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When the only symptom of a heart attack is an odd sensation in the jaw

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Jody Emerson, 50, assumed her heart was healthy. She didn’t have hypertension or diabetes, and no one in her family had heart disease. She knew her cholesterol was a little high, but she wasn’t on medication. And yet, when Jody felt an odd sensation in her jaw, it was unusual enough that she mentioned it to a friend.
 
The sensation went away, came back, and went away again. Then, on the morning of June 14, 2022, Jody woke up with that odd sensation in her jaw again. She called her husband, Pete, who was at work. Jody thought they could wait until her doctor’s office opened at 8, but Pete came home and insisted on taking her to the hospital.
 
Still, Jody had no pain. Just this odd sensation in her jaw. In the hospital, the EKG was inconclusive. The nurse told her that if she had the sensation again to let them know immediately. When the sensation returned, Pete pressed the button to notify the ER nurse.
 
“I could see by the nurse’s face that something was happening,” Jody said. “She explained that I was having a heart attack. I was in disbelief.”
 
“Even though Jody didn’t have conventional risk factors, she paid attention to her symptoms and acted on them,” said Dr. Sreenivas Kamath, MD, FACC, FSCAI, the cardiologist who saw Jody in ER and placed her stent. “She had 99 percent blockage in one of her arteries. That quick action saved her life.”
 
After her heart attack, Jody devoted nine weeks to doing the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center that includes a plant-based diet, stress management, group support and exercise.
 
“Jody saw great results in the program,” said Connie Dobson, RN, BSN, CCRP, Cardiopulmonary Rehab Services. “She decreased her total cholesterol by 43 points, her LDL by 44 points and her weight by 15 pounds.” LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
 
“I thought I knew how to exercise, but I didn’t,” Jody said. “I learned so much about exercise, cooking healthier and managing stress. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore. I don’t get upset about things.”
 
After she completed the cardiac rehab program, Jody invested in an elliptical machine, which she uses regularly, along with walking. Her cholesterol numbers are in the normal range, and she’s lost 50 pounds.
 
“I’m so thankful I’d read that jaw pain can be associated with heart attacks,” she said. “I thank God my husband was so adamant about taking me to ER. I’m so grateful for all the care I received at Goshen Hospital.”

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