After teaching my morning classes at Cyclebar, where I’ve been an instructor for years, I went home for the afternoon and took a nap. Then, I went back to the studio to teach evening classes. Throughout the day, I continued to experience constant pressure in my chest.
The next morning, I didn’t feel any pain. I just felt tired. I decided to take rest for the next two days but then resume teaching on Saturday. During the first class of the day, I felt an instant burst of pain in my chest, like someone had punched me. Then, I realized I couldn’t feel my hand or hold anything—it was completely numb and tingling.
At first, I thought maybe my blood sugar was low so I skipped class to get a snack. I had barely taken a few steps down the hallway when I collapsed. I was shivering, chills, and it was hard to breathe. I could not feel my body.
Luckily, there were several people in the studio who saw what happened, and I was immediately sent to the hospital. Later, I learned that I had experienced a “widowmaker heart attack,” which occurs when there is a blockage in your heart’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery. In my case, it was 100% blocked.
Prior to this incident, I had never experienced any heart problems, and I had no precursors to a heart attack (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). I was 44, very active and overall healthy. So it was easy to ignore or justify whatever discomfort I was feeling. However, if I had gone to the doctor on Wednesday, when I first experienced symptoms, I wonder if it could have prevented this painful health experience.
Still, I’m so grateful to be alive, and I believe that my active lifestyle was actually training my body for when I needed it most.
After my heart attack, I spent a few days in cardiac intensive care so doctors could monitor my heart. When I was finally released from the hospital, I had to wear a vest that acted as a portable defibrillator all day, every day, for the next six months. Because my heart attack was so severe, it caused significant damage to my heart, and I now live with congestive heart failure.