After suffering an extraordinary three heart attacks in three days at the age of 40, a Texas woman is now helping others to recognize the warning signs that she missed. In association with the American Heart Association, Tara Robinson, a teacher and U.S. Army veteran, authored an account of how she almost lost her life by ignoring common but dangerous symptoms to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease among women. She also spoke with Women in the World about her remarkable experience and the state of her health today.
In October 2013, Yahoo News reports, Robinson began experiencing extreme fatigue, left arm numbness, and neck pain — all common symptoms of a heart attack. By Christmas, she was growing concerned. She called her sister Tamika, and told her, “Sis, something is not right. My left arm, neck, and feet are bothering me almost every day.”
Her sister wanted her to go to a hospital, but Robinson ignored her advice, opting instead to postpone visiting a doctor until her annual checkup in January. At the checkup, her doctor found that her cholesterol levels and blood pressure were normal — the symptoms, the doctor said, were probably stress related. She continued feeling discomfort and fatigue until April 10, 2014, she woke up at 2:00 a.m. with symptoms “10 times worse” than before. Her family drove her to the hospital, and while a doctor said she was experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, her tests nonetheless returned normal. But the next day, she suffered another heart attack — and then one more the following day. In an email to Women in the World, Robinson said she was shocked when her doctors told her that she was suffering a massive heart attack.
During that final heart attack, Robinson temporarily “died” — her main artery, physicians discovered, was 99 percent blocked. She reflected on those moments, telling Women in the World that there was “no pain.” Her brief death allowed her to feel a “seamless transition to the most beautiful, tranquil, peaceful,” place. “Words really cannot describe it,” Robinson continued. “It was like a perfect spring day. I was outside of my body — I felt it, but I couldn’t feel the perfectly green grass in between my toes … the sun on my shoulders. My mind was clear of tomorrow’s worries, no thoughts of any kind. I wasn’t even worried about my family crying from me dying,” she recalled.
A total feeling of peace washed over her and then, suddenly, she heard, “Tara , Tara, Tara!” She said she was blinded by a magnificent white light and then she was “back and I can feel my breath come back and my body shift on the table. Later, Robinson said, the doctor came into the ICU and told her, “God has you in the palm of his hands, because when you died on that table, all I knew to do was to stop and pray and the minute I said ‘Amen,’ your stent just went in and you came back.”
“At that moment I knew without a shadow of a doubt that heaven is real,” Robinson said.
More than four years after doctors saved her life, Robinson is in better health, though she frequently deals with heart-related episodes, including the occasional brush with angina.
“Mentally, it’s a battle trying to find a balance between good and bad days, knowing that you’re not a hundred percent healthy, so I deal with just how much to share with my husband, children, or family,” she said. “But, with God all things are possible and that’s who I depend on most.”
Nowadays Robinson works to spread awareness about heart disease.
According to the CDC, heart disease killed 289,758 American women in 2013 — accounting for nearly one in every four women who died that year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women n the United States — and nearly two-thirds of women who died suddenly of the disease reported no previous symptoms.