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Heart attack survivor urges women to listen to their heart

Stockbridge, Ga. (February 28, 2019) -- Melissa Haggins, 58,  knows just how lucky she is to be alive – and says it was her intuition and great care by doctors at Piedmont Henry Hospital that helped save her from a likely fatal heart attack.

While working as a nurse at a local hospital, the mother of three began to feel winded and out of breath, which got gradually worse throughout the day. A concerned colleague took her blood pressure and urged her to go to the hospital.

“My blood pressure was very high, but I didn’t too much of it,” said Haggins.

Despite her family history (Haggins’ grandmother and both of her great aunts died young from heart disease), the mother of three had no prior heart problems, kept up with her yearly physicals and was otherwise the picture of health.

After arriving at the emergency department at Piedmont Henry, initial stress tests performed showed no signs of a heart attack. Still, Haggins had a feeling something was wrong, so doctors scheduled a routine heart catheterization for the following morning.

During the procedure, however, Haggins’ heart stopped beating sending her into cardiac arrest. Doctors discovered a near total blockage in her left main artery; an often fatal condition if appropriate action is not taken immediately. Using a defibrillator, the medical team worked rapidly to restore Haggins’ heartbeat, and an emergency stent was placed to help open her artery and decrease the chance of another blockage.

“The next thing I remember was my mother holding her face,” said Haggins. “They told me that I was unconscious for almost 30 minutes and that I was lucky to be alive.”

Haggins was moved to Piedmont Henry’s intensive care unit (ICU) where she continued to recover. After a nearly two-week hospital stay, she was strong enough to go home.

Today, a little more than a year since the health scare that nearly cost her life, Haggins has worked hard to regain her strength, recently completing cardiac rehab at Piedmont Henry. She praises the excellent care she received from all her doctors and nurses but reserves the highest praise for Dr. Reddy, the cardiologist at Piedmont Henry, whom she credits with saving her life.

“He brought a prayer flower from home and placed it under my bed in ICU,” Haggins said. “Even when things didn’t look too good, he never gave up on me. He is truly a good steward of his gift.”

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more than 400,000 lives each year, according to the American Heart Association. For women in Georgia like Melissa Haggins, heart disease poses a particular threat and accounts for 28.2 percent of all female deaths -- the equivalent of about 27 deaths each day. Warning signs include chest discomfort or pain in one or both arms, neck, back, stomach, or jaw. Women should also look out for feelings of nausea and of pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest.

“It’s critical for women, especially those with family history, to learn their risk factors and pay close attention to the symptoms,” said Dr. Reddy. “Your body will tell you when something is wrong. Don’t ignore any warning signs and go get yourself check out.”

For more information on cardiovascular services offered at Piedmont Henry, please visit piedmont.org.

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