“I've had two heart attacks, but the symptoms of my second were hardly noticeable. The pain was so slight. I almost didn’t say anything to the doctor. I didn't want to bother him. But saying something
saved my life.”
A Woman's Health Advocate Offers Powerful Message to Heed Health Warnings
Fù. This little word packs a powerful wallop for future linguist Louise Bell. It's the Mandarin Chinese word for "woman," and in it lays a tale of illness, near death, one tangled twist of fate- and ultimate happiness- to rival any best-selling novel.
Bell is studying Mandarin and Arabic with an eye on a career in international relations. But that future seemed light years away in 2005 when Bell, then a 47-year-old emergency room nurse, experienced a heart attack. That attack and the months of recovery that followed taught Bell a lifesaving lesson she is determined to pass along: Women need to be advocates for their health.
"Two months before my attack," Bell explains, "I had passed a rigorous series of medical tests to qualify for Air Force Reserve fight training." Then one day, while sitting at home using her computer, she had a sudden, piercing pain across her chest.
Bell was taken to the Denver, Co., Emergency Department where she worked. But after initial tests appeared normal, she began to believe she was "being an idiot for creating such a fuss." Hours later, making that fuss proved to be the smartest thing Bell ever did. Just before she was about to be released, she complained of "a bit of pain in my jaw and chest." A stress echocardiogram showed she was indeed having a heart attack. "If I had left the hospital, I would surely have died on the way home."
Bell's left anterior coronary artery was rupturing. Four stents were immediately put into the artery to secure it and restore normal blood flow. Bell got on with her life, and in 2006 moved to Washington, D.C., got married and met Elizabeth Ross, MD, a cardiologist with MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Ross was able to give her a diagnosis: microvascular disease, which affects the heart's tiniest arteries and seems to be more common in women than men. Bell happily became involved in the "Listen to your Heart" promotion, and got back to exercise.
For a now-healthy Bell, the experience drives home the need for women to become advocates for their own health. "My message to all women is don't be afraid to take charge, ask questions and find a doctor who understands women's needs."
“Listen to Your Heart” Message for Women: Louise encourages women to ask questions, speak up about your symptoms, and exercise to strengthen your heart. For more information about how you, too, can stay heart healthy, click here to request a Listen to Your Heart kit.
Listen to Your Heart: Women at Risk is a public service campaign co-sponsored by NBC4 and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.