KUCHARUK: her voice sounded different - a sign

Her voice sounded different. The response to, “How are you feeling?” came in a breathless whisper tinged with fear.

Her neck ached, her arm was tingling, and she had pain up high on her chest. Fighting waves of nausea, she admitted that she had broken out into a cold sweat.

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“I’m on my way to your house to take you to the hospital,” I told her.

The seven-minute drive took four minutes, and as I screeched to a halt in front of the house, I could see that Dad already had the car running and was assisting mom to the car.

I gave Mom a quick once over, asking again, “How are you feeling?”.

Her response once again came out in breathless puffs of air, and she looked concerned.

‘Concerned’ is never a good thing. ‘Concerned’ is a combination of “I am not sure what is going on” and “this could be a bad thing.” This is rare with my Mom – a natural caregiver (of everyone else but herself), she would rather ride out illness from the comfort of her home than admit that it might be something of note requiring medical intervention.

“I’m okay. Your Dad is taking me”.

“Sounds good, I will follow you to the hospital.”

Multiple rolling stops and not one, but two, cautiously run red lights later, we arrived at the hospital and were assisted into the E.R. by a member of the Fire Department.

Hours later and numerous EKG’s, an x-ray, assessments, blood tests and nitro sprays gave us the answer. Mom had suffered a heart attack and was going to require some medical intervention from St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver.


Why don’t we take our health as seriously as the health of our partners?

How many times had she had a painful twinge and wrote it off as a pulled muscle? How many times had the dizziness and waves of nausea been discarded as “I got up too fast”?

As she waited for her Medevac, we chatted about how many women dismiss symptoms of a heart attack until it is too late. 

I did some quick web research. Did you know that “Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Canada for women over the age of 55?” That quoted statistic comes from the Heart Research Institute. The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that, “Women’s experience with heart disease is different than men’s in many different ways” and that “Women are under-aware and under-researched.”

You can’t blame us for being in denial when “53% of women who experience heart attack symptoms have them go unrecognized”. 

Go to the Emergency Room because we have a weird pressure in our chest? Pfft! It is probably heartburn. 

We have so many excuses.

“I can’t go to the Emergency Room because a) I have so much to do, b) it is probably nothing and c) the nurses and doctors are busy with ‘sick’ people, and I don’t want to bother them”.

Women. We need our butts kicked! When are we going to take our health seriously and place ourselves first?

If it looks like a heart attack, feels like a heart attack and sounds like a heart attack, then it is most likely a heart attack and NOT A DUCK! GO TO THE HOSPITAL!

Thankfully my mom is recovering well, and she is going to be okay. She had a couple of stents placed and is recovering at home. We are grateful.

Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes. You can read her book “Naked Tuesday” or catch her on CBC Radio Daybreak North where she shares her “Peace of Mind”.

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