Cristina's Heart Scar, Chapter 3: The First Heart Attack, Part 2

When I woke up that following morning, I was thankfully feeling a little better. My chest still hurt, but the nausea was gone. It was Friday, so I got out of bed, took two more Advil and got ready to go to work. I thought to myself, “If I could work through yesterday’s horrific pain, I can certainly work through today’s.”

I even walked to Starbucks and got myself a Chai latte and a scone for breakfast, thinking I was feeling good enough to eat. I wasn’t able to finish either, but I did get a few sips and nibbles in, which was an improvement from the day before. I took yet another taxi to work, and braced myself to get through another painful day.

Truthfully, that Friday at work was a breeze compared to the day before. I was taking Advil every few hours to dull the pain in my chest. I was texting my mom constant updates on how I was feeling, “So tired, but better. I think.” I was even going back and forth with Lizzie about whether I’d be able to make it to a charity event we had that night. (It was the Project Renewal Fall Ball, I actually found the old invitation, ha.) In my mind, the worst of the “virus” was over and now I just had to recover. I finished the rest of that work day without any memorable incidents, I may have even taken the subway back home.

By the time I got to the apartment, I was exhausted. Completely drained of every ounce of energy. I decided to put on sweatpants and lie down for a bit. Ridiculously enough, I thought that if I felt better after resting I could still go to the party. Crazy, I know. But I was just so excited to dress up for a fancy evening, plus we had already bought our tickets which weren’t cheap.

By the time we were supposed to leave to meet up with friends, I was still in sweatpants and lying in bed. All decked out and ready to go, Lizzie peeked her head in my room, took one look at me and said, “Still feeling bad, babe?”

“Ugh, I don’t know. I’m just so tired and my chest still really hurts. I bet I have pneumonia. My mom thinks I should go to the ER,” I responded.

(I had pneumonia once when I was in high school after a bad virus, and I remember feeling incredibly sick, tired and having really sharp pain in my chest. Still, the fact that I jumped to pneumonia instead of something heart related escapes me. The only explanation is that the symptoms just didn’t feel like what I expected a heart attack to feel like.)

“Seriously? You think you have pneumonia?! Come on, let’s go to the hospital now.” 

Luckily there was a hospital right down the street from our apartment, so I grabbed my phone and wallet, and the two of us walked over to the ER. Lizzie in her cocktail dress and me in my oversized sweatpants and hoodie.

When we walked through the door Lizzie found us some seats, and I went to the reception to check-in. I can’t remember the exact wording, but right next to the front desk was a sign that said something along the lines of: “If you are experiencing chest pain, notify the front desk immediately.” I knew reading it that it was meant for heart attack patients, and even then nothing registered. When I got to the desk to check in I said, “My chest really hurts, and I’m feeling sick. I think I have pneumonia.”

The receptionist looked at me, took my name and info, and told me to wait until the doctors were ready to see me. We waited for almost an hour. By the time we got in I was feeling terrible. 

Eventually a doctor came to see me, and I explained what I had been feeling, and that I thought I had pneumonia. He ordered the usual vital tests, including a blood test and an x-ray to look at my lungs. Lizzie and I walked over the x-ray area to wait for my test. I was so tired at that point, I remember resting my head on Lizzie’s shoulder while we waited for the exam. It was approaching 9:00pm.

“Lizzie, you should go to the party. You can still make it for most of the night, plus I’m sure once they see the pneumonia in my lungs they’ll give me medicine so I can just go home,” I felt bad about ruining the whole night. 

We decided that Lizzie would text another friend of ours, Sarah, to see if she could come stay with me for the rest of the hospital visit. And Lizzie would go to the event and represent the two of us.  

“Of course, be there ASAP,” Sarah generously texted back. She had to come to the hospital from all the way downtown on a Friday night, not a fun commute.

(Quick side note: Throughout all of this I can only think how lucky I am to have the best friends and family in the world!)

By the time Sarah got to the hospital, I was done with my x-ray and blood test and back in the hospital bed. Lizzie hugged me goodbye, and Sarah took over watch duty. As I was catching her up on the past couple of days, a doctor came in with my test results.

He first looked at my x-ray and told me that my lungs looked perfectly clear. My personal diagnosis was wrong, I did not have pneumonia. Then he got to my blood work.

He looked up at me with a strange face, “How old are you?” He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than I was. 

“Twenty-four,” I answered timidly.

“Do you workout?” he asked.

“Yeah, almost every day. I run, do yoga, spin, dance…,” I continued.

“Do you eat well?” He was starting to look really puzzled at this point.

“I mean, I eat a lot of pasta and hamburgers. But I eat fruits and vegetables too.”

“I don’t get it. You’re this young, thin, fit girl. This doesn’t make sense…” he was mostly talking to himself at this point, and I was starting to get nervous.

“What doesn’t make sense?” Both Sarah and I begged him to explain.

He walked closer to my hospital bed and looked me in the eye, “I’m looking at your blood results right now. Your Troponin levels are extremely high.”

“What’s Troponin?” Sarah asked.

“Troponin is a protein that’s released when a patient has a heart attack,” he explained. “According to these results you are having a heart attack.”

“WHAT!?” I actually started laughing. “There’s no way I’m having a heart attack. I workout. I’m only twenty-four! A heart attack for two days? I’ve been feeling this way for two days!”

“I know. It doesn’t make any sense,” he was calm but definitely looked concerned. “We’re going to need to need to get a better look at your heart.”

Suddenly, before I could even process, there were half a dozen people in the room. I looked up at Sarah, “I think it’s time to call my parents.”

xo Cristina