“I should have gone to the hospital, but I waited…”

Jeni didn’t think she was a candidate for a heart attack. She’s always kept herself fit and healthy by doing regular walking, riding her bike, and attending weekly aerobics classes. So as an active 68-year-old, she was surprised when she had a heart attack.

Jeni McNamara

Even though women and men largely share the same risk factors for heart disease, research tells us women tend to wait longer than men to call for an ambulance after experiencing heart attack warning signs.

Jeni says now looking back at her experience, she should have sought help sooner.

When Jeni first experienced symptoms of a heart attack she was surprised to experience what she calls a ‘fluffy’ feeling in her chest.

“I went to aerobics on Tuesday and felt a ‘fluffy’ feeling in my chest – imagine a big ball of cotton wool in your chest,” she recalls.

That feeling continued over the next few days, but she put it down to being tired after a busy long weekend of travel.

“The same feeling happened on Wednesday and Thursday. Then the first sensation that could be called pain was on Thursday night, then again on Friday and Saturday. Sunday night was different though, the pain was worse and lasted 25 minutes. It scared me.”

Looking back, Jeni says she should have gone to the hospital after first experiencing these unknown symptoms.

“I should have gone to the hospital, got someone to drive me, or called an ambulance, but I waited until Monday and booked an appointment for Tuesday to see the doctor.”

The doctor recognised Jeni’s symptoms immediately and by Tuesday afternoon she had been admitted to Gisborne Hospital where she learned she had had a heart attack.

“I was still in shock and disbelief, I didn’t think it was anything serious, so I worried about my cat and other trivialities, but finally the reality sank in – I had had a heart attack!”

Jeni was flown to Waikato Hospital on Wednesday where she had a stent inserted to improve blood flow to the heart, and then returned home after two nights in hospital.

“I realise now that I had been very low in energy, grumpy, ‘woozy’ in my head and eyes, and very tired for a long while. All these symptoms are improving. I have a stent now, a swag of pills, but have been incredibly lucky!”

She urges others to seek help as soon as they experience any kind of symptoms.

“Don’t expect it to be dramatic, it may not overly painful, because it wasn’t like that for me, it was very sneaky.

“If you experience any of the symptoms I had, please go straight the hospital. It may be nothing and could cost you a few dollars. But it may save your life!”

Heart attack warning signs