I was 44 and healthy when I had a heart attack: what it taught me

After teaching the morning classes at CycleBar, where I have been an instructor for years, I went home in the afternoon and took a nap. Then I went back to the studio to teach my evening classes. For the rest of the day I felt constant pressure in my chest.

The next morning I had no pain. I just felt tired. I decided to take it easy for the next two days, but then returned to teaching on Saturday. In the first hour of the day, I felt an immediate explosion of pain in my chest, as if someone had punched me. Then I realized I couldn’t feel my hand or grab anything – it was completely numb and tingly.

At first I thought my blood sugar was low, so I left class to grab a snack. I barely got a few steps down the hall when I fell. I was shaking, freezing and it was hard to breathe. I couldn’t feel my body.

Luckily there were a lot of people in the studio who saw what happened and I was immediately sent to the hospital. I later learned that I had experienced a “widowmaker’s heart attack,” which happens when you have a blockage in the heart’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery. In my case it was 100% blocked.

Before this event, I have never had any heart problems, and I had no heart attack precursors (hypertension, diabetes, etc.). I was 44 years old, very active and overall healthy. So it was easy to ignore or rationalize any discomfort I felt. However, if I had gone to the doctor on Wednesday when I first experienced symptoms, I wonder if that could have prevented this traumatic health experience.

Regardless, I’m so thankful to be alive and I think my active lifestyle really trained my body for when I needed it the most.

After my heart attack, I spent a few days in cardiac intensive care so the doctors could monitor my heart. When I finally got out of the hospital, I had to wear a vest that acted as a portable defibrillator all day, every day for the next six months. Because my heart attack was so severe, it damaged my heart significantly and I now live with congestive heart failure.

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