Heart disease is the number one killer of American women.
It’s often referred to as the “silent killer,” as many women confuse their signs and symptoms for other health issues. That’s what happened to Susan Dietz. She had a number of changes happening to her body but always thought it was menopause or just getting older. However, in 2018, her so-called nagging symptoms became all too real. Intense pain finally forced her to go to the emergency room, where she learned for the first time she was having a heart attack.
The days that followed forever changed Susan’s life. Here, she shares her personal story in hopes of helping other women realize they need to take symptoms seriously, and they need to make time to care for themselves. Susan wants her story to save lives.
I never could have imagined how my life would change forever so suddenly. In 2018, during the early morning hours, I woke up with sharp stabbing pains between my shoulder blades. It felt like intense heartburn, so I rushed to take antacids to relieve the pain. The pain only got worse, and I became nauseous. I began sweating and vomiting. I knew something was really wrong when I could not stand up. The only thing I knew to do was pray for strength and protection. My prayers were heard, and I was able to get up and splash water on my face. Finally, I decided to go to the emergency room, convinced I was having a gallbladder attack.
When I arrived at the hospital, nurses recognized my symptoms and started treating the actual cause of my pain – a heart attack. I couldn’t believe it. These weren’t the symptoms I had always heard about. There was no heaviness in my chest; my left arm was not numb. I never felt any pain in my chest at all, and I did not struggle to breathe. My cardiologist confirmed it was a textbook case for a female heart attack.
I learned that I had two major blockages – one was 100% and the other at 90% in the artery commonly referred to as the “widow maker.” I received two stints and the biggest wake-up call of my life. My family genetics and lifestyle factors had finally caught up with me.
I spent four days in the hospital with a medical team that was a godsend. They saved my life! Not only did my team of dedicated specialists care for me, but they also worked to educate me. I’ve been on a long journey and made major lifestyle changes. My heart attack has taught me to make time to care for myself first so that I can help take care of others.
Without the wonderful medical team that worked so hard with me, the support and encouragement from the staff at the American Heart Association, and my amazing family and friends, all of whom walked this journey with me, I would not be here today. They all help remind me that despite my heart disease, coronary artery disease, and diabetes, I am not a quitter, and I can fight this war and come out on top! I am a survivor!