Angina is not a girl’s name or body part

Is it just me, or does the word Angina look like “Angelina”?  And when you say it aloud, does it sounds like a female reproductive part?

Jokes aside, it’s a sad fact that many people still think that angina is what old, overweight men with a bad lifestyle get.

Well, guess what? I had it and I am most definitely none of the above.

I have naturally high cholesterol due to genetics so to combat this, I take statins and live a healthier lifestyle.

I thought that by doing all the right things, I was going to live a normal, uneventful life.

But it didn’t happen that way. I got the shock of my life.

Just a normal day in April 2015

It was another afternoon at work, nothing special. Just a quality audit response to prepare, the routine struggle of juggling all the balls of responsibility: home, family, post-graduate study, keeping fit …. More about stress another time.

As I was working at my computer, I felt a peculiar spidery, prickly hot sensation starting under my left collarbone. It didn’t hurt. I wasn’t overly concerned.

Perhaps I’d had this feeling before. I’d recently felt (and ignored) a heavy feeling on my chest while watching TV, but I put it down to fatigue.

I don’t know, I was often worn out from my crazy schedule and sore from 5-7 hours of Pilates, yoga, Zumba and Barre every week. I’d done a new Zumba class the night before, so maybe that was it?

But no.

People, I’m here to tell you that muscle pain does not radiate down your left arm.

Getting the last appointment

I’d heard that pain radiating down from your chest into your left arm might be a sign of an impending heart attack.

But doesn’t that only happen under exertion or stress? I thought people clutch dramatically at their chest and gasp or, at least, grimace when they have heart pain. Aren’t you meant to break out into a cold sweat, feel nauseated, dizzy and short of breath?


Aren’t you?

To check, I looked on the Australian Heart Foundation website. They described those signs exactly, but I didn’t have any of them. Only the momentary spidery sensation in my arm and chest.

Was this really angina then?

An inner voice whispered, “Go get it checked.”

So despite my workload and jam-packed schedule, I called the on-site medical clinic.

They gave me the last appointment.

It’s the protocol

As I walked to the clinic, I was holding an internal conversation. It went like this:

Voice of Doubt – “This is just so dumb. You are going to look stupid. You are way too busy for this. It’s nothing.”

Voice of Sensibility – “I know this feels like a waste of time but what’s the worst thing that can happen? She’ll say there’s nothing wrong and tell you to see Dr H next week.”

Voice of Doubt – “That odd feeling is gone. It was nothing. You don’t even have any other signs. You are too young, too fit, too healthy, you’re not overweight, you eat well and never smoked, you take statins – you’re the healthiest you’ve ever been!”

Voice of Sensibility – “Yeah, but you’ve been under heaps of stress lately. Take a moment for yourself. The appointment’s made, it’s convenient here and you can put your mind at ease.”

 Listen to anybody who tells you to “put your mind at ease”.

By now I’d reached the clinic and the nurse had called my name.

As soon as I mentioned the two words “chest pain” she sprang into full-blown action drama. Out came the ECG machine. She put electrode leads on me. She told me to relax (yeah right!)

I felt scared. And still felt stupid for being there.

Next minute, she’s across the room calling an ambulance.

An ambulance. For me.

This was going from bad to worse. It was only a niggle and it’s gone now anyway.

“It is medical protocol to call an ambulance for anyone presenting with chest pain,” she said.

The nurse put an IV line into the crook of my right elbow ready for the emergency staff to use. It was the first of many.

The ambulance came. Paramedics gave me sublingual (under the tongue) nitro-glycerine to dilate my arteries. Then I was taken to the Emergency Department at the newly-opened Fiona Stanley Hospital only around the corner.

I didn’t go home until 18 days later.

Meanwhile, think about this….

  • My symptoms were incredibly subtle. Would you recognise symptoms of angina?
  • Did you know that women have different symptoms from men?
  • If it happened to you, what would you do?
  • Are you currently living with angina?

I’d love to hear from you!

…… and why not check out these links about angina:

1. Who is at risk of angina?

2. Symptoms, stable and unstable types, causes, tests and diagnosis, aim of treatment, medicines (this is a good explanation), prevention, vs heart attack, list of references

3. What it is, types, heart attack, symptoms, what to do, diagnosis, treatment

4. Symptoms, triggers, types, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, long-term management, heart attack, where to get help, things to remember

5. Definitions, symptoms, diagnosis and tests, prevention and risks, treatment, living with angina, statistics, clinical trials, references



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