When Monica Hopkins, 69, began feeling breathless and experiencing pain
that radiated through her back and neck, she thought it was due to the
stress in her life. She had been caring for her husband who had recently
been involved in a motorcycle accident. Caring for him was her focus and
she was determined to offer her support despite her pain and fatigue.
But even as he recovered from his injuries, she continued to feel badly.
Since her symptoms diminished with rest, she expected to get over it soon.
Monica and her husband had always been adventurous, traveling and riding
bikes through the mountains. Finally, after an ordinary day of raking
leaves, she woke up the next morning with severe pain that demanded her
attention. This time she decided to visit Catawba Valley Medical Center’s
emergency department. She wouldn’t have waited so long, but she
had flashbacks of a previous visit to another hospital’s ER 15 years
prior where physicians did not take her condition seriously.
She had a very different experience at CVMC. When she told the nurse about
her symptoms, she was immediately wheeled into an exam room where the
ER team took her vitals and ran an electrocardiogram (EKG). Everything
looked normal, but ER physician Dr. Timothy Sullivan was not satisfied.
He is very familiar with the signs of a heart attack in women, which can
differ significantly from those in men. After another EKG and a blood
test, the team learned she was in fact having a heart attack. Cardiologist
Dr. James Ritter discovered Monica had a 90 percent blockage in two arteries
and placed stents in her heart to open up the vessels.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would not have waited so long
to seek treatment,” said Monica. “If Dr. Sullivan and Dr.
Ritter had not taken my symptoms seriously and been as thorough as they
were, I’m not sure I would be here today. The entire team at Catawba
treated my situation with urgency. They are a big reason why my heart
did not suffer permanent damage.”
Following surgery, her primary care physician, Dr. David Peltzer, encouraged
her to go to CVMC’s cardiac rehab three times a week. “I was
scared to go at first,” she explained, “because I thought
maybe my heart wouldn’t be able to handle the exercise.” But
now she laughingly shares that she “feels 10 pounds lighter and
10 years younger.”
What began as a stressful and frightening experience became the beginning
of a new chapter in Monica’s life. She had helped her husband recover
from his accident and found healing for her heart thanks to the healthcare
team at CVMC. Together they can now look forward to experiencing new adventures.
When a heart attack strikes, every minute matters. In fact, the first few
minutes are critical in determining a patient’s short-term and long-term
outcome. CVMC’s Heart Center is prepared with 24/7 interventional
cardiology in partnership with an experienced network of cardiologists,
specialists and cardiovascular providers at
Catawba Valley Cardiology. We invite you to learn more about heart attack symptoms in women