By Germayne B. Tizzano, Ph.D.
On earth, there are earth angels; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I met a few while facing my death.
Yes. It is true. With humility in mind, I write my story. I am writing this to my sister-friends. You, my dear friend – please read what I share. It is dire and not to be ignored. It is the difference between life and death. It is the difference between breath and spirit, and I met both Monday, April 11th, 2022. It was an uneventful morning. My grandkids. . .yes, I was thinking about them. We were going to go to swim lessons. Like every Monday afternoon, it is a special time. We play in the pool, laugh, swim underwater, and pretend to be an alligator in the shallow end—Rosie on my back. Isla is running from me as I growl like the short four-legged reptile. My day was scheduled. I needed to do my workout and prep for upcoming training. Life is good, I believe. Mike and I sit in the kitchen, sunlight streaming through the window. Just beyond, I see the pinkest cherry blossoms I have ever seen in our adolescent tree.
Sitting on the stool, toast uneaten, sharp pain radiates on my right side, not my left. Pressure and heartburn, again on my right side, grab my attention. I slowly and methodically reach inside our kitchen cabinet. Two baby aspirins are chewed. I walk towards our lounge chair. “Mike, can you call an ambulance? I believe I am having a heart” – the words become muffled. I cannot be saying what I am saying. I had a stress test in November. Similar symptoms, yet not as severe. “Excellent for gender and age,” were the results. I held them like a badge of honor, entered the ambulance, and handed them to the EMT with half a grimace.
See, I was going to beat the odds. Both my parents died tragically from cardiac arrest. I exercise aerobically five to six times a week; strength training for my bones, yoga for my soul, and swimming for rejuvenation. Functional medicine doctor saw for nutrition, detoxing, optimal health – all checked—meditation for stress. Lipids are normal without Lipitor. Yes, I was going to beat the odds.
You have 90% blockage in a more significant artery, left ventricle, and 100% blockage in a smaller artery, same ventricle. Those were the words said to me post-procedure of two stents. I am numb. My ICU nurse, James, looked at me. “So, tell me your story. All I know is that you came here by ambulance and were in the Cath lab.” “How much time do you have, James?”
All I know is that I had symptoms that alerted me that something was imminently wrong. “Men are wusses,” James proclaimed. They get the help. They alert others. Women don’t recognize the signs, wait, minimize, or don’t want to be a problem.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States – 1 in 5 women deaths. Men experience more heart attacks; women have fewer yet are less likely to survive. One woman dies from a heart attack every minute. For women, symptoms may be atypical. For women, 43% do not experience men’s characteristic symptom – acute chest pain. Women are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and discharged from ER in a mid-heart attack.
- Know the symptoms for women
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper back or neck pain
- Indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting
- Extreme fatigue
- Upper body discomfort
- Cold, clammy skin
- The heart muscle does not regenerate like other organs of the body. Seconds matter!
- Be a woman wussie! Don’t try and tough it out! Seek help. Call the ambulance.
- Be assertive and persistent in ER. Ask for the cardiologist.
- Men and women – share this information with sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, and women friends. Don’t hesitate. Please do it now.
I am a health educator and learned years ago about the differences in symptoms for women in my studies. A week before I had my heart attack, my dear friend, Gwen, asked me if I knew the signs for women. I said, “yes,” my GP has it on the recording whenever I call in and am on hold. Little did I know that a week later, I, along with a team of 100 professionals from the hospital, would be fighting for my life.
James told me. Once the call is made from the ambulance, an all-out hospital alert is activated. Those 100 professionals are committed to doing everything in their power to save me along with others suffering from a heart attack.
“Every second matters,” were the words told to me by a cardiologist.
I am humbled. I am alive.
I am indebted to the professionals and angels who gave me my life and supported me in my recovery. I am one of the lucky ones. No extensive damage was done to my heart. I hear that I will be able to return to the fitness level I had before my cardiac event.
Our precious grandson, Adrian, asked me, “what’s been going on, Nana?” How do you begin to tell a 12-year-old, I met some earth angels that saved my life – I can be here longer for you and your sisters and baby brother. I am blessed.
About Dr. Tizzano
Dr. Tizzano is a certified health and wellness coach, speaker, author, and researcher about resiliency and embracing life to its fullest!
For more than 25 years, Dr. Germayne Tizzano, owner and founder of Views from a Tree House, LLC., has presented internationally and nationally on trauma, drug, and alcohol addiction, intimate partner violence, sexuality and sexual health, body image, and resiliency in over 400 educational programs for professionals and businesses. She has addressed various audiences, including staff and advocates at addiction and recovery centers, community correction facilities, sexual health outreach programs, and American Indian Affairs programs.
In her speaking engagements, Dr. Tizzano is known for her compassionate and powerful approach to addressing these often taboo and challenging subjects. Her message of hope draws from her personal story of 20 years of childhood sexual abuse and familial-based violence.
Germayne B. Tizzano received a Ph.D. in Health Education with a specialty in Preventive Medicine from The Ohio State University. She is the author and publisher of a 32-hour curriculum, Sanctuary for Change, aimed at healthy sexual recovery and intimacy for women survivors of sexual trauma. This published program has been implemented across care systems in the United States and Canada.
Dr. Germayne is an avid lover of the outdoors – she loves to hike, bike, kayak, swim, and travel with her lifelong and very cherished partner, Mike. She is a Nana to four adorable grandchildren and lives in gratitude for the many blessings.