February is American Heart Month, and we're inspired by the more than 150,000 women who survive heart attacks each year, many of whom go on to live healthy, fulfilling lives. We asked survivor Carmen Roosevelt, who was treated right here at OHSU, to share her story.
In the fall, Roosevelt gave birth to her seventh child. She also started taking medication for high blood pressure.
One night in mid-December, she had excruciating chest pain. "My husband massaged me, and it went away," Roosevelt says.
When it happened again, she could feel the pain in her left arm and jaw too, and her husband took her to the hospital.
"They said I had a heart attack and I couldn't believe it!" Roosevelt says. "I never thought I would have a heart attack."
Roosevelt survived her heart attack, and on Christmas Eve she was able to return home to be with her family for the rest of the holidays.
"I'm trying not to eat salt, and to change my diet to healthier food," Roosevelt says. She's doing what she can to make sure she doesn't have another heart attack, because she doesn't want to lose any time with her kids.
Her most important advice for other women experiencing symptoms of a heart attack is to take symptoms seriously. In addition to pain like Roosevelt felt, symptoms can include extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn and burping.
"Don't wait to go to the hospital," Roosevelt says. "I should have gone the first time, but I didn't understand. Don't wait until it's too late."