When Lana and Charles Whitby left Raleigh last month to visit their grandchildren in Brunswick County, the last thing they planned was a trip to the hospital.
But after lingering chest pain woke her from a sound sleep, the hospital was her next stop. After emergency staff transferred her to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the Cardiac Cath Lab team discovered an artery leading to Lana’s heart was 95 percent blocked.
“She’s lucky she got here, and we were able to do an intervention procedure before she had a heart attack,” said Dr. James Harper, Lana’s doctor and attending cardiologist in the Cath Lab. “Her symptoms were pretty classic, and she went to the hospital. A lot of women do not present the classic symptoms, so they won’t go for treatment.”
Millions of American women like Lana are living with heart disease and do not know it. While men present the “classic” symptoms like pain in the chest and trouble breathing, a woman’s warning signs of fatigue, indigestion not related to eating, or a feeling of anxiety are often mistaken for other health issues. That’s why experts say women need to be more aware of their potential for heart disease.
Dr. David Weaver, an interventional caridologist in the NHRMC Cath Lab, performed a coronary angioplasty on Lana the next day. The hour-long procedure was done under a local anesthesia and mild sedation. Staff talked with Lana as it happened, answering any questions and reassuring her along the way.
“It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be,” Lana said afterwards. “Actually, it was a nice experience being awake while it was going on. They kept asking me if I needed anything. They really took my feelings into account.”
“That is one of the great things about working in the Cath Lab,” said Janet DeLucca, RN, manager of the Cardiac Cath Lab and EP Lab. “When you look at your work, you see immediate results. It’s positive feedback on the outcome of your work. You know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”
Lana Whitby went home the day after her angiogram, with a healthier heart and some advice for women her age.
“Take time for yourself,” she said. “Eat right, exercise, and be aware of how you are caring for yourself. It’s okay to say no and put yourself first, so you can be there someday to take care of others.”
For more information or a referral to physicians who perform coronary angiograms, call VitaLine at 815.5188.
NHRMC Cath Lab: 20 years of saving lives
The staff of the NHRMC Cardiac Catheterization Lab has been saving lives since the unit opened in 1987. In those first days, doctors and nurses performed between six and 10 angiogram procedures a day. Today they do between 20 and 25 on an average day.
“Our staff has years of experience in cardiac care,” Janet said. “They all have special training on our equipment. We don’t have a waiting list, and we can make room quickly for urgent cases. To us, time is muscle. When the doctors say there is a patient in need, we pull together to do the procedure.”