9:50. Shoot. I had a 10 o’clock meeting in tower 4, all the way across the courtyard. I dashed down the stairs to get to the main floor. (I had found early on that it was faster to take the stairs—both up and down—than to wait on the elevators). As I rounded the landing for the third floor, I again felt the ache in my upper back trying to make itself noticed, and I rolled my shoulders as I continued down.
I rushed through the lobby door of tower 1 to the outside, and then paused to let my eyes adjust to the sunlight. As I paused, I rolled my shoulders again. The silly persistent ache that had begun about an hour ago was still there. I hated when my back spasmed out. I kept hoping that it would ease off; after all, I had a chiropractic appointment the next day.
Having quickly crossed the parking lot, I now waited for traffic to clear so I could cross the street. I then made my way across the sculpture garden and into the lobby of tower 4.
Through the next two meetings I continued to flex, role, and relax my shoulders and my back as I tried to ease the tension there. However, the mild ache under my left shoulder blade increased and was now working its way up to my shoulders. I considered taking part of a muscle relaxant—an over-the-counter combination analgesic and muscle relaxer—but even a half of one of those usually made me so sleepy that I’d be lucky to make it through the rest of the day.
We finally broke for lunch, and I was out of the conference room and headed for the outside to warm up—they always set the A/C way too cold as far as I was concerned.
I had hoped to go for a walk around the lake during my lunch break, but I felt tired, fatigued, and with my back acting up, I didn’t really want to risk it. Instead, I retreated to my car.
Once in the car, I realized I had no appetite, which was odd, considering I hadn’t really eaten breakfast either. Well, I thought, it wasn’t as if I couldn’t afford to lose a few pounds. I tried to read my book, but found myself dozing; it was probably just because of the heat. The day was sultry, and even parked in the shade, the car felt warm and comfy.
As it came time to go back inside, I finally broke down and took half of one of my over-the-counter pills. I’d deal with the drowsiness if it would just stave off the backache. As much as I would’ve loved to just go home early, I had several more meetings this afternoon.
The afternoon crawled by, but finally it was time to go home. Although I had taken half a pill, by the time I got to my car to leave for the day, the pain in my back now extended from just below the shoulder blade to the top of my shoulder and was moving down my left arm.
Once home, I decided to take a full pill and forego my usual two- to three-mile walk. Instead, I sagged into my lounge chair out on the deck and enjoyed the warmth of the late afternoon.
Just before dinner, I took another pill, because the pain, though, dulled, wasn’t easing off. In fact, I noticed that it was now hurting up under my jaw. I had no appetite for dinner; in fact, all I really wanted to do was go to bed.
I was angry with myself for not calling the chiro and making an emergency appointment for today. I knew that by tomorrow I’d be in so much pain I’d barely be able to drive. With a sigh, I moved away from the table and into the family room to try to watch TV with my husband.
He tried to rub my shoulders hoping that would ease the back ache, but after about 45 minutes, I gave up and decided to go to bed. Although, fatigued, I couldn’t sleep. The pain kept throbbing and I was finding it hard to get my breath. Frustrated, I got up and took another pill and a half. I thought if nothing else, the pills might knock me out enough to get some sleep.
I felt myself start to drift off, and a moment later I was drifting above myself looking down. As I gazed down on my body I wondered if this was what it was like to have a heart attack. Was that was this was? Was I having a heart attack? If so, I decided, it wasn’t so bad.
I awoke the next morning about four hours later than normal, but feeling absolutely fine. No back ache; no jaw ache; nothing. Again I wondered if it had been more than just a “normal” back ache.
Closer to noon, I decided to go for a walk and after less than ten minutes I was exhausted. I could barely breathe and my pace, well, my pace was slower than a snail’s. I returned to the house, and began to do some research. What I found surprised me.
The symptoms for heart attacks in women were all right there, along with the signs of an impending hearth attack:
• The need for larger shoes because my feet had become swollen over the past six to eight months.
• The inability to wear any of my rings because my fingers had become swollen over the past two years.
• Pains in shoulder or chest when exercising had been occurring for about a year; but I had put it down to tension in the muscles.
As for the heart attack itself, well, I had all the classic symptoms: pains in the back under the left shoulder blade, extending to the left arm, shoulder, and up the neck to the jaw. And luckily for me, the OTC back pills I take contain both acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and magnesium, both of which seem to help with blood flow.
But I have to wonder how many other women don’t realize what the symptoms are? How many others out there think they’re having indigestion or back problems? So, learn the symptoms; it’s important. Because even someone who exercises regularly, tries to eat well (I rarely eat meat), can still be at risk.