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Athletic 4th grade teacher narrowly escapes heart attack

Julie Semones, a patient treated at Piedmont Heart Institute, may not look like someone who has suffered a serious heart event – the Decatur City Schools teacher and mother of two is young, athletic and always on the go. 

Since joining a soccer team in 5th grade, Semones has enjoyed the feeling of being active. As a teacher, she is on her feet for six to seven hours each workday and on the weekends, she can be found biking long-distance with her family. 

“I very rarely sit down,” she says. 

The day that changed everything 

One day, as she carried a load of laundry up a flight of stairs in her home, Semones felt an intense pain in her left arm and face, as well as nausea and dizziness. 

Like so many women with these heart attack warning signs, Semones brushed them off as something less serious. 

“I laid down on the ground and thought I was just having a cramp. Then it went away,” she says. “My spouse checked my pulse, checked my breathing and thought I felt fine.”

Feeling as if she had “recovered,” Semones decided not to call 911.

“I felt completely fine for the next day or two,” she says.

A doctor’s appointment 

The next day, Semones scheduled an appointment with her internist just to be sure her symptoms weren’t a sign of something more serious. 

In the office, the physician told her to pick up a chair and then asked if doing so recreated the pain from the day before. Semones said yes, but because the chair was light and Semones was otherwise healthy, her physician suspected a pinched nerve in her neck. 

Just to be on the safe side, the internist suggested Semones see her friend, cardiologist Anna Kalynych at Piedmont Heart Institute. She called Dr. Kalynych, who was able to see Semones for a quick appointment the next day, a Friday. 

Meeting with Dr. Kalynych

Semones drove herself to Dr. Kalynych’s office the next day.

After the exam, Dr. Kalynych told Semones everything appeared to be fine. Then, she asked about her family history of heart disease.

Semones told Dr. Kalynych her father died at age 46 of a pulmonary embolism. 

“She stood up and said, ‘My goodness – maybe you’re having a blood clot. Let’s go get that checked out,’” remember Semones. 

Her diagnosis and treatment

After Semones’ CAT scan, the cardiologist came out and said they needed to called Semones’ spouse right away because they didn’t have much time – they had found a 98 percent blockage in her left anterior descending artery and she needed to be admitted to the hospital right away. 

Semones was asked not to get up or move because her condition was too unstable for surgery. Her physicians said she very close to suffering a heart attack. 

The clot needed to be stabilized to prevent it from traveling elsewhere in the body, so Dr. Kalynych treated Semones with medication over the weekend. Once Semones was stabilized, Dr. Kalynych performed a stent procedure to remove the blockage. 

Her message for other women

“I’m really glad I paid attention,” says Semones. “When it began, I was worried that I was going to be ‘calling wolf.’ It didn’t seem bad enough to go to the emergency room. It didn’t even seem bad enough to call my doctor.”

The good news is Semones finally sought medical treatment just in time to prevent a serious heart event. She was told she was just hours away from having a heart attack. 

Today, she has no heart damage and feels like she hasn’t missed a beat.

“My heart is as strong as it was before and I’m very, very thankful,” she says. “I think because Piedmont made a quick decision – they didn’t wait or put me off – and [Dr. Kalynych] really listened, it kept me from having heart damage.” 

To learn more about women’s heart disease, visit Piedmont Heart Institute

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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