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National Women's Health Week - May 8-14, 2011 - It's Your Time! www.womenshealth.gov/whw


My Testimony as a Heart Attack Survivor


In September 1991, at the young age of 34, I was a married mother of three young boys working as a respiratory therapist. It was on a Saturday morning as I was sitting on the top bleacher watching my nine year old son play football.  My husband, James, and other two sons were out on the field.

Suddenly, I started feeling light headed, nauseous; chills, sharp pains, pressure in the middle of my chest and numbness down my left arm. I went through this scenario of events in less than three minutes. While trying to conceive in my mind all that was happening to me, I was maneuvering myself from the top of the bleachers down to the bottom to get my husband’s attention. Even though nauseous and experiencing numbness on my left side, I had to move down fast to keep from throwing up on top of all the moms and dads sitting below me. I made it down uneventfully and my youngest son came running over to me unaware of how sick I was. I asked him to run and get daddy, and when I looked up James was picking me up and carrying me to the van. No, we didn't call 911, which was probably a mistake, but we were 10 minutes from the hospital and we were just moving too fast.

When we arrived in the ambulance section of the emergency room, the medical staff ran out to meet us. My husband said, "My wife is having a heart attack". I repeated, "l am having a heart attack”. Hours later after chest x-rays, EKG's, cardiac enzymes, with chest pain off the chart, the diagnosis that was given to me was, "Paula, you are a 34 year old female. You're not having a heart attack! We believe it’s some type of gastric upset. Here's a prescription for Zantac and please follow up with your Gastroenterologist in the next couple of days.”

A week later I was lying flat on my back with tubes everywhere, in a drug-induced coma, on life support, and chest opened wide. I could hear people running around saying, "We're going to lose her". I had undergone double bypass surgery, six drainage surgeries for cardiac Tampanodes  and a tracheotomy. Every organ in my body had shut down. I had had a massive heart attack.

I know that God had me in the ‘hollow of His hands’. My mind was the only thing working and I can remember crying out to God. Those on the medical staff, who didn't believe in God before, truly believed in HIM after working with me in any capacity. There was no other way! The scenarios of the medical/surgical complications that happened to me within the three months that I was in the hospital could have only been orchestrated by my God Almighty. It's been a long 20 years, but thanks to God I am still here and can share my Testimony with all of you.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. It's my prayer that not another living soul will ever have to go through the ordeal that my family and I had to go through. It was devastating and unnecessary. Because of my age and gender, I was misdiagnosed although I had classic "male" symptoms. With the advancement in medical technology and the awareness that heart disease is not only a man's disease, but is the # 1 killer of women, we can recognize the symptoms that are more likely to be experienced in women and get proper diagnosis and adequate treatment.

Thank you for letting me share my story,

 Paula Upshaw, Laurel Maryland


National Women’s Health Week starts on Mother’s Day. Kicking off on Monday with National Women’s Checkup Day, women are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of themselves. Ladies, this is a great time for you to stop and focus on your own health and well-being. You take care of everyone else, now it’s your time to take care of you. This annual observance is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To find out more about events taking place in your community, please visit:  http://www.womenshealth.gov/whw.

[i] Cardiac tamponade is compression of the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the myocardium (heart muscle) and the pericardium (outer covering sac of the heart). PubMed Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, (2010) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001245