It was May 2011 when registered nurse Angie Vallance experienced intense
dizziness while at work. “I sat down and was talking to my manager,”
she recalls. “All of a sudden, I had this intense dizzy spell.”
It went as quickly as it came, and Angie thought all was OK.
But her colleagues – she works with the heart specialists at King’s
Daughters Cardiology – wouldn’t let it go. They insisted on
checking her blood pressure, which Angie admits was “up a little
bit.” Then they pushed an EKG on her. One of her co-workers “just
stayed on me about it,” Angie recalls.
The EKG was abnormal. Physician assistant J.D. Dalton saw Angie and ordered
a stress test, blood work and an echo of her heart the following week.
“Everything was abnormal,” Angie recalls. Shortly thereafter,
Angie was taken to the cardiac cath lab for treatment. She anticipated
getting a stent or two and being on her way.
That’s not how it turned out.
Angie needed bypass surgery. Cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Fried, M.D.,
was consulted and her surgery scheduled. Following the procedure, Angie
remembers recovering in the CVICU. “Dr. Fried walked by my room
and I held up three fingers,” she said. She wanted to know –
triple bypass? “Dr. Fried held up five fingers.”
All from a dizzy spell. “Looking back on it, I might have had a little
shortness of breath, but it really wasn’t enough to think about,”
Angie said. “I had an excuse for everything. I was older. I’d
put on a little weight. You know.” If not for that dizzy spell at
work – and the insistence of her colleagues that she get checked
out – Angie’s story could have had a very different outcome.
Warning signs of a heart attack vary – and not everyone experiences
all of them. Dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue
are important warning signs in women. Men often experience pain, pressure
or a crushing sensation in the chest. Pain may radiate down one or both arms.
The important thing to remember is to get help immediately if you experience
any of the signs of heart attack. Early intervention can completely change
the outcome – for the better.