My own mother is now part of the group of mothers diagnosed with a cardiac condition. Despite having me as her daughter, and having read my book (granted, she read the Spanish version), she never mentioned to me any of her cardiac symptoms. One day, I called her to see how was she doing and see how her day was going. As we were having this casual conversation, she mentioned that she was experiencing a heavy feeling in the upper part of her stomach. (Big red flag!) I’m not going to tell you how long she was feeling like that because I cannot believe that it took her weeks to let me know that this was going on. Later, I also found out that she was experiencing discomfort in her upper back, which she thought it was “stress.“
Stress? Really, Mom? Stress?
Many of you know that she is not here with me; she lives on the island where I was born. Nevertheless, I made sure that she went to see a cardiologist. He ran a few tests, including a stress test, and they all came back normal. However, understanding that her symptoms were very concerning despite normal test results, and given her risk factors including strong family history for coronary artery disease (her mother and her sister had heart attacks and stents prior to the age of 55) I called her cardiologist and we decided to do an angiogram.
When my mom left the office that day, she left a message in our family chat saying: “I want to let you all know that my tests came back normal; however, since I have a pretty insistent “doctor daughter,” I’m going for an angiogram in two weeks.
Although we were all hoping that her test was going to be normal and we would just have to work with medications, we were also concerned about her health.
On the day of the angiogram, my mom was diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease. The doctor found she had a very significant blockage in one of her arteries, and with the symptoms that she was experiencing, any delay in her care would lead to a heart attack with perhaps permanent damage to her heart if she survived.
When Dad called me to let me know of the results, the first thing I remember was a feeling of gratitude: gratitude for the doctor who took care of her, gratitude that my mom allowed me to guide her, and gratitude for the advances in medicine that allow us to take care of our most precious people and keep them alive and with us.
After letting that sink in, I was also very grateful to have the right preparation to be able to guide her on this journey and give her the right advice. While I thought about that, I also thought about all the mothers who will go to see their doctors or visit a hospital with symptoms of heart disease, but will not be recognized nor treated properly. We all need to know the symptoms, and we all need to know the tests to ask for — not just a few of us; we all need to know.
Mom is doing well. Now our journey is to focus on preventing this condition from taking over her; once you get diagnosed with coronary artery disease, the journey is focusing on secondary prevention, lifestyle changes that will help you prevent future disease. A stent is not a synonym of everything is well; instead it means you have been given a chance, and now we have to work and prevent this disease from reoccurring. #preventthestent #heelsvsties