Just a Little Heart Attack

I’ve had chest pain for years.  It’s right there, under my left breast, beneath my rib.  It goes as quickly as it comes but when it comes I cannot breathe or move.  It can happen under any condition or circumstance.  It hurts like hell but only for a moment.  It scares my husband so I promised I would talk to my doctor about it.

My doctor, who I saw last week for a physical, offered no diagnosis.  The funny thing is, on the day I saw my doctor, I had that pain (convenient!) but it was constant and low-level instead of sudden and stabbing.  The next day I had it too, along with queasiness, shakiness and shortness of breath.  Then the next day.  That night while watching a movie, my left arm went numb and I nearly threw up from panic.  I was certain I was having a heart attack.  I broke out in sobs saying “I love you so much” to Kris, expecting to die at any moment.  My kids  – thank god my kids’ last moment with me was one of bedtime stories and kisses and nursing.

Kris ran upstairs and brought back two aspirin.  I promised to go to Urgent Care in the morning and since I woke up alive, I went.  They took me right away – they do this when you come in complaining of chest pain.


I have always enjoyed good health; from my blood pressure to cholesterol to my resting pulse, so it made perfect sense that a random heart defect would be the thing to take me down.

I absolutely believed I was having a heart attack last week and that I would die at any moment.  I cried.  I shook.  I was terrified for my mother-less children (because I have an ego to match my (presumed) grossly enlarged heart).  My kids, my kids, my kids.

My EKG was normal.  My vitals were normal.  The doctor told me something I will now never forget: “Heart pain is never stabbing or sharp, it is one of pressure and weight.”  He diagnosed my pain as pleurisy, most likely caused by two bouts of childhood pneumonia:

The defining symptom of pleurisy is a sudden sharp, stabbing, burning or dull pain in the right or left side of the chest during breathing, especially when one inhales and exhales.[6]


I am so relieved to know that a heart attack is most likely not forthcoming.  I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.

Ahem.  Like a weight has been lifted off my chest.  Heart attack humor.

My husband is relieved too and that’s important to me.  I sent him this picture on my walk home from Urgent Care, telling him that he didn’t have to share it with the kids, a kiss just from me to him – so you know shit just got real.


I haven’t forgotten about my heart though.  As the enormity of parenthood collides with another international move, I spend all day in a state of panic and anxiety, wondering how I’m going to do it all and do it all so quickly.  Having done it before helps but still …. my beating heart.  Aspirin goes in the carry-on.

I took this post title from the Go Red For Women campaign with this video starring Elizabeth Banks.  It’s a simple message conveyed with levity:  “Do I look like the kind of person who has a heart attack?!?”

Take care of yourself out there.  I mean it.


One thought on “Just a Little Heart Attack

  1. Pingback: Medicating Salvation: No Xanax No Peace | Black Panty Salvation

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