had just
taken some time to run around for me.

Please go see a doctor if you feel something is wrong. Don't
self-diagnose. I should have known that I was just not feeling
tired. I was 54 at the time. I had been tired of course at other
times in my life. But here was the CLUE.
I had never, ever, ever
been so tired that I had to SIT DOWN AT THE FOOT OF A

Looking back on it, I feel stupid. I should have been more
self-aware.  So, please, you be more self-aware. You may only
get one clue. One small clue. One chance. If a pain is making you
do something you have never done before in your life--even
something minor like sitting down on a patient's bed--listen to
your intuition. Go get yourself checked out. We always think we
know what something will feel like before it happens. We think
that if our body is having a heart attack, that it will SCREAM it to
us. But that's not true. The word my not come to us in a
SCREAM.  It may come in a whisper.   Listen to that clue. Listen
to that whisper.  It could be the last whisper you ignore."

You're just getting started. Read other tell-tale clues of an
impending heart attack that many people miss :
My Heart Attack
At Age 30 / My Heart Attack-Index of Personal Stories  / Ideal
Breakfast for Heart Health
Are you a heart attack survivor? Help others by sharing your
story: Send it to
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What Are the "Classic Symptoms" of a
Heart Attack for Men and Women?

Almost everyone has seen the
Hollywood version of a classic heart
attack. We expect to see Fred Sanford
(remember "Sanford & Son?) grabbing
his chest, staggering with a wrenched
look on his face, yelling "It's the Big

But, it turns out, what a heart attack
looks like to others, and feels like to
you, may be very different.

Here are the symptons the American
Heart Association says you should look
out for:

Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and
intense — the "movie heart attack,"
where no one doubts what's happening.
But most heart attacks start slowly, with
mild pain or discomfort. Often people
affected aren't sure what's wrong and
wait too long before getting help. Here
are signs that can mean a heart attack
is happening:
•        Chest discomfort. Most heart
attacks involve discomfort in the center
of the chest that lasts more than a few
minutes, or that goes away and comes
back. It can feel like uncomfortable
pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.   
•        Discomfort in other areas of the
upper body. Symptoms can include
pain or discomfort in one or both arms,
the back, neck, jaw or stomach.    
•        Shortness of breath with or
without chest discomfort.   
•        Other signs may include breaking
out in a cold sweat, nausea or

As with men, women's most common
heart attack symptom is chest pain or
discomfort. But women are somewhat
more likely than men to experience
some of the other common symptoms,
particularly shortness of breath,
nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this:
Even if you're not sure it's a heart
attack, have it checked out. Minutes
matter! Fast action can save lives —
maybe your own. Don’t wait more than
five minutes to call 9-1-1.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the
fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.
Emergency medical services staff can
begin treatment when they arrive — up
to an hour sooner than if someone gets
to the hospital by car. The staff are also
trained to revive someone whose heart
has stopped. Patients with chest pain
who arrive by ambulance usually
receive faster treatment at the hospital,
If you can't access the emergency
medical services (EMS), have someone
drive you to the hospital right away. If
you're the one having symptoms, don't
drive yourself, unless you have
absolutely no other option.
Source: American Heart Association

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