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Sue Palmer (Facebook)

Silent killer

Doctor stopped woman’s severe heart attack as it was happening

By WITW Staff on March 9, 2016

In a chilling essay for The Washington Post, Sue Palmer recounts a harrowing brush with death she had just a little more than a year ago. Sue, a longtime prosecutor in Nashville who was 46 years old at the time, writes of abruptly awaking early on the morning of January 13, 2015. “Hmm, this is weird,” she recalls having thought to herself. “I feel kind of funny.” Less than a minute later, Sue writes, she was violently throwing up in her bathroom. She returned to bed, but a few moments later, was back in the bathroom vomiting again. Thinking that she was coming down with a virus, Sue got back in bed and decided to go back to sleep. But her husband, Tim, recognizing that she looked pale and her skin felt cold and clammy, thought something ominous was happening. He suggested a trip to the emergency room — an idea that made her laugh. She asked why, though, and he surmised that she could be having a heart attack.

At the ER, Sue was given an EKG that the doctor said was a bit “abnormal. Still, the doctor doubted a heart attack was the cause. As doctors were examining her, she realized she was feeling quite good. She was asked a series of questions. “Nope, I don’t have chest pain. Nope, I don’t smoke,” she writes, recalling how the Q&A unfolded. “Nope, my cholesterol is normal. Nope, I don’t have any history of heart problems in my family. I exercise regularly. I eat well. I have never had a surgery or even been seriously ill. Gee, I have never even had an IV. I’m super healthy. He commented that I look healthy, am not overweight, in good shape.” And that’s why what happened to her was so scary. Sue was given another EKG and suddenly, doctors sprang into action and whisked her away to an operating room. She barely had time to get a kiss goodbye from Tim. It turned out she was having a major heart attack and time was of the essence. An interventional cardiologist came in and performed an emergency surgery that Sue says stopped the heart attack “in its tracks.” Amazingly, Sue is healthy today, almost as though she never had the heart attack. In her piece, she goes on to explain she experienced the symptoms she did — rather than traditional heart attack symptoms — and how the cardiologist managed to save her life. She also credits Tim with saving her life, because doctors said that had she gone back to sleep as she wanted to, she would’ve certainly died.

Read the full essay at The Washington Post.


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