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Wanda Ehmann’s Story

Congenital Heart Disease Survivor, Age 55, Anchorage, AK

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Wanda's Story

My mother asked me to share the story of her heart attack, but I also thought I should share my story.  I was born with a heart defect, anomalous left anterior descending artery, that I did not know I had until I was 50 years old and it tried to kill.  I was in heart failure and doing very poorly when they finally figured out what was wrong after years and years of going to the doctor and being treated for various symptoms, including being treated for asthma, which I did not have, though I could not walk up a flight of stairs without wheezing and feeling light headed.  It was not until I had chest pain that they really looked at my heart and started to run the right tests.  I nearly died and am very grateful that my defect was discovered and that open heart surgery saved my life.  I did not ignore my symptoms, but no one put the pieces together for years.  Be vocal and demand attention so you do end up in as bad shape as I was when they finally discovered it was my heart.

My mother’s story in her own words:

I was sitting in a book review at the library and I started feeling “just not right.”  No pain in my chest, no pain in my right arm, no pain at all.  A friend was giving a book review and I didn’t want to throw up while she was speaking so I went out into the lobby and on the way I tapped a friend on the shoulder and motioned for her to come with me.  When we got in the lobby I asked her if she knew some place I could lie down as I felt weird.  Then the projectile throwing up started.  Fortunately another lady that came out with my friend was married to a doctor and knew exactly what was happening.  Also fortunately, the hospital was just a few blocks away.  They got me in the car and took off.  When we got to the emergency room they took me straight in without any questions and proceeded to undress me.  I said “can you do something about the pain in my stomach?” and the doctor said “we are trying to save your life, just be still.”  So I did.  I remember being rolled to another room and at one point I felt them jumping my chest.  I don’t remember much else until I woke up.  My friends were gone but my husband was there.  I’m not sure how they located him.  I spent a week in the hospital and then went home.  Later on I went to a luncheon at the hospital to hear a doctor speak about heart problems.  It ended up being the one who had put my stent in.  I spoke to him and told him who I was and said “I only remember the jump and I looked up and saw this good looking man.  He told me I needed to get new glasses.

 

After the luncheon another doctor who was a friend, came over and said “I guess you know you are very lucky to be here.”  I agreed and then he said “You had what in men we call the ‘widow maker’ and that means they just drop dead.”  I was amazed and so thankful.  I credit everyone who helped me with saving my life and I thank the Lord for the 13 years I have lived since then with no problems, just a lot of pills to take.  Please don’t wait until you have chest pains!!  One lady told me her only symptom was ‘her teeth hurt.’

Please take care of your heart and do not ignore symptoms.

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Wanda is interested in giving support to other women with heart disease. Contact her if you'd like to receive support.

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