Have you ever had to make this decision? I was faced with this very same dilemma one night when I was at work several years ago. I was accustomed to working the very long night shifts from 6pm to 6am by myself. But this night was different.
I was sitting at my desk as usual and it was about 2 o’clock in the morning, when I started to feel chest pains. At first it was just a little bit of a pain just above the abdomen, and I thought I must have pulled a muscle from working out earlier in the day.
I didn’t want to wait too long, in case it was a heart attack, but I also didn’t want to bother anyone if it wasn’t. Here is the most interesting part of it all, I WAS 911. I was on duty that night by myself as always with two officers out on the street. So I had to decide what I was going to do pretty quickly. I couldn’t just keep questioning whether it was a heart attack or not. I had a responsibility to the community I served. I had to make sure I had someone in here to take my place before I could leave.
If a person was calling me on the 911 system, I would have certainly acted swiftly without any doubt. Why was I hesitating? Because, that is what most women do? We minimize our symptoms because as we reach middle age, we reach middle age; we usually have primary responsibility for the well being of several generations within our families.
We feel obligated and believe we just can’t afford to take the time to tend to ourselves. We may not admit to anything significant when it points to our physical limitations or health, so we simply “tough it out” most of the time. Here I was the victim and I was concerned about the community.
I thought to myself, I couldn’t be having a heart attack; my pain was directly in the mid point below my chest. But I knew I couldn’t wait any longer so my first course of action was to call my sergeant and ask him to come to the station and then I picked up the phone and I called the private line to the fire house.
After I made those calls, the minutes passed very quickly. I tried to get help without calling out the whole fire department, but that didn’t work. I had to page it out because it was a volunteer fire department except for the paramedics on duty and we always have to have backup and extra personnel come in.
The paramedics didn’t mess around, I was hooked up to all sorts of things and off we went eventually. Another interesting piece of the story was my partner was on duty that night and one of the paramedics that had to attend to me. What started out as a long, slow night shift, ended abruptly with a couple hours off early and a free ride to the hospital.
After many test, a visit to the cardiologist and a lot of worrying, everything turned out for the better. No, I didn’t have a heart attack. I had esophageal spasms with the pain of what I could only imagine and describe as what a heart attack would have felt like.
Women and men experience symptoms differently. Since the women’s symptoms are not as text book as the men’s, it poses a hazard because more women are dying from heart disease. Women are more likely than men to have “silent” heart attacks without any acute symptoms at all and only diagnosed later after subsequent cardiac symptoms occur.
According to the National Institute of Health; many women will report they had a hot, burning sensation or tenderness to the touch in the back, shoulders, arms or jaw with no actual chest discomfort at all.
NIH also reports that women had symptoms a month or more before the actual heart attack event, here are some stats reported from women;
• 70% unusual fatigue
• 48% sleep disturbances
• 42% shortness of breath
• 39% indigestion
• 35% anxiety
I have found by talking with women and my clients that their expectations for how well they ought to feel as they get older are much different than men and most women would regard the above symptoms as a normal part of aging.
We may not believe the symptoms are urgent enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, let alone to call 911. Many worry their symptoms are not real.
It’s a conundrum that has frustrated health experts for years; 9 times out of 10, heart disease is preventable, yet it’s still the #1 cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
Ladies, call 911 if you experience; pain, pressure, burning, squeezing, shortness of breath, palpitations or any of the above already mentioned symptoms. Bottom line = listen to your body, it is best to get the checked out instead of checking out.
A nurses’ health study says when women went from zero activity to just 1 hour a week of activity, it reduced heart disease by almost half.
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