Kristine Fraley didn’t think she was at risk for a heart attack. She was only 48 years old and her parents and grandparents did not have heart disease. She had recently lost 50 pounds and was able to stop taking medication for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes since her numbers had returned to normal. Then, on April 20, 2016, she felt chest pain while at her granddaughter’s birthday party.
“It happened quickly without any warning signs,” said Fraley. “I suddenly had chest pain and the room began to spin. Thanks to the quick actions of my family, the ambulance staff, Moundview Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department and UW Hospital, I am still alive today.”
Fraley recalls chewing aspirin before the ambulance arrived, but doesn’t remember much more. She later learned that time is of the essence when someone is having a heart attack. Moundview’s emergency department acted quickly, performing an EKG (a test that measures the heart’s electrical activity) shortly after her arrival and administering clot busting medication to prevent further heart damage. Once she was stabilized, she was flown by helicopter to UW Hospital where she underwent surgery for a 99.9% blockage in one of her arteries.
Ironically, Fraley had lost her husband to a heart attack about one year earlier. His death is what led her to lose weight to make sure she did not suffer the same fate.
“Despite all the changes I had made in my life I still suffered a heart attack,” said Fraley. “At first I was angry. But, this has been a learning experience. The cardiologist said the stress of losing my husband played a role in my heart attack in addition to any heart damage that may have occurred before I made lifestyle changes to improve my health. I’m also a smoker which added to my risk.”
Beata Bednarska, MD, family practitioner at Moundview’s Family Clinic in Friendship, recommends that adults get a health check-up, including screenings, at least once a year to learn if they are at risk for heart disease. “Your healthcare provider can check for conditions that put you at risk such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes,” said Dr. Bednarska. “They can also discuss your family’s health history and any lifestyle and stress factors that may impact your health.”
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person. Common symptoms include: chest pain or discomfort (such as tightness, pressure, or fullness); difficulty breathing; pain radiating to the shoulders, arms or jaw; nausea or heartburn; cold sweats; dizziness or light-headedness; and unusual fatigue.
“If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1- immediately,” said Lisa Massen, RN, emergency department manager at Moundview. “It can mean the difference between life and death.”
“Moundview is committed to providing exceptional emergency care,” said Don Heinz, CEO. “We provide 100% of our cardiac patients with aspirin upon their arrival in the emergency room which is higher than state and national levels of 98% and 96%. We consistently meet or exceed the national cardiac care standards of performing an EKG within ten minutes of the patient’s emergency room arrival and administering clot busting drugs within 30 minutes. Our staff work closely with the cardiology and emergency staff at tertiary hospitals to get patients the care they need in a timely manner. When patients are discharged following their heart procedure at the tertiary hospital, their follow up care can be received at Moundview including appointments with a specialty clinic cardiologist, diagnostic tests and cardiac rehabilitation.”
“The emergency room staff at Moundview know what they are doing,” said Fraley. “Their quick actions helped save my life. I want people to learn from my experience. Do what you can to minimize stress, live a healthy lifestyle and listen to your body. If you think something is wrong, go to the doctor.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The month of February is American Heart Month, an opportunity for individuals to learn more about heart disease including prevention, risk factors, symptoms and the level of care available locally. For more information on heart disease and hospital services, visit Moundview Memorial Hospital & Clinic’s website at moundview.org. To schedule an annual physical at Moundview, call the Friendship Clinic at (608) 339-6350 or Westfield Clinic at (608) 296-6350.