Peter and Sharon Philips with daughter Tamara
We’ve seen the drama unfold on TV and in the movies hundreds of times. A man stands up, clutches his chest, his face stricken with pain, and we know immediately: he’s having a heart attack.
For Sharon Philips of Trabuco Canyon, it wasn’t quite as obvious. In fact, she wasn’t even sure she was having a heart attack.
Back in January 2016, Sharon was lying in bed when, at 4:30 a.m., she felt a twinge in her chest.
“I have had some bouts with acid reflux in the past, so I took an antacid and went back to bed,” she said.
She didn’t feel any relief, however. The twinge turned into a burning sensation. She took another antacid but thought it strange she was sweating when the room was cold and the window open.
She woke up her husband Peter, who decided to take her to the emergency room.
She started to get dressed, and as she bent over to zip her boots, it all started to go terribly wrong. Pain coursed through the back of her neck and shoulder. The room started spinning, and she started to scream for her husband. Peter called 911, and the paramedics arrived within minutes. They gave her nitroglycerin to help open up her arteries.
“Once I was in the ambulance, even then, I said, ‘I think I’m okay,’ “ Sharon said. Paramedics insisted on taking her in, though, as her EKG was abnormal.
“When we pulled up, Dr. (Michael) Gault was standing outside waiting for me,” Sharon said. “I felt so reassured.” Later she discovered the paramedics had sent her cardiac stats to the ER, so Dr. Gault already knew she was having a heart attack, even before she did.
She said she was whisked into the cath lab in what felt like minutes.
“Turns out I had 99% blockage in one artery,” she added. “We had just returned from a 15-day cruise to the Panama Canal. It’s a miracle it didn’t happen on the cruise; I might have died on the ship.”
That night, Dr. Gault inserted a stent to open up her artery.
“He saved my life,” said Sharon.
“I was so impressed by how quickly everything happened. I know I would choose Saddleback Memorial again.”
She wants to share her story so others, especially women, realize heart attack symptoms are often not what you see on TV dramas.
“The pain might not even be severe,” she said. “Even with minor symptoms, you should call 911 right away for an ambulance. Don’t drive yourself or have a family member take you to the ER.” If you’re possibly having a heart attack, paramedics will take you to a designated Cardiac Receiving Center like Saddleback Memorial.
These days things are pretty normal for Sharon. She and Peter are looking forward to two cruises and their daughter’s wedding. She makes greeting cards, stays active in church, and exercises daily. And while watching TV, she prefers comedy over drama.
- Cardiology, Internal Medicine