Cardiac arrest survivor teams up with Coronary nurses to highlight heart attack signs in women

A heart attack and cardiac arrest survivor wants women to be aware of the signs which show their heart might be in trouble.

Tracy Healey is a fit and health 55 year old who eats well, doesn’t smoke and generally leads a healthy lifestyle.

But earlier this year she suffered both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest after not recognising early warnings signs.

Tracy, who lives in Corwen, is now joining cardiac nurses at the North Wales Cardiac Centre to urge other women to keep an eye out for the telltale signs that their health could be in danger.

While both men and women can both experience the same common symptoms when experiencing a heart attack, early indications that you’re unwell tend to be different for each gender.

Tracy said: “I ignored the indigestion type pain that occurred in the night. It was only when the worsening discomfort started to move down one arm, and I awoke feeling very unwell with clammy skin and worsening pains around 4am that I decide to seek medical help and it was a good job I did.”

Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person, and can include chest discomfort or tightness, pain that spreads to left or right arm, neck or jaw, back or stomach, unexplained sweating or shortness of breath.

Only around half of the women who have heart attacks, experience the constrictive chest pain typically associated with a heart attack. Typically, women tend to more commonly experience heartburn-like discomfort, neck or back pain, or nausea.

Tracy said: “I never thought that I would ever have a heart attack at 55, I am generally fit and healthy I don’t smoke and had been out for a nice walk the day before the incident with my family.

“I do have a family history of heart disease but I have never had any symptoms suggesting I had a heart problem until now. I did not have the classic symptoms of a heart attack that you see on TV, like a crushing type chest pain.

“My symptoms were different to that, having a heart attack never crossed my mind. My pain felt like mild indigestion at first, I went to bed but did not sleep for long as the pain got worse and kept waking me up. I began to feel hot and It was only when I started to get an odd discomfort in my arms that I thought something was not right and I’d better seek medical help. I’m still shocked about the whole thing.”

After struggling with the digestive pain she experienced for around four hours, Tracy visited Wrexham Maelor Hospital Emergency Department to seek help.

“On arrival to hospital my chest discomfort got worse, I began to feel generally unwell and this is when my heart stopped beating and I had a cardiac arrest.

“Luckily I was in the emergency department at the time and the staff began CPR. I was then transferred by ambulance to the North Wales Cardiac Centre at Glan Clwyd where I was told that one of my coronary arteries, which is a blood vessel that feeds blood and oxygen to my heart muscle had blocked and was restricting blood flow.

“Thankfully the team at the North Wales Cardiac Centre were quickly able to unblock the coronary artery by inserting a stent through my wrist, allowing blood to flow back to the heart muscle.”

Anne-Marie Angel, Coronary Care Nurse at the North Wales Cardiac Centre, said: “Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person. Common signs include chest discomfort that feels like pressure or tightness, pain that spreads to left or right arm, neck or jaw, back or stomach and some may feel sweaty or short of breath.

“Women are more likely to get symptoms including back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn or nausea. These symptoms are often easy to ignore and are passed off as something else.

“We also know that women may be less likely to seek medical help or treatment despite all the warning signs and this unfortunately can dramatically reduce the chances of survival.

“Luckily Tracy decided to seek medical help in time to receive rapid treatment, which is essential for a good recovery”.

Tracy said: “I am so very grateful to the staff at both Wrexham Maelor, Glan Clwyd Hospital and the North Wales cardiac centre, for the care I have received.

“Everyone has been so reassuring, kind and supportive and I can’t thank them enough.

“If I could send one message out to the public of North Wales, it would be don’t ignore your chest pain like I did, call 999 and get medical help as soon as you can, I almost left it too late.”