'I wasn't too smart': Woman who ignored heart attack for eight weeks avoided hospitals due to COVID-19
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Image via Getty Images.
According to a new report by the American Heart Association (AHA), statistics show that more and more people are avoiding urgent need for heart and stroke emergencies, even though they are the leading cause of death worldwide.
The cause? COVID-19.
The fear of being infected with the novel corona virus in the hospital and the fear of putting additional strain on the health system have prevented many people from calling 911 if symptoms of a heart attack or stroke occur.
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Charley Bednarsh is one of the survivors of a heart attack that was launched in a new campaign for the AHA entitled "Don't Die of Doubt" to raise awareness of the many signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke.
Charley Bednarsh and her dog Atticus. Image via AHA.
In December, Bednarsh, a director of childcare at the New York Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, went extremely pale and got a cough. With the encouragement of her colleagues, the 72-year-old visited her doctor, who was diagnosed with pneumonia.
In an interview with the AHA, Bednarsh said that she still has persistent back pain in February. She thought it could be a persistent symptom of her pneumonia, maybe even an internal injury caused by a cough.
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When New York was involved in the pandemic, Bednarsh began to see the effects of the virus on the city. People were unemployed and lost relatives and friends.
"Nothing I experience is so bad," Bednarsh kept saying to himself. "There are really sick people out there - and I'm not one of them."
Bednarsh ascribes to her beloved dog Atticus that he helped her realize that something much more serious is involved.
Atticus. (Picture via AHA)
In mid-April, Bednarsh became disturbed of sleep and woke up to the sounds of her neighbors and the city while Atticus was sleeping. Soon Atticus started howling all night and one morning Bednarsh woke up on the floor of her bedroom unable to catch his breath while Atticus howled beside her. Bednarsh told the AHA that she could run Atticus a mile or two a day before the pandemic, but suddenly she couldn't walk more than a few steps without having to stop and rest.
Bednarsh said that she had convinced herself that she was an early case of COVID-19 and that the virus had put so much strain on her body that she felt "depressed".
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To get an antibody test, Bednarsh turned to her cardiologist Dr. Harmony Reynolds. She had visited Reynolds for high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat, but hoped that Reynolds could refer her for the antibody test.
According to Bednarsh, her back pain and shortness of breath were red flags for Reynolds, who encouraged her to go to an emergency room.
"People are dying there," Bednarsh recalled her doctor. "It's just not a good place for me."
Reynolds asked to see Bednarsh the next day, where tests confirmed that she actually had a heart attack. Bednarsh informed the AHA that she immediately called her eldest son Jon to act as a health attorney for her, and Reynolds had the situation explained to him over the phone.
Image via Getty Images.
Bednarsh recovered from NYU Langone Health within a few hours after a stent was inserted into her left anterior descending artery, which was 100 percent blocked.
Despite her fears of being in the hospital, Bednarsh said the experience was "exceptional from start to finish".
It was Reynolds who encouraged Bednarsh to share their story with the "Don't Die of Doubt" campaign and to encourage others to know the signs and symptoms of a cardiac event.
"I'm an intelligent person, but I wasn't too smart with that," Bednarsh said. "I realize how ridiculous I was. It's embarrassing."
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"She's not the only person with a heartache that I asked to go to the emergency room who refused," Reynolds told the AHA. "I don't know anyone who has had a heart attack and has had it at home, but I'm worried that there is more. Some people think a heart attack must feel so terrible that it would be impossible to ignore it. I want to get that out of people's minds. "
Like many people, Bednarsh thought the warning signs of a heart attack were what she saw on TV: "A man clings to his chest when he admits a crime or tells someone that he loves her."
Image via Getty Images.
The AHA notes that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for women and kill more women than all types of cancer combined. Detecting the signs and symptoms of a cardiac event and calling 911 quickly is the best course of action - whether it is a global pandemic or not.
While chest pain is one of the most common indicators of a cardiac event for both men and women, breathlessness, nausea / vomiting, drowsiness, back and jaw pain are more common in women. Many women are likely to have symptoms of a heart attack from flu or acid reflux and may think that the symptoms, due to their subtle nature, do not indicate a heart attack or cardiac event.
Bednarsh said if there had been no closure, someone like a friend or colleague would have recognized the warning signs and encouraged them to get help.
"I was very lucky that I didn't die," she said, revealing that she has walked on Atticus without any problems since receiving her stent.
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