Jane admits she’s a “Type A” personality. “I don’t sit still very well,” she says.
That’s why when she felt “odd” after hosting a big family dinner on Easter Sunday in 2015 Jane did what most busy women do — she didn’t think much about it and walked it off until she felt better.
But then, the odd feeling returned and Jane’s arms became numb. She started panting.
Jane, who has worked as a communication clerk at St. Mary’s hospital for nearly 25 years, realized something wasn’t right.
“I work in this environment and the light went on — I’m having some sort of issue,” she says.
She woke her husband from a nap and told him he had to drive her to the hospital. It was a Sunday night — a typically busy time for emergency departments. Still groggy from sleep he wasn’t keen to go, until he looked at his wife. Her skin was gray.
“He knew immediately something was wrong,” Jane says.
But sometimes a cardiac crisis in women can be tricky to spot since women’s symptoms are often subtle.
Jane, who was 54 at the time, didn’t have any other symptoms. She wasn’t overweight, she didn’t drink or smoke and worked out regularly.
So when she walked into St. Mary’s hospital saying she felt odd, she had to wait. But as her chest grew tight, her husband insisted Jane be seen right away. She was brought into acute care and given two sprays of nitroglycerin, which is used to treat chest pain.
Then she heard a call over the PA system for a “code stemi” — referring to a patient having a heart attack, and Jane knew the call was for her.
“So I cried,” she says, becoming overwhelmed with emotion as she recounts the memory that changed her life.
When the nurses asked her why she was crying, Jane told them she worked at the hospital and knew what was coming.
After some testing, doctors discovered Jane had a branch break from her heart, which caused her heart attack. They also discovered she had “sticky blood” and was diabetic — a condition that runs in her family but of which Jane wasn’t aware.
Now Jane wants other women to know how important it is to know your family history — even if you don’t have any symptoms.
She’s now on medication and sees St. Mary’s cardiologist Dr. Leddy at regular intervals. She has also lost 24 lbs., though she admits she “didn’t really need to.”
But she really did need to slow down and so Jane has done just that.
“I listen to my body a little bit more and if I’m tired, I have a rest. It might just be half an hour but I just have a rest,” she says. “I’m not invincible. A lot of people think they can do it all but you can’t.”
One thing she has learned is to let go of stress.
“I want to eliminate in life what I don’t like and do more of what I do like,” she says.
That includes working less. She plans to retire in two years and will spend more of her time with her grandchildren and her passions — pottery and drawing.
“I don’t live to work,” says Jane. “I work to live.”