Mom opens up about heart attack she thought was the flu

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(NEW YORK) — A mom who thought she was experiencing flu symptoms but was really having a heart attack is opening up about her experience and sharing a warning for other women.

Jenna Tanner, who first shared her story with “Business Insider,” sat down with “Good Morning America” to recount her close call.

“I thought I was coming down with the flu or the upper respiratory infection or something,” Tanner told “GMA.”

Last year, a bout of both COVID-19 and the flu spread through Tanner’s Oklahoma household and soon enough, the 48-year-old came down with something, too.

“I was having fleeting pains in my chest that I really thought was my … lungs,” Tanner recounted.

At first, Tanner dismissed seeking medical care. “I didn’t want to tell my husband because I knew he would say we have to go straight to the hospital. And I didn’t want to go spend any more time in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office, so I ignored it,” she said.

But ignoring her pain almost cost Tanner her life. After two days, she said, she passed out and when she regained consciousness, she knew instantly she was having a massive heart attack.

“It felt like an elephant sitting on me. I couldn’t move,” Tanner recalled. “I couldn’t move at all. It was very scary.”

Why women tend to dismiss heart attack symptoms

Heart attack is the number-one killer of women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. However, experts say women are more likely to ignore or downplay heart attack symptoms.

“Women can typically present with symptoms unrelated to chest pain and I think that’s one of the reasons why they get downplayed, mainly because it doesn’t feel typically like what you think a heart attack would feel like,” ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton explained.

According to the American Heart Association, the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain, but women may also experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, or back, shoulder or jaw pain.

“All of these symptoms, when they happen suddenly, you have to pay attention because they might be a sign of something more sinister,” Sutton said.

Sutton said if anyone experiences unexplained chest, jaw or shoulder pain that gets progressively worse, they should see a doctor immediately or visit an urgent care clinic to request an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) test.

When she regained consciousness, Tanner said she dragged herself to her cellphone, which was two rooms away, and managed to call for help.

Tanner had to undergo three surgeries and receive two stents during her treatment after the heart attack. But a year later, she said she’s doing better, and urged other women to pay attention to their own bodies and not ignore symptoms, like she had done.

“Heart health for women is important. Don’t ignore heart pain,” Tanner said. “Even if you think it’s your lungs, even if you’ve been to the doctor 20 times in the last two months with your children, just make sure you take it seriously.”

 

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