Too Young for A Heart Attack?



Like any 32-year-old woman who exercised regularly and maintained a relatively healthy diet, Andrea thought she was doing what she needed to do to have a healthy life.

“I never thought of myself as immune to anything,” she says. “But I certainly never thought I’d have a heart attack at my age with no risk factors.”

So when she first began to experience an unusual tightness in her chest, she would dismiss it as cramps or shoulder pain and wait for the discomfort to subside. Over time, however, the symptoms worsened and Andrea decided to get it checked out by her primary care physician.

Her doctor ran a series of tests on Andrea’s heart — including an EKG — all of which came back normal. But just days later, the pain returned with unprecedented intensity. Andrea’s husband rushed her to the ER at Bon Secours St. Mary’s, where she was immediately seen.

A second EKG indicated that she’d had a heart attack sometime within the last week. Andrea was then admitted to St. Mary’s, where a cardiac catheterization was planned for the next day.

But that night, as she lay in her hospital bed, the pain returned with a vengeance and she was immediately sent to the catheterization lab.

The catheterization revealed a very severe blockage in the main artery on the front of her heart. Fortunately, the Heart Team at St. Mary’s was able to quickly perform a stent procedure, which provided immediate relief.

A month later, after participating in cardiac rehab, Andrea had an ultrasound that revealed her heart muscle had completely recovered.

Today, a happy, healthy Andrea feels stronger than ever and gives much of the credit to Dr. Nelson and the Bon Secours Heart Team.

“Dr. Nelson is intelligent and caring,” she says. “It felt like someone in my family was taking care of me. I was really in a sense upset to have to leave the hospital because of the care that I received. They are wonderful people.”

For Andrea, good help now means paying it forward.

“Just knowing the things that I’ve been through… to know how far I’ve come and how quickly I’ve come. I just think I’ve been saved to be here to be a voice to others. I have all of this bursting out of me that I want to share with others to hopefully help them or someone they love.”

Charles Nelson, MD

In all of Dr. Charles Nelson’s years as a Bon Secours cardiologist, he’s never seen a case quite like Andrea’s.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody as young as her with no risk factors with a nearly completely blocked artery,” says Nelson, who is also the director of the cardiac catheterization lab at St. Mary’s. “I think the main lesson from this is that even in young people with not a lot of traditional risk factors… if they experience any unusual symptoms they need to get it checked out. Why worry?”

Nelson attributes positive outcomes like Andrea’s not only to his team’s expertise and access to the latest technology, but also to their commitment to providing compassionate care.

“Everybody is focused on what’s best for the patient… taking the time to really consider what the patient is feeling about what’s happening to them. There’s a big, big focus on that, and it runs through the culture of what Bon Secours does.”

For Nelson, good help is “providing high-quality, compassionate care that considers the patient’s personal, emotional and spiritual needs.”