I was a 57 year old woman working a high stress job, caring for my disabled brother and taking care of my family, including a young granddaughter part-time. On a saturday, after working outside for a few hours, (which usually served to help relax me), I began to feel sick again. Though I had always been able to tolerate heat very well and never seemed to get hot enough; I had recently began to sweat extensively and experience pain under my arms often. This particular Saturday, my husband said “Your face is red and you look hot, you had better go inside.” He had never said that to me before, and I assured him all was well. However, after another ½ hour, while trimming the bushes, I simply was not able to go on. I told my husband that I was going into the house. I went and laid down, took a shower and laid down again thinking maybe it was heat exhaustion. Yet the pain in my arms, chest, shoulders, neck, and head would not go away and my breathing was labored, while I felt dizzy. After about 15 minutes of not being able to alleviate the pains, I took an baby aspirin and told my husband that I needed to go to the hospital.
At the hospital, I was admitted into the emergency room immediately after telling them my symptoms. They hooked up every kind of machine and began to monitor my heart. Some of the signs showed concerns, while others, common to a heart attack seemed ok. They put a heart monitor on me and admitted me into the hospital for observation. That evening, the nurse came in with a EKG machine around 3 am, saying the monitor was reflecting heart issues. In the morning, the heart doctor came in and immediately set me up for a heart catherization. In the operating room, they looked into the body and checked the arteries and said, “wow, they look very clean.” Two doctors were there and they both looked at each other and said: “takosubo?” head nod, “takosubo.”
In three days, they allowed me to go home. I was weak and tired. I wanted to go home. They might have kept me longer if I didn’t beg to go home and take care of my disabled brother. They gave me cholesterol reducing medication and beta blockers. At home, I was slow, tired, and short of breath. I went to work the second week home (3 days a week and babysat my granddaughter the other days.) The first few weeks, I felt like I had just come home from a major surgery. I had no business working at all those first few weeks. I was a mess.
When I visited the doctor, two weeks later, he was kind, but treated me as I should have been completely healed. He set me up for physical therapy for six weeks, 3 times a week, which was the best thing he could have done for me to help me build back up my stamina. However, when people asked me why I was there and I told them I had a takosubo heart attack, they had no idea what I was talking about. Someone said it was also called the “broken heart syndrome”, but I had no broken heart. I simply told them it was a “stress induced heart attack”, which is exactly what I think it was. It had worked up to that climax over a period of months. I made a determination at that time to slow down my life and take care of myself.
At the four week check, the doctor told me I could stop the medication. So, I tried stopping the medication, but I felt bad. So I called and asked to continue taking the medication. The doctor said it was ok. In six weeks when I visited the doctor again, he said my heart sounded perfect and I was “Good to go.” However, I didn’t feel like that. I sure didn’t feel “Good to go.” At 9 weeks he did another EKG and said oxygen was at 55% and perfect (he said). The nurse showed me the shape of my heart at the time of takosubo and at the current moment and it was an interesting picture. I still didn’t feel perfect, though I was getting stronger. I still needed much sleep and got short on breath easily. I learned to live my “new” life with revised capabilities. I was able to stop the medication at 4 months with no adverse reactions.
What bothers me most about takosubo is that my doctor and others do not take it seriously. Though they treated me as if I had a “regular” heart attack, it was because he didn’t know what else to do. For that, I am thankful! I truly believe this was the best treatment I could have received.
For me, takosubo was a major, life altering experience. It dictates how I live every day, even to this day. I am much stronger now, a year later, but there are still good days and bad days; though now there are many more good than bad, whereas it used to be the opposite. Had I not known that the medicine made me feel better and advocated for myself, I may not have recovered as quickly. Had the doctor known more about takosubo, I might not have received the proper treatment. I probably should have been told to not work for at least 4 weeks. There is no way that a person with takosubo, like I experienced, is ready to work immediately after the episode.
I wish takosubo was understood as a different type of heart attack and treated as such by all doctors. There are definitely lasting effects similar to a heart attack. I know I don’t want to have another one. I am happy to talk to anyone who experienced this type of heart attack. It is real and it is serious, requiring major changes in a life. No question in my mind. Thank you for caring and researching it further while attempting to make the condition better understood so it can be better treated for everyone.