An ER nurse’s description of a heart attack



Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart attack? For example, women typically don’t undergo the “as seen on TV” version of a cardiac arrest (you know: the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, the dropping to the floor…).

Here is a story, sent in by a Scrubs reader, of one nurse’s experience with a heart attack.*

I had a completely unexpected heart attack at about 10:30 p.m. one night with NO prior exertion and NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on.

I was sitting all snugly and warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, “Ahhh, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy La-Z-Boy with my feet propped up.”

A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly, and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation—the only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5 p.m.

After that had seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hindsight, it was probably my aorta spasming), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR). This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws.

AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening—we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven’t we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, “Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack!”

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