They say women are more complicated than men in terms of emotional and intellectual ways. We're over thinkers and obsess more than the average guy. But we're also more complicated in other ways, especially when it comes to a heart attack. For men, they get a chest pain. Bam! Heart attack. Simple. Easy to diagnose. For women, they can have a slight back pain, and that'll be the indicator of a heart attack. It's known as the "silent killer". We also get various other signs: jaw pain, chest pain that radiates in one or both arms and even good ol' heartburn. There's another ailment that plagues many hypochondriacs such as myself like costochondritis, which is an inflammation of a rib or the cartilage connecting a rib. It is a common cause of chest pain. I get this a lot, especially if I sleep on my left side at night. This pain is a sharp stab, usually in the upper left pectoral muscle which periodically hits a nerve that leads right down my arm into my left hand. Signs of….a…..? So needless to say I have had my share of hospital visits and have stayed overnight due to these symptoms. I just can't get out of my head this one triage nurse who was going to take me into one of the rooms in the ER. As she left, she said to the security guard, "Oh can you stick around here in case anyone comes in with a fake heart attack?" Luckily, I was there for signs of appendicitis. I'm just one hot mess. But the sign of appendicitis is excruciating pain from the belly button that travels to the lower right. Had it. Didn't chance it.
The sign of a heart attack for a woman is this: NOTHING. I say that sarcastically because I see so many "women's heart awareness" bullshit flying around telling women to 'look for the signs'. Signs of what? Heartburn? Muscle ache? Nerve pain? And even carpal tunnel can cause these like symptoms. Every time I ask a nurse how can we differentiate the sign of a heart attack oppose to the million and one other symptoms, they have no answer except, "When in doubt, check it out." Fair enough. But don't bitch and moan when you have a gazillion women in your emergency waiting room holding their chests saying their last prayers while you're secretly calling it a "fake heart attack". I cannot stand insincere nurses who have the thousand yard stare who has seen it all and knows that without a doubt, this chick is a hypochondriac. There are stories where people have gone to the ER with heart attack symptoms, hooked them up to an EKG and said, "Nah, it's nothing." Then they went home to have a massive heart attack and died. Lovely story for your Sunday afternoon, hub?
So last night, the pain in my chest was so horrible that I couldn't stop hunching over in pain. It radiated down my left arm and my hands were clammy (yet another sign). The pain got to be so severe that even Madelene was concerned. I said, "You know it's probably my carpal tunnel or some sort of nerve or that costochondritis thing." But another cause of this pain could be a pulmonary thing which is another scare tactic in my brain. Mad called the ambulance and they came right over within minutes, checked my vitals and hooked me up to a portable EKG machine. Instant ER right in my house. Now these guys have seen heart attacks more than the average person so they kind of know if you're having one or not. The guy looked at me and said, "I can't tell you what to do, but your heart seems to be okay by looking at the EKG and your vitals. Do you want us to take you?" He gave me a look like, "You're okay," but I was confused. He ruled out pulmonary which eased my mind. As we were walking outside so I can sign the papers letting them know that I didn't want to go to the ER with them, he hugged me and said, "I was the one who took your dad out of the house for the last time. You're probably having grievance pain. It's very common, especially around the holidays." After he said that, the pain disappeared. I had no more symptoms. I was stressed out so much this past week that I felt like I was gonna explode. Then he said to me, "Go inside and pour yourself a little scotch," as he chuckled and gave me another hug. He was the most compassionate EMT volunteer I have ever met….and I've met a lot of them.
I guess my point is, if it makes you feel better to get your chest pain checked out, DO IT. It'll give you peace of mind. But my advice is, if you can recreate the pain by pressing on your chest, then it's a usually skeletal/muscular strain. Take 2 Advils if the pain is recreated and see if it goes away within an hour or so. During the holidays, expect these symptoms much more than other times of the year. I'm going to go meditate and then grab a glass of red wine…because you know, it's good for the heart.
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