We don't want to be dramatic, but reading this story just might save your life some day.
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, I suddenly became wide awake at 5 a.m. I lay in bed with my eyes open for maybe a minute, thinking, "Hmm, this is weird," and then, "I feel kind of funny." Within about 30 seconds I rushed to the bathroom and threw up. I felt very cold and climbed back into bed with my husband and snuggled back under the covers. A minute later, though, I knew I was going to be sick again. I figured I was coming down with a virus, but it was strange how suddenly it had come on.
Palmer wasn't too concerned, but her husband was. He'd had relatives who'd died from heart attacks, and he was worried something more serious than a bug had afflicted his wife.
He drove her to the emergency room, where a doctor inquired about her illness:
He asked me a bunch of questions. Nope, I don't have chest pain. Nope, I don't smoke. Nope, my cholesterol is normal. Nope, I don't have any history of heart problems in my family. I exercise regularly. I eat well. I have never had a surgery or even been seriously ill. Gee, I have never even had an IV. I'm super healthy. He commented that I look healthy, am not overweight, in good shape. He decided to do another EKG in 10 minutes or so.
At first, it appeared it wasn't anything dire. Then, with the results of the second EKG, things took a turn for the worse. She was rushed into surgery, and the next thing she remembers is waking up in a different room.
Palmer was told she was in the midst of having a heart attack when she arrived at the hospital. Joseph L. Fredi, MD, the surgeon who operated on her, explained what happened:
Dr. Fredi had taken me into the catheterization lab and determined that my right coronary artery was 100 percent blocked, and the center artery, called the LAD, was 70 percent blocked. LAD blockage is the problem they call "the widowmaker," because it is the most frequent source of sudden death. It kills a lot of people, including "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini and newsman Tim Russert. (Comedian Rosie O'Donnell survived hers.) Doctors say it's a true serial killer. Plaque had ruptured in the wall of my right coronary artery, which caused the clot to form and can produce the sort of nausea that made me throw up. That was my only warning sign. If I had gone back to sleep that morning, as I had wanted to, I may not have awakened, and if I did, there probably would have been devastating damage to my heart. As it was, I had no damage.
Palmer shared her story as a cautionary tale for everyone, but especially for women. Heart disease kills almost 300,000 women a year; it's the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. She said the only reason she didn't die is because her husband insisted on taking her to the ER that day — had he not, she would most likely be another victim of the disease.
Palmer finished her story by telling readers that if you ever just "don't feel right," it's best to have it checked out immediately. It might very well be nothing, but if it is something, you'll be happy you went.