Nausea from indigestion? No, it’s a heart attack.


The last thing Angie had time for was a stomachache after a retirement luncheon at her workplace. She had three grandchildren at home who depended on her every day and a full-time job at a RV manufacturer that kept her busy nonstop.
But a sick feeling all over unsettled her. She thought a warm bath may help her feel better. Then a searing burn fired up in both her arms. The burn quickly spread to her back.
“It was so intense, the first thing I thought about was spontaneous human combustion,” Angie, age 51, said. “That’s how bad it was.”
Angie’s son, who had stopped by the house, took one look at her and said she looked as white as a ghost. That’s when he took Angie to the fire house just down the street. In the parking lot, Angie started vomiting violently.
One of the last things Angie remembers that day in March 2023 was the paramedic telling her she was having a massive heart attack.

Signs of heart attack differ for women

Angie thought she had food poisoning, not a heart attack. She didn’t have any of the common warning signs she knew about with a heart attack – chest pain, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat.
“I felt my heart flutter, but that was all,” she said. “No chest burning – zero symptoms that people think about with a heart attack.”
Women like Angie often experience different symptoms than men. Her severe nausea, vomiting and burning sensation that radiated through her arms to her back are often felt by women who have a heart attack.
When Angie woke up the next morning in the hospital, she learned she had what’s known as a STEMI, the most serious type of heart attack. A major artery feeding her heart was 98 percent blocked.

Quick action by first responders saves lives

Angie survived her heart attack, thanks to a well-coordinated response by dozens of emergency care providers. All of them had a clear understanding that every second counts when a heart attack happens.
Minutes after arriving at Middlebury Township Fire Department, Angie was in an ambulance on an 11-mile journey to the Emergency Department at Goshen Hospital. An emergency medical team consisting of paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) transmitted Angie’s vital information to the ER along the way while they started to provide immediate lifesaving care.
Heart specialists began preparing the cardiac catheterization lab for Angie’s arrival, led by Dr. Sreenivas Kamath, Interventional Cardiologist at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center. The cardiac team performed a minimally invasive procedure called angioplasty to open Angie’s narrowed artery. A stent placed in the artery kept the passageway open.

Less than an hour after arrival at the ER, blood began to flow again, restoring the lower chambers of Angie’s heart. That’s well above the national standard for door-to-balloon time of 90 minutes or less, set by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

A change of heart about smoking and eating habits

Angie knew she was fortunate to have so many people at the right time and in the right place when she had her heart attack. She also knew what caused the buildup of plaque in her arteries – smoking since age 15 and bad eating habits.
“I woke up in the hospital with a stent in my heart and decided that smoking wasn’t a good idea, after what I just went through,” she said.
While Angie was recovering in the hospital, she had a visit from Mark Potuck, Tobacco Treatment Specialist at Goshen Hospital, who talks to every patient who smokes. He explained how toxins from tobacco affect the cardiovascular system. A single puff on a cigarette could constrict blood vessels by 50 percent.
A smoking cessation support group that Mark coordinates helps patients kick a tobacco habit. But it wasn’t the right fit for Angie. Instead, she went cold turkey and quit smoking on her own.

“Being a single grandparent raising three children, there’s not much time to go to support groups or even go online,” she said. “My support is these kids.”
Her grandchildren also gave Angie the inspiration she needed to make better food choices. Before her heart attack, Angie lived on Ho Hos, brownies, Pepsi, coffee with chocolate syrup and creamers every day.
As soon as she got out of the hospital, Angie switched to vegetables, fruits and lean meats, instead of her go-to favorites – pasta, mashed potatoes and gravy. She also took her cholesterol medication seriously.

Recovery: A day at a time

The mental and emotional roller coaster after her heart attack proved a bigger challenge for Angie than physical recovery. Questions swirled constantly in her head and raised her anxiety.
Will a heart attack happen again? How much cholesterol had built up in her body over the years? Could she really eat right and get rid of the plaque in her arteries?
“Dr. Kamath told me to just take it one step at a time,” she said. “Don’t try to quit everything all at once.”
Those reassurances and the unwavering support from her family gave Angie the strength and determination to move forward.
“I have a lot more to live for than I thought,” she said. “That’s what helped me change.”

Every second counts

Four out of 10 women have no chest pain during a heart attack, according to recent studies. Many women, like Angie, think they have indigestion, nausea or other digestive problems. In addition, younger women – age 34 to 54 – are more likely to develop heart disease these days.
That’s why Angie openly shares her story in hopes that others won’t miss signs of a life-threatening situation like hers. She also believes children need to know what to do if an adult in the home has symptoms.
“Tell your children to call the ambulance – call 911,” Angie said.
Here are common symptoms of heart attack in women.

  • Back or jaw pain
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness or feeling like you might pass out
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Heavy or weak feeling in the arms
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

 If you are concerned about your heart, talk to your primary care provider or call (574) 533-7476 to make an appointment at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center. Goshen’s high standards of care have consistently been recognized by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. Goshen Hospital earned a Chest Pain Center Accreditation in 2022.