Shelby Edwards was hiking when she started to experience indigestion, right in the middle of her abdomen. Even though there was no pain, the uncomfortable feeling was even worse the next day. The …
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Shelby Edwards was hiking when she started to experience indigestion, right in the middle of her abdomen.
Even though there was no pain, the uncomfortable feeling was even worse the next day. The 64-year-old’s intuition told her something was wrong, and her husband called 911.
By the time the ambulance arrived, she had collapsed.
“The day before we were hiking at Bear Lake, and I picked up a snowball to throw it at my husband. Then I took off running so he wouldn’t hit me with a snowball. Then suddenly, I felt pressure at the top of my stomach. It didn’t feel right so I slowed down running,” said Edwards.
She woke up the next day not feeling well. She went to the restroom and sweat was dripping off her head. She got scared and called her husband, suspecting something was wrong. He called the ambulance; it was the last thing Edwards remembered. She woke up in the hospital.
“Shelby’s heart rate and blood pressure were very low. She wasn’t getting a lot of blood flow to her head at that time. She was dizzy, disoriented’ and feeling weak, very washed out and tired. It all made sense,” said Dr. Chris Cannon.
Cannon, an interventional cardiologist at Platte Valley Medical in Brighton, attached a temporary external pacemaker to Edwards to support her blood pressure and keep sufficient blood flowing to her brain. He then proceeded to operate by opening the right coronary artery – which was 100 percent blocked – and inserting two stents.
The surgery restored Edwards’ blood flow into the artery, and her blood pressure and heart rate recovered. The pacemaker was no longer necessary; three days later, Edwards went home.
Platte Valley nurses and physicians call Edwards “the walking miracle.” Her intuition and unusual symptoms with her body that something was wrong kept her alive. Paying attention to less-than-usual symptoms that could be a sign of a heart attack is very important, they said.
For more than 20 years, Cannon has seen both usual and unusual symptoms. The usual typical symptom are pain in the center of the chest and also towards the left side of the chest. Often, the pain radiates towards the left shoulder or into the left arm down into the elbow area; the pain can be sharp. Also, there is pressure, heaviness such as weight sensation on the chest with shortness of breath, sweating and, sometimes, nausea.
Cannon said women tend to experience unusual symptoms often with pain in the neck and jaw and sometimes in the middle of the back between both shoulders. A heart attack can come with chest pain or without chest pain along with dizziness, shortness of breath and headache.
“With men, traditional symptoms are with chest pain in middle of the chest or the left side and maybe going into that left arm, it’s a more common scenario for men,” said Cannon.
Age, genes and other risks
Cannon said people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s are more prone to heart attacks. It’s rare for patients ages 30s and 40s to have a heart attack, but doctors have seen patients that young.
Prevention is very important by keeping blood pressure under control and maintaining low cholesterol and a well-balanced diet is a key.
“There are also genetic components to high cholesterol as well. (In some cases), their liver produces cholesterol, so it’s not all from what we eat. Some people are genetically programmed to produce a lot of cholesterol; others are not. The people that have a lot of cholesterol production are at high risk,” said Cannon.
People who eat a very poor diet with lots of sugar and fat are also at higher risk. Smoking cigarettes and diabetes are also risk factors.
“Family history are genetic components,” Cannon said. “If you have a strong family history, with parents, brothers or sisters with heart attacks or heart issues, it makes them more likely as well to have a heart attack.”
“The nurses and doctor cared about me,” Edwards said. “If you needed something, they would go out of their way. I was impressed. They treated me well and were excellent.”
She and her husband, Aaron Edwards, were in the Navy. Shelby Edwards worked for the Department of Defense, and Aaron worked on a submarine. After the Navy, they moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, then moved to Colorado Springs and now reside in Fort Lupton. Her husband works as an international trainer for a company in Denver.
Edwards said her husband wrote her a letter after her recovery.
“He said, ‘I know you could get depressed over regulating your blood pressure. I just want to let you know you’re my wife. You’re my partner. You’re my best friend. And I couldn’t imagine life without you. So, rushing you to the emergency room for your blood pressure is no big deal to me because I would rather do that than not have you,’” she said.
Edwards’ goal for the future is to reach everyone’s heart with her dynamic personality.
“I think there’s too much hate and too much judgment in the world. My life’s goal if you save one person’s life, say something kind and just be nice to people,” said Edwards.
If you have concerns about your heart health, call the SCL Health Heart & Vascular Institute at 303-659-7000 to make an appointment with a cardiologist.
If you’re experiencing urgent symptoms, call 911 immediately. Acting fast could save your life.
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