Our 2017-18 Tennessee Advocacy Committee is composed of individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart-health issues. Throughout the year, we will introduce some of our members. Today, we'd like you to meet Bonita Nolan of Winchester.
Heart disease runs in my family on both sides. My paternal grandfather passed away from complications from a heart attack. My maternal grandmother passed away from cardiac arrest. My father’s heart required five bypasses when he was 48. My mother had vascular disease and had an aortic aneurism which required surgery. She passed away three years later. Yes, heart disease has impacted my life for many years.
On April 10, 2017, I had an Acute STEMI. My left coronary artery was 100% blocked and I had other blockages as well.
I thought that I was battling severe acid reflux. I was taking prescribed acid reducers and eating TUMS like they were candy. I was sleeping propped up on the couch because laying down made it unbearable. About every hour and a half I would have a “flare up”. I would call my friend to stay on the phone with me until it passed. I would squeeze a pillow at my chest as it seemed to help me through the “fare ups” that usually lasted about ten to fifteen minutes. It felt like severe acid reflux with stabbing pain that rain across my upper arm all the way across my chest to the other arm.
The “flare ups” would come and go and I had periods of time when I thought it was over and I felt better. Then, it would hit me again. It never crossed my mind that it could be a heart attack. Well, it did, but I dismissed that idea. I was only 48 and acid reflux made more sense.
The day that changed my life forever, started out with me at work. I had called my primary physician to request a referral to get an esophageal scope to find out what was going on and get it fixed quickly. When I called to make the appointment, they couldn’t get me in for a week or so. I explained that that wasn’t going to work that I needed something done right now. At that point, I realized that it was quickly getting worse and was now consistent. I had a co-worker drive me to the ER about five minutes away.
Once I was at the ER and taken back it was a whirlwind of activity. I was barely fully connected to the ECG when I was swarmed by easily fifteen people all focusing on me! When one of the many nurses gave me four baby aspirin and a nitroglycerin tablet to put under my tongue, I realized that yes, I was having a heart attack. My step-mother who I had called on the way to meet me there was questioning if I should be transported to a larger hospital in Nashville. The simple answer was, “there isn’t time”. I was immediately rushed into the cardiac cath lab where I was fitted with drug eluding stent in my left coronary artery. I spent five days in the hospital and a couple of months at home in recovery.
I participated in cardiac rehab which was very helpful. They made me feel at ease as I slowly worked back into activity and raising my heart rate. As I continued to recover, I didn’t feel as though I was recovering as much as I should have been. I questioned this over and over again. Shouldn’t I be able to do more at this point? We did a stress test to see how my heart was recovering. When we did, we found that another blockage in my left coronary had increased from 60% to 85% and another stent was needed. In September, I had a second stent placed in my left coronary artery.
I am grateful and blessed that we have a cardiac cath lab in my small rural town’s hospital and a cardiologist who is saving lives there daily. I am still adjusting to my “new normal”. I still have three blockages. I have two 50% blockages in my left and right coronary arteries. I have a 90% blockage in my aorta. I have been able to work to increase my heart health and my ejection fraction and am on track to have my aorta stented in the coming months. I know that having it stented is going to make a big difference in my quality of life. I look forward to continued success in my recovery and to better days ahead!