Here are some stories of GW Heart & Vascular Institute's patients that we hope will help and inspire others.
Heart disease has always been a part of Tom’s life. His father died from cardiac thrombosis – a blood clot in the heart – when Tom was only nine years old. Says Tom: “For a long time, I believed I would die before my 50th birthday.”
In July 2005, Cynthia, a 38-year-old mother of two boys, thought she had food poisoning. She’d been feeling nauseous and vomiting for days, and had chills that felt bone-deep. At the hospital, test results showed that she had suffered a heart attack. “I asked the doctor if he was sure he had the right person because I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I didn’t go into the hospital for any kind of heart problems,” she says.
Tim was no stranger to exercise. At age 56, he was a regular at the YMCA, lifting weights and doing a variety of aerobic exercises. Then one day, he noticed that he was feeling unusually winded after a workout and there was some tightness in his chest. “I thought it was my lungs and went to an allergist, who checked me out and sent me to have my heart checked,” says Tim.
Welford was in his late forties when he began feeling weak, as though all the energy had been drained out of him. He experienced a few dizzy spells but shrugged them off. “I was too young for something like heart failure to be happening to me,” says Welford. “I put off dealing with it for too long, until it was almost too late.”
Mary, a 55-year-old caseworker at the Department of Human Services, had no idea why her heart would suddenly start racing out of control during normal daily activities like walking or working. “I’d start sweating and feeling lightheaded, and then my heart would start beating really fast,” she recalls. The attacks gradually became more frequent and severe, landing her in the emergency room three times. “During the last attack, I could actually see my blouse moving because my heart was pounding so hard,” she says.
Purnanshu was on the way to an appointment when he collapsed in the street outside his workplace. He is alive today because of the quick thinking of others. A coworker on his lunch break and a stranger began CPR while another passerby called 911. Within 10 minutes, the paramedics arrived and, using a portable device called an automatic external defibrillator, shocked his heart to get it beating again. Purnanshu regained consciousness in the emergency room of George Washington University Hospital. He was in grave condition.